The Street of the Abbots

Walking Route Length: 195 km
Walking Route Number of Stages: 25 Stages
Walking Route Duration: 5-7 Days

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The Street of the Abbots

From Pavia to Bobbio

The route, which from Pavia points towards the Oltrepò hills and then towards the Apennine ridge of Mount Penice, is made up of three parts, of almost equal length (about 20 kilometers each): a first level plain (from Pavia to Broni and to the first hill); a second hill (which ends in Pometo / Caminata); a third of high hills and mountains (from Caminata to the Penice ridge), at the end of which it descends to then descend to Bobbio.

From Pavia, exit on the eastern outskirts, passing near the Romanesque church of San Lazzaro dei Pellegrini and following the Via Francigena. At the end of the houses, leave the Via Francigena and head south, following the Green Way of the Ticino Park. The path has recently been cleared of spontaneous vegetation and the Ticino Park Authority has had some signposts placed there (CAI type white-red model, initials GW).

Follow the path that runs parallel to the river up to the Ponte della Becca, at the Po-Ticino confluence (6 km). Transit on the bridge is now permitted only to cars at limited speeds (40/50 km/h), as well as obviously pedestrians and cyclists.

After the bridge, take the main embankment of the Po on the left (dirt road with no traffic) which runs alongside the river and then bends towards the hills, in the direction of Broni-Stradella.

In Broni (16 km from Pavia: via dei Mille, via Cairoli, via Volta, via Emilia, via Dante, finally via Monte Grappa) go up the old via dell'Acqua Calda (unpaved and with no traffic) up to Colombarone (18 km ), at the beginning of the ridge of the hills that separate the Scuropasso valley from the Versa valley.

From Colombarone you then follow the entire ridge (provincial road of Acqua Calda, paved but with little traffic, only local) meeting in succession the localities of Castana, Sannazzaro, Cella, Spain and France (the latter jumped out in the photo copy of the sheet B) and then Ca' Tessitori (top of the sheet C), where you take the cart track up to Canevino and finally to Pometo (38 kilometers from Pavia).

From Pometo you descend in 4 kilometers in the Tidone valley to Caminata, an ancient fortified village (today in the province of Piacenza), cross the bridge over the river and begin the ascent towards Ronchi, Trebecco, Fontanasso, Casa Bobbiese, Ca' dei Giorgi, Cappelletta (26-69), where you head south-east and then at an altitude of 752 (69/27E) you go south (leaving Ca'di Lazzarello behind you). From there, following the CAI path 219-19, you get to Praticchia-Grazzi (about 56 km from Pavia).

From Praticchia-Grazzi (12 km. from Bobbio) CAI path 201-19 heading south until it crosses the 201, follow it up to 101 and following the CAI arrows (the numbers of which are not known because they have been marked recently), always towards south, you arrive in the locality of Sassi Neri.

Exit on the Penice paved road and (turning left and then right) you will find yourself crossing the paved municipal road for Gorazze, which you take downhill. After a few hundred meters (locality of Croce), on the left, a cart track branches off which descends through the oratory of the Madonna di Caravaggio and, also leaving Castighino on the left, continues on asphalt until arriving in the locality of La Valle.

Just outside the town of La Valle, towards the south, take the cart track on the left (called the Squera, the old Strada del Sale for Milan) and in 20' you reach Bobbio.

The Bobbio-Pontremoli itinerary

Along the itinerary, normally followed by the abbots to go to Rome, one certainly met people and vehicles that from the possessions of the Monastery in Val Taro, Val Ceno and Tuscany, went to and returned from Bobbio. There were also pilgrims, Irish and otherwise, ecclesiastical and lay, who, in their journey to Rome, included a stop at the abbey to visit the tomb of San Colombano. In fact, since 862 the monks had managed a hospice in Piacenza, in Santa Brigida, mainly dedicated to welcoming the Irish pilgrims who went to the monastery of Bobbio and to the city of S. Pietro. And there will certainly be, at least in some periods, transits of armies, brigands and smugglers.

