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The Montone Valley

Ever since the Roman era, the valley of this river which flowed down from the Apennines and on to Forlì has been the most important of all the narrow valleys that characterize this area of the Apennines in regards to communication.  Historians of ancient history believe that a road was already in use at the time that went from Forlì through this valley “reaching Dicomano and the Sieve Valley, and then linking up with the via Cassia”.

 

Castrocaro - Rocca Monte Poggiolo - Photo by Vasco Bartoletti

 

In the Middle Ages, however, there are few testimonies to this fact: it seems that only in the 1300s was this itinerary of any importance.  Even the hostels that could offer assistance and shelter to travelers are noted along the Tuscan part of the trail no earlier than in the 1300s.

 

That which is most well-documented among the fortresses in the Montone Valley is the ancient “Castrum Carii”, today the hot springs location of Castrocaro, which was first mentioned in 1035, with reference to the noble household of the Pagani, close relatives of the Ubaldini of Tuscany.  Castrum Carri was possibly rebuilt on the site of the even older “Castrum Sussubium” which was part of the Byzantine defense system of fortresses at points where the Apennine valleys open out onto the plains, built to protect against Longobard invasions.  Even if a large part of the historic buildings were constructed after Florence conquered the area in 1403, the medieval part of town has maintained its atmosphere, where one can note, under the ruins of the fortress, the other two circles of walls: the so-called “Murata” with its clock tower and the more extensive ring at the bottom of the hill, with the Voltone dell’Orologio, or gate of S.Nicolo, erected in 1371.

 

From Castrocaro, this itinerary continued on to “Duo Vadora”, or “two fords” referring to the two ancient fords across the Montone River, which are probably what gave this town its name.  One of the Guidi possessions and conquered by Florence in 1424, this town still has its large fortress, now separated from the town by the road.  In the medieval part of the town, a 16th century church stands on the site of a Cluniac abbey founded in the 11th century.

 

About ten kilometers further on, pilgrims reached the medieval town of Rocca San Casciano with the ancient Benedictine Monastery of S. Donnino.  Just 4 kilometers outside the town, this beautiful fortress was documented as early as 1214, but it dates much farther back in time.

 

Continuing along this route, pilgrims reached Portico and San Benedetto in Alpe at the foot of the Muraglione Pass, on the border between Romagna and Tuscany.  The history of this place is linked to the Abbey of San Benedetto, one of the oldest in the Apennines.  A hermitage was located here as early as the 10th century and, one century later, San Romualdo, the first to found a Camaldolese monastery, stopped here.

 

Dante also stopped in these places during his exile, and they are in fact described very poetically in the Divine Comedy (Inferno, Canto XVI).  The waterfalls of Acquacheta should also not be missed.

 

The decadence of the Abbey began to end in the 14th century, when it came under the administration of the Basilica of San Lorenzo in Florence.  Today, in the evocative location of the ancient Mill – here there were the mills of the old abbey – there is the visitor’s center of the Park of the Casentinesi Forests.

 

From S. Benedetto in Alpe, the pilgrims’ journey continued on through the Muraglione Pass arriving in Tuscany.

 

For tourist information:

Local site: Turismo forlivese

Last modified Feb 02, 2017

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