Stage 26 – Cusercoli-Santa Sofia – A short stage but with the ups and downs that are the rule from now on, approaching the Apennines and Passo Serra. Varied route between paths, clearing tracks in the woods, riverside stretches. Leaving the castle and the center of Cusercoli you can see hills and woods all around along the valley of the Bidente river, which increasingly disappears into the depths of its natural banks. As soon as you get off the first wall and cross the southern gate, you take the road under the rocky outcrop to the end of the town.
You then enter the country path (cyclists continue straight on and follow the SP 4 up to Civitella), and then, past a shed, take the road along the river up to the Mastarsò mill. Then the climb begins with a gravel road alongside a sawmill. At the top you enter the coppice on a dirt path. You see cultivated fields, a tree-lined slope with olive trees, you ford two ditches. Climb up to the top of a very high and steep ravine (cliff) on the river that can be glimpsed below. From above you can see the whole valley and the Apennine chain in front. Then a nice descent, sometimes steep, to the last ford. This leads to Castagnolo, with the church which has become a hermitage, the country cemetery and numerous farmhouses located along the flat road. After crossing the Bidente river, go up the SP 4. Care is needed when crossing it because it is a section with intense and fast traffic. You can walk the vineyard before the SP4 or the field above the SP4. Go up after a kiosk in the industrial area of Civitella. Then we head to the center of the village.
HISTORICAL VARIANT: from Civitella di Romagna starts the route that Monaco Albert probably took to reach Balneum Sanctae Mariae (Bagno di Romagna), skipping the towns of Galeata and Santa Sofia. Once full of support points and today almost deserted. The route is long and rejoins the route in Montriolo, well beyond Santa Sofia. The distance from Civitella to Montriolo is 15.3 km and the first public establishment is Gamberini after another 3.5 km (18.8 km uphill; it is good to equip yourself and be fit). From the square of Civitella one goes towards the Sanctuary of Suasia; go up a partly paved road, then cemented and then gravel. After 1.5 km you reach the Badia farm (old Abbey). After cart roads, paths in the woods, ridge roads (beautiful panorama of Galeata, Pianetto and the whole valley) you reach the crossroads with the gravel road coming from Santa Sofia-Telluzzo. Then we move on to Campo dell’Abate. A path in the middle of the woods, another cart track, lead to renovated houses (Camazzere), and then to the Bonini-Poggio Galmino Tower, an ancient castle and lookout tower. From here begins a path inside the wood of hornbeams, oaks and even pines up to another ruin called Convecchio (old convent). Then the ruin of Campogelato, and after other paths and cartways between pine forests and fields, you reach Ca’ Croce. You then take an asphalt road along the ridge and you arrive at the SP 77 Santa Sofia-Spinello near Montriolo. After a while it joins up with the route of the Via Romea coming from Santa Sofia.
Passing alongside the Rocca di Civitella, you reach the main square. From there it descends back into the river to resume the route. Nearby, the Suasia Sanctuary deserves a visit. After crossing the river on the vehicle bridge, you go up along the halfway road; at a certain point you leave this road to go back down to the river. After passing a horse farm, you go up. Remarkable, nearby, the Chiesetta del Pantano dating back to the year 1000. Then you go, on a paved and flat path, towards Galeata, passing through the archaeological area of the “Villa di Teodorico”. The town has great cultural significance due to its archaeological sites.
TO VISIT: Sant’Ellero Abbey. From Via Madonna dell’Umiltà, go up to the abbey of Sant’Ellero, begun in the 6th century, taking the suggestive Via delle Celline. (cyclists can follow the paved road), To resume the Via Romea you need to retrace your steps.
Continue to Pianetto Borgo where it is worth visiting the Renaissance church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli, with the former monastery now the Mambrini Civic Museum. (cyclists continue straight on the SP 4 up to Santa Sofia for about 4 km). Go up to Castello di Pianetto, cross it and then go down on a mule track until you meet the SP4 again. After a while, in the locality of Valdifrancia, you take the gravel road again that leads to the top of the ridge. Halfway down, below, there is an agritourism that has an agreement with the VRG. Then we descend through the fields and the old municipal road takes us to the northern area of Santa Sofia. The panorama extends over the Apennine chain. Traveled a bit of SP4, you leave at the cemetery and the F104 aircraft which seems to soar into the sky. We then pass on what remains of the old castle (destroyed by the severe earthquake of 1918), and of the ancient village. The town lends itself to an excellent stay for its hospitality and for its cultural attractions. The municipality of Santa Sofia is located in the Foreste Casentinesi, Monte Falterona and Campigna National Park, forests once used by the Grand Dukes of Tuscany as a timber reserve for the factory of the Florence Cathedral and the grand ducal fleets, today renowned for its excursion itineraries and winter sports.