The route can be divided into two sections:

I) Section Bobbio – Boccolo dei Tassi – Bardi, where a bundle of roads allows you to cross the territory of Coli and the Val Nure, using from time to time the possible routes to get to Boccolo dei Tassi, a fixed point for the abbots of Bobbio, who could stop here before arriving at Bar of.

II) Section Bardi - Borgo Val di Taro - Pontremoli, which partly overlaps the so-called "via dei Monasteri", which connected the royal foundations of the plain with those of Val di Tolla, Gravago and Pontremoli, to then continue towards Rome.

The road outlined records obligatory points, where they were outbuildings of the monks of San Colombano mentioned in the Diplomatic Code of the Monastery of Bobbio, once these are fixed, it becomes easier to identify the route, which is still practicable today with few variations. The identified points are: Bobbio, Boccolo dei Tassi, Gravago Monastery, Borgo Val di Taro, Borgallo Pass, Pontremoli.

From Bobbio to Boccolo dei Tassi

From the Bobbio Abbey, cross the Ponte Gobbo , go up towards Case Gambado, Bellocchi, Santa Cecilia , to reach Coli: near the Caves of S. Colombano . Then, passing the remains of the Magrini castle and crossing the Curiasca, you reach the former fortified building of Faraneto: from here, about 500 meters away, you can see Peli, where a fortification once stood before the church. You reach Pescina, a place where the remains of early medieval structures have been found and climb towards the Sella dei Generali , where oral testimonies recall the ruins of a watchtower probably placed to control the route.

You reach the Fontanone and go down to Nicelli. The castle, now disappeared, is said to have been given as a "distinguished gift" by Emperor Charlemagne to the Nicelli, powerful lords of the upper Val Nure who had served him well in the war against Desiderio. It is named as the "court of the Nicelli" in the investiture granted by the emperor Otto to the abbot of Bobbio. The first certain act is from 1207. The current remains of the tower-house retain some traces of early medieval architecture.

From Nicelli you can glimpse Mareto (off the route), not far from Cogno San Savino, already mentioned in a document from 999. Today only the area on which it once stood remains of the castle, while we can admire the beautiful Romanesque tower of the church.

After passing through the localities of Molino de' Mortè, Vigonzano and Guglieri, you reach Crocelobbia: here, after the church, if the weather and climatic conditions allow it (more easily in the summer period), it is possible to ford the Nure. Otherwise you can deviate on the variant for Farini (where there is the possibility of refreshment) and Canova. Finally, take the mule track for Groppazzolo, a locality that can be reached by taking both the "main" road and the variant. From the latter agglomeration, formerly a fortified place of the homonymous family, fierce enemy of the Nicellis, you go up to Groppallo.

From the village you go towards Croce. Nearby, in the locality of Tornara (off the route), there is the tower of the same name, guarding the road that connected the Piacenza area to the Parma area. Initially with four floors, the tower is now reduced to three. Mentioned in a deed of 1576, the building was inhabited by messer Bernardo Cavanna, owner of land and no less than 925 heads of cattle.

Descending from Croce towards Selva Sotto, between two streams, we find the medieval tower of Sant'Antonino, now in poor condition. After crossing the provincial road, go up to Selva Sopra and continue towards Bruzzi and the Linguadà pass, go down towards Le Chiastre and, after a curve, turn left towards Boccolo dei Tassi.

About 500 meters before the Linguadà pass, if the weather permits, it is possible to take the panoramic and demanding variant of Monte Lama on the left, which, following the white-red trail signs, allows you to reach Bardi avoiding the SP 77. Mount Lama, the largest jasper slab in Emilia-Romagna, where there are numerous finds from the Paleolithic age, reaches a height of 1347 m a.s.l. From the top, among beech trees twisted by the wind, serpentines and jaspers, you can enjoy a wonderful view of the Alps and the Apennines. Along the ridges, safe hiding place for many partisans in the last conflict, today mushrooms and fruits of the undergrowth are gathered, accompanied by the gaze of the Bardigiana breed horses grazing.

