The Via dei Romei

The Via dei Romei

THE VIA DEI ROMEI, HEIR OF THE ROMAN VIA POMPILIA

This ancient road connected the regions of eastern Europe to Rome passing also along the Adriatic coast. After Venice and Ravenna the road continues into the Apennines. From Ravenna medieval pilgrims had different possible ways of reaching the city of St. Peter. This particular road allowed travellers to reach the Puglia region and take a ship to the Holy Land or alternatively visit the Santuario di S. Michele on Mount Gargano. Pilgrims on the way to Rome (Romei) came from various places within medieval Christianity and a letter written in 784 by the Pope to Charles the Great testifies to the existence of a shelter for Romei in Galeata. In the Middle Ages the pilgrims preferred to travel inland from Ferrara to Faenza, rather than along the coast which at the time was ridden with diseases, and they found comfort and hospitality in the monastic communities along the way. The first of these was the Benedictine community of Pomposa, then going south the pilgrims would find Comacchio, while  the Monastery in Insula Parei, in Sant’Alberto, was the point of reference for those travelling to Ravenna.

FROM RAVENNA TO THE APENNINES

Just out of Ravenna travellers may visit the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe, located in the open countryside, with its beautifully preserved sarcophaguses of the 5th and 6th centuries and the magnificent mosaics composed between the 6th and the 7th century. Near the Basilica is the pinewood of Classe. Outside Ravenna, one can choose to proceed either towards Cesena along Via Dismano, or towards Forlì along the modern Ravegnana road. Along both these routes there are many beautiful ancient country parishes.

Another route, towards the hinterland, goes from the Po Delta to Faenza. This itinerary leads us first of all to Ferrara: a stay of two or three days is sufficient to get to know this Estense city. From Ferrara, pilgrims used to walk to Argenta, from where they took a boat to the southern side of the swamps. Along the route there are the Pieve di Santa Maria in Fabriago and the Pieve di San Pietro in Sylvis in Bagnacavallo. Built in the 7th century, this parish church is one of the best preserved churches in the province of Ravenna. The dedication refers to the presence of an ancient forest which once surrounded the church.  At this point of the journey the “watershed” of the Apennines is about to be crossed, opening up to a variety of opportunities.

Itineraries in the valleys

In Faenza tourists can stop to visit the International Museum of Ceramics, the Duomo, the Palazzo Mazzolani, the Cathedral, the Pinacoteca (picture gallery) and the Chiesa della Commenda. From the ancient “Faventia”, the traveller can choose three alternatives: the Senio, Lamone or Tramazzo valley route.

Places of interest along the first itinerary include: Riolo Terme and Casola Valsenio and then Palazzuolo in Tuscany. The ancient village of Riolo Terme was known in Roman times for the healing properties of its water; Casola Valsenio offers various attractions: the Rocca di Monte Battaglia, the Giardino Officinale and just 2 Km from the centre of the village the Cardello, founded around the 11th century.

The second itinerary starts in Brisighella, where travellers can visit the 13th century Torre dell’Orologio, the Collegiata and the Chiesa dell’Osservanza (1525), the Rocca Manfrediana and Veneziana, which is divided into the so-called “Torrione Veneziano” (16th century) and the ancient “Torricino” (14th century), and the curious raised street called Via del Borgo, also known as Via degli Asini. Even in Roman times, Brisighella was famous for its thermal waters.

The third itinerary in the Marzeno Valley includes the villages of Modigliana and Tredozio, the former being the home of the Guidi family since the 10th century and therefore centre of important historical events. Tredozio was already known at the time of the pilgrims that travelled to Rome for the Pieve di San Michele.

In medieval times three other roads led the pilgrims from Forlì into Tuscany and from there to Rome. The first road crosses the Montone Valley reaching Terra del Sole and Castrocaro, a famous Spa centre surrounded by a beautiful natural environment; the second road crosses the Rabbi Valley with the towns of Predappio and Premilcuore; the third road crosses the Bidente Valley which once led to the Mandrioli pass and from there to Arezzo in Tuscany.

HOW TO GET HERE

For Ravenna, take the A14 motorway and exit at Ravenna. Ravenna is 74 Km from Bologna, 136 Km from Florence, 285 Km from Milan, and 366 Km from Rome.
For Forlì, take the A14 motorway and exit at Forlì. Forlì is 63 Km from Bologna, 109 Km from Florence, 282 Km from Milan, and 354 Km from Rome.

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