26 – Points of Interest
Civitella di Romagna – This is a beautiful town, with a strong agricultural vocation and an economic fabric of small businesses, whose name derives from “Civitatula”, meaning small town. Until the Unification of Italy it was the last municipality in the Papal State, before the border with the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. Worth a visit is the splendid Sanctuary of the Blessed Virgin of Suasia, built in the second half of the 16th century, and the ancient castle which stands on a rocky spur, dominating the whole valley, of which only a few parts remain: namely the tower, rebuilt in Gothic style, with a clock from 1842. The medieval urban structure of the village, surrounded by bastion walls, is still visible.
Galeata – With typical Tuscan architecture, marked by the presence of the Praetorian Palace and the characteristic porticoed buildings that run along the historical streets. The town’s main church dates back to the Middle Ages, while in nearby Pianetto (on the Via Romea), the Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli, a jewel of Renaissance architecture, contains valuable paintings from the 16th and 18th centuries. Next door, in the ancient convent, there is the Municipal Museum, which collects artefacts found in the area and the Upper Bidente Valley. In Roman times, near the present-day town, there was a city called Mevaniola, of which part of the thermal baths can now be visited. During the Middle Ages, the village of “Burgus Galiate” revolved around the important Abbey of Sant’Ellero (5th century). A sumptuous private villa, believed to be the residence of the King of the Goths, Theodoric, also dates back to this period. Around 3 km from the village, along the recently restored path Sentiero delle Cellette, you reach the imposing Abbey of St. Hilarius, founded in the 5th century. Of the old monastery complex, destroyed over the centuries, only the church remains today, with its sandstone facade in Romanesque style. In the crypt there is an early medieval sarcophagus (8th-9th century A.D.) containing the remains of the saint, a destination for many pilgrims.
Santa Sofia – It is the last town in the Bidente River Valley. Immersed in the green of the Casentinesi Forests National Park, whose headquarters and visitors’ centre it houses, the territory of Santa Sofia offers visitors particularly enchanting natural places, such as the forest of Campigna and the artificial basin of the Ridracoli Dam. Alongside the religious buildings, there are also important examples of private architecture, still visible from the outside, such as Palazzo Giorgi (17th century) and Palazzo Bianchini Mortani, in the ancient village of Mortano. In the 16th century, the town fell under the influence of Florence, and remained so for several centuries, until 1923, when it was annexed to the province of Forlì and united with the neighbouring municipality of Mortano. Once an important centre for silk processing, today the economy is mainly based on poultry production. The town boasts the rebuilt Mentore Theatre (the last work by the architect Gae Aulenti), the Vero Stoppioni Art Gallery, where you can admire numerous works by the artist Mattia Moreni, the river park with open-air sculptures from various modern and contemporary artists of international renown, and an art exhibition of national importance, the Campigna Award
ATTENTION! CHANGES DUE TO THE LANDSLIDES OF MAY 2023
The rains of May 2023 created some inconvenience in Romagna. The route of the Via Romea also suffered damage; with some cleaning interventions the closure of the main sections was avoided or at least the possibility of some variations such as not to interrupt the continuity of the stages. We are looking for help from the Municipalities and the Region to ensure that the situation becomes safe again over time, bearing in mind that the autumn season could accentuate the inconvenience. Along the Ronco/Bidente river, the Region is restoring the riverbeds (and with them the adjacent roads). Likewise the Municipalities and the Provincial Administration for the main and secondary paved roads. STAGE 26 – Cusercoli-Meldola-S.Sofia (photo 1 ; photo 2) 1) Immediately after Cusercoli on the riverside there is a large landslide, therefore, provisionally, it is advisable to turn right, before point 2 and enter the vineyard until you come across the old gravel road after 830m 2) The “historical” variant, drawn in yellow (starts from Civitella toward Bagno di Romagna), between points 20 and 27 is usable with attention; there are some variations (signs in the track) 3) After Pianetto Castle there are several landslides (points 10 and 11 of the guide). Particular attention must be paid because they have only been partially removed 4) On the section from Valdifrancia to S.Sofia (point 11 towards 12) there is a large landslide; plus the vegetation has grown on the road; the vegetation has been cleared but the growth is fast