From Boccolo dei Tassi to Bardi

In Boccolo dei Tassi there was, infra vallem, a church with a hospitale to welcome pilgrims, wayfarers, the sick and the poor. The church, of which the abbot of Bobbio had the right to appoint the chaplain, was dedicated to St. Peter, also venerated by the Longobards as gatekeeper to heaven. It was at the center of some rich farms, as can be deduced from the amount of the rent, equal to about a quarter of the revenues, which they paid to the abbey: 93 bushels of cereals, as well as hay, working days, etc. The remains of the hospice, recently found, are located on the left bank of the Dorbora stream, near the ancient Linguadà – Bardi route. Of the previous church, rebuilt several times and finally abandoned definitively, remains a statue of St. Peter, kept in the current place of worship.

From the hamlet continue in the direction of Cerreto, return to the provincial road and after about 1 kilometer take the path to the left for Cogno di Grezzo. From there you return to the SP 77, cross the town of Grezzo and then reach, after about 3 kilometres, the Romanesque church of S. Siro , from which you can enjoy a beautiful view of the Ceno valley and the Bardi fortress . This, already documented in 898, and built - probably against the advance of the Hungarians - in a strategic position, still dominates the stream and the Noveglia and Toncina tributaries.

The current structure is due to numerous expansions, wanted above all between the 15th and 16th centuries by Manfredo, Agostino, Claudio Landi, and, between the 16th and 17th centuries, by Prince Federico, who transformed the medieval fortress into a sumptuous stately residence. With the extinction of the dynasty (1679) - the last Landi will marry a Doria of Genoa - the castle will be ceded to the Farnese and, having become a military garrison, will follow the fortunes of the Duchy of Parma and Piacenza until the unification of Italy. when it becomes the property of the municipality.

Currently the fortress is home to the Museums of Rural Civilization and Poaching, and is also included in the "Castelli del Ducato" circuit. The frescoed rooms with representations of the domains of the Landi and Grimaldi families of Monaco are interesting: Maria Landi in fact married Ercole Grimaldi in 1595; their son, Honoré, inheriting the title from his mother, will be the first prince of Monaco. At the foot of the castle stands the deconsecrated church of S. Francesco, built in the years 1571-1579 by Giovanna di Cordova e Aragona, wife of Claudio Landi, as the family Pantheon. Under Federico the care of the building, rebuilt in its present appearance, passed to the Franciscan friars of Genoa and a convent suppressed in the Napoleonic age was annexed. The current auditorium, owned by the municipality and managed by the Centro Studi della Valle del Ceno, is home to exhibitions, conferences and concerts.

The stop in Bardi allows you to visit the churches of S. Giovanni (1500-1700) and of the Addolorata (ca. 1930), which preserves an important altarpiece by Parmigianino, the historic center with its narrow streets, the former Palazzo Maria Luigia, perhaps the seat of the community in the Landi era and later adapted by the countess, who also endowed it with a theatre, now transformed into a conference room.

At km. 1 the eighteenth-century oratory of S. Maria delle Grazie, km. 6 the parish church of Casanova (outside the cartography), with 10th-12th century structures inside and an important "Assumption" by the Mannerist Malosso.

Around Bardi rise the peaks of the Ragola and Nero mountains (where the only enclave of Pinus Uncinata Miller survives), Pelpi, Barigazzo (on a plateau at 977 m a.s.l. stand the remains of the early medieval castle of Città d'Umbria), Carameto , Lama, etc., destinations that can be reached through paths immersed in a nature that deserves to be rediscovered.

From Bardi to the ridge

Descending from Bardi along the old municipal road (803) and crossing the Ceno on the current bridge (the ford was slightly further downstream, in the locality of Tolarolo), you go up the orographic right bank of the Noveglia stream towards Chiappa, from where, turning right (803b), you go towards Predario: both toponyms recall the main activity of the area, the extraction of sandstone for construction. After about 1 km. take the dirt path on the left to reach Monastero di Gravago. Particularly interesting are the remains of the nearby “Caminata”, a fortified refuge of the progenitor of the Landi family, Ubertino, and the church dedicated to S. Michele. The latter, today of Baroque lines, originates, with the adjoining monastery, in the 8th century and we find it mentioned in a diploma of Liutprando dated 744.

