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The Bidente Valley

The itinerary that goes from Forlì to the Bidente Valley – Bidente being the name of a river that nearer to the coast is called the Ronco – has been particularly well documented since antiquity.  Confirming its use by the Romei is the specific advice given in the 1200s by the monk Albert of Stade, the citation by the Cardinal Anglic in the next century and, farther back in time, the fact that starting in the 8th century Galeata was explicitly named as a place where pilgrims could obtain food and shelter on their way to Rome.


Valle del Bidente - Foto by Nevio Agostini


Today, just as in the past – the present day street is SP4 “del Bidente” – the first sizable town met along the way towards Bagno di Romagna is Meldola.  The site was already occupied in the Roman era and then outfitted with the “castrum Meldule”, which can be found in sources as early as the 11th century.    The fort was perched on the hill of the historic center, where today a 15th century fort later modified by Malatesta Novello, a nobleman from Rimini, still stands.  There are numerous testimonies in this town, starting from the end of the 12th century, of hosting structures for the pilgrims, such as that of the Templars, of S. Lazzaro, of S. Maria della Misericordia, of S. Uberto and of the Black Penitents.  Here, the Roman aqueduct that brought water to Ravenna also had its origins, right along the Bidente-Ronco valley at the parish church of S. Maria in Acquedotto.


Proceeding along the route, 25 km past Forlì, the castle of Cusercoli dominates the valley, looking down from a rocky spur; this castle was refurbished during the 1700s, but is cited in texts as early as the 11th century.  Further along, there is Civitella di Romagna.  This town, already in existence during the Roman era and then placed under the Abbey of S. Ellero of Galeata, was destroyed by an earthquake in 1279 and then rebuilt on lower ground.


Beyond that area, which at one time was the border between the Papal States and the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, the valley widens out into the basin of Galeata at about 35 km from Forlì.  The 17th century Palazzo Pretorio of the town houses the "Monsignor Domenico Mabrini" Civic Museum which collects archeological finds from the area and from where the ancient Roman city of “Mevaniola” once stood.


About 3.5 km past Galeata, a church rises up overlooking the panorama that, starting in the 5th century, was part of the important monastery of S. Ellero.  The powerful abbey had, over the course of the centuries, a big political and spiritual influence over the Bidente Valley.  In the crypt there is the sarcophagus of the Saint, which is still a pilgrimage destination today.  That the monastery functioned as a regular resting spot for travelers is noted in a papal letter written in 784.  The abbey can be reached using the ancient pathway used by the pilgrims: today you take via II Giugno from Galeata following the aedicule of the Via Crucis.


On the other side of the Bidente River, about 40 km from Forlì, there is Santa Sofia, located in the National Park of the Casentinesi Forests, Mount Falterona and Campigna and headquarters of the Park Community.  After crossing through the oldest part of the town, you can go up to the houses built on the ramparts of the old castle, cited in texts starting in the 13th century but destroyed in an earthquake in 1918.


From here, the pilgrims arrived in Bagno di Romagna, crossing through the High Valley of the Savio.  In this place, the Via dei Romei which started out from Forlì joined up with the one coming from Cesena. From Bagno di Romagna, taking the actual SS 71 of the Valley of the Savio, you can still go up to the historic Serra Pass or take the more modern Mandrioli Pass to get to Tuscany.

For tourist information:

Local site: Turismo forlivese

Last modified Feb 02, 2017

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