Taking the path that climbs towards the Tre Croci and crossing a group of houses, you return for a short stretch on the paved road to reach Brè, interesting for its ancient urban agglomeration with a tower-house.

Descend towards the Rosta stream, known for its waterfalls, and ford it near a mill that was probably already active in the 13th century at the service of the Caminata and the castle of Gravago, whose ruins dominate the narrow valley together with the remains of the tower called “Battagliola”, placed even higher up.

Once near Gravago, leaving the centuries-old chestnut wood of S. Anna on your right, you pass next to a very valuable washhouse from an architectural point of view, and continuing on, you come to the parish church, inside which we can admire a beautiful seventeenth-century altar coming from the Cathedral of Massa.

Continue halfway up to the mill on the Brugnola stream: behind the now ruined building, the remains of the canalization and the old water storage tank, particularly interesting due to its size.

After passing the mill, after about 50 metres, take the path on the left and you reach Osacca, in 1600 the southern border between the "State of Prince Landi" and the Duchy of Parma. There is an oratory, a chapel with a wooden statue of S. Rocco (pilgrim to Santiago di Compostela), and the plaque in memory of the first firefight between partisans and Nazi-fascists that took place in the province of Parma: it was the night of 24 December 1943.

Go past the last houses and head towards La Ramata, where path 843VA begins on the left (which continues up to Borgallo), and you walk to reach the ridge; here you meet a crossroads (with indications); after it, on the left of the route, the path that leads to the top of Monte Piano rises, a significant panoramic point, at 1150 m a.s.l.

From the ridge to Borgo Val di Taro

Back on the track, continue up to La Maestà and Pradonico, go down to Rola and head towards the church of S. Cristoforo, also of medieval foundation like the one dedicated to S. Pietro (situated a little further downstream, outside route), to reach Monte Cappella, the Beaches, Borgo Val di Taro.

Considered the capital of the valley, the town rises within that Curtis Turris which was perhaps the largest company-possession of the Monastery of San Colombano di Bobbio: in the middle of the century. IX, in addition to the land managed directly by the monks, 85 farm families were employed there. From these the Monastery received the fourth part of the cereal product, half of the wine and numerous work performances.

At the turn of the 10th and 11th centuries, we find the Platoni as feudal lords of the valley: initially powerful levellers of the Bobbiensi abbots, taking advantage of the decline of the monastery, appropriated the lands they had in custody. In the 12th century, the territory entered the dominion of the Municipality of Piacenza and subsequently of the Landi princes and Ottavio Farnese, duke of Parma, whom the inhabitants of the towns named their prince. The duchy was followed by the dominion of the French Empire, of Maria Luigia of Austria and of the Bourbons, to then reach the unification of Italy.

The oldest part of the capital is characterized by an interesting road layout, made up of three long parallel streets, attributable to a preordained urban plan, which is believed to be due to the establishment of a free village by the Municipality of Piacenza. Buildings from the 16th and 18th centuries are of significant historical and architectural interest: Palazzo Bertucci, a five-level building towards the Taro, Palazzo Manara, home to the Manara Library, endowed with a considerable ancient collection with manuscripts, incunabula, sixteenth-century books, Palazzo Boveri , extraordinary for the rich stucco decoration interspersed with the Farnese, Bourbon and local families' coats of arms.

The parish church, built around 1665 and later remodelled, dedicated to Sant'Antonino, preserves a wooden Crucifix from the 15th century, the choir and important furnishings. Other places of worship are San Rocco – where you can admire a stupendous eighteenth-century Via Crucis by Gaspare Traversi -, and S. Domenico, begun in 1449 in late Gothic style. The Museum of the Walls, located in the section of the only remaining tower as a reminder of the medieval castle, houses testimonies and relics of the life of the city.

The town is the capital of mushrooms and headquarters of the Borgo Val di Taro Porcini Mushroom Consortium (IGP).

At 5 km from the capital Porcigatone, in whose parish church an imposing and dramatic Crucifixion by the seventeenth-century painter Giovanni Lanfranco is preserved, at 10 Compiano, a characteristic medieval village with a castle which belonged first to the Malaspinas and then to the Landis, at 13 Bedonia, where the The Episcopal Seminary houses the ancient Library, an Art Gallery, the Opera Omnia by the xylographer Romeo Musa, a rich collection of testimonies relating to Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, a natural history museum and the Planetarium.

Not far from Borgo Val di Taro, the Ghirardi Nature Reserve, extending over almost 600 hectares, protects a corner of the Apennines that has remained as it once was. The particular morphology of the territory creates the conditions for a mosaic of environments: we meet the hobby falcon at the edge of the meadows, nightingales, warblers and sparrowhawks in the downy oak woods, while the owl nests in the chestnut groves and wild boars and roe deer hide. In the streams, where the Epipactis palustris orchid blooms, we meet dragonflies, gobies and gobies. The great short-toed eagle builds its nest among the pines and the open areas, meadows and cultivated fields, are the realm of the red-legged partridge, pheasants and quail; you can observe hoopoes, orioles, owls and nightjars, and from spring to summer hundreds of flowers, including the rare Ophrys bertoloni. The Nature Reserve can be visited freely every day of the year, accessing on foot from Porcigatone, following the yellow/blue trail signs of the Parma bridleway. Every Sunday from 10 to 17 (18 in summer time), the Visitor Center is open, in Pradelle (on the Borgo Val di Taro - Porcigatone road), featuring an interesting botanical itinerary.

From Borgo Val di Taro to Pontremoli

From Borgo Val di Taro a single itinerary leads to the Borgallo pass (965 m). You start along the road to the Cemetery – which houses a beautifully shaped Shrine for the Fallen in the Resistance – and a little further along the paved road, you reach the Molino dell'Aglio, the last water mill in the area. and La Galoppina; alternatively you can take the 843 bis to Valleto, where the path rejoins the 843. We arrive at San Vincenzo: here, near the church, a majesty in white marble, dated 1606, represents the Virgin and Child and alongside the pilgrim S. Rocco, with staff, dog, cape and shell.

Descend towards the Tarodine and cross it on the bridge of the provincial road to reach the town of Valdena, whose name derives from the feudal lords of the past, the Hena, branch of the Platoni.

Always following path 843 uphill, you reach the Borgallo pass, near which, still in the 19th century, the remains of the Hospice of San Bartolomeo stood. On this side of the ridge some "terms" mark the ancient borders between the Duchy of Parma and the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. Here comes the perimeter of the Brattello state forest, with nature trails and picnic areas.

On the ridge you come across path 00, follow it up to a memorial stone which commemorates the sacrifice of the partisans who fought on these mountains during the Resistance; after about 200 meters the path turns left leaving the 00, a detour to the right takes us instead to Fontana Gilente, a perennial spring, just off the route.

Going down into the Verde valley, in an area covered by thick woods, you come across groups of houses like Farfarà and you reach the Pisciarotta waterfall; ford the stream of the same name and, a little further on, skirt the Green Lake, fed by spring waters.

Crossing an old chestnut grove, Cervara appears: along the road, from time to time, devotional bas-reliefs in marble appear from small white pillars, as a reminder that you are now close to the Apuan quarries. In the village, the church, dedicated to San Giorgio, perhaps refers to Longobard origins; the memory of a hospital, built in the fourteenth century is preserved and traces of apotropaic cults are found in the facion, sandstone masks that from the facades of the houses still seem to defy time and ward off evil.

After passing the town and the cemetery, cross the Darnia stream and go up towards Barca, a panoramic point from where you can admire the Apennine chain from Molinatico to Orsaro and the Apuan Alps, to then reach Pra' del Prete. Just opposite stands the tower of the castle of Grondola to control, from the top of a hill, the paths that wind along the valley. In the Middle Ages, the castle was the subject of bitter disputes between Piacentini, Parmigiani, Pontremolesi and Malaspina.

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