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Via Marchesana

from tuscany to lombardy

Over the centuries there are various routes that passing through the Lunigiana have connected the North of our country with the Centre South, allowing from time to time for armies, merchants, pilgrims or simple travellers to move over long distances. The Via Marchesana – Francigena is a journey, rich in history and culture between four regions: Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna, Liguria and Tuscany.

In recent decades some of these, fell into oblivion for centuries as a result of the changes that led to the current car routes, now rediscovered. First of all, the Via Francigena and then one of the last in accordance with time to be considered the Via Marchesana.

A road that from Lunigiana allows you to reach the Oltrepò Pavese through the valleys of the Apennines: it is the revival of that “via dei monti”, remembered in documentary sources, of which in the twelfth century the Marquis Obizzo Malaspina made the Emperor Federico Barbarossa travel when the Municipality of Pontremoli closed the doors of the village preventing him from passing along the Via Francigena, the equipped road of the Cisa.

A “road” the Marchesana that the Malaspina knew well, since it winded along the territories controlled by them thus allowing to avoid areas that could hinder the path, as happened to the emperor in Pontremoli. It was used by them to reach from Mulazzo their possessions in the valleys of Parma, Piacenza and Lombardy. This is where the name of “Marchesana” comes from: The Way Of The Marquises.


To rediscover this ancient itinerary of about 250 kilometres long and to propose it to the administrators of the territories which crossed 20 Municipalities and 6 Provinces of 4 Regions was Mgr. Domenico Ponzini, Valtarese by birth and Piacenza by adoption. A priest of profound historical culture, long responsible for the cultural heritage of the Diocese of Piacenza. For Ponzini, a great connoisseur of Lunigiana, that itinerary could be renamed the “Via Marchesana Francigena”, a variant of the route of Sigerico’s journey of the tenth century.

In Lunigiana the route touches the municipalities of Aulla, Licciana, Tresana, Mulazzo and Zeri before descending to Val di Vara before arriving in the valleys of Taro, Ceno, Aveto and reaching the Piacenza area from where Voghera can be reached.

The modern itinerary is therefore proposed as an alternative to the Via Francigena of Sigerico from where it detaches itself from Aulla and returns to Voghera, not far from Pavia, that imperial city in which Barbarossa wanted to repair after his fourth descent in Italy – between 1166 and 1167 – when he had escorted to Rome the antipope Pasquale III (Cardinal Guido da Crema), to oppose Pope Alexander III, forced to flee from Rome. But the epidemic of fever (probably malarial) that broke out in Rome in the summer hit the imperial army hard, causing the death of hundreds of soldiers and dozens of officers; the emperor then decided to return in a hurry and repair in Pavia, one of the two cities that with Como had remained faithful to him in the ferment of the rise of the anti-imperial municipal leagues. Arriving in Lunigiana, just north of Aulla, Frederick Barbarossa was informed that Pontremoli had closed the doors denying him the passage: the Cisa road was therefore precluded. The alternative to a long and uncertain siege of the municipality was offered by the faithful Obizzo Malaspina, who put himself at his disposal to accompany him to Pavia along the route of the mountains, the route he himself travelled to reach the possessions in Val Taro, Val Trebbia and beyond.

The itinerary of the “Via Marchesana Francigena” proposed today is as follows:
It starts from Aulla to reach Terrarossa where you leave the left of the River Magra to turn west. Lusuolo is one of the strategic and panoramic points that introduces the “path” in the territory that was of Obizzo Malaspina: Canossa, Castevoli, Gavedo and Mulazzo  passing through many centres with the constant back drop of the journey being the Apennines and the Apuan Alps. While waiting to go to the Rossano valley you can climb to Montereggio and the Madonna del Monte, two other most significant stops. In the Zerasco, in addition to Rossano, Coloretta and Patigno one, cannot forget Adelano with the presence of the Franciscan hermitage and not forgetting the Two Saints: the ancient pass of the Crusader Beech.
From Zeri the descent into Val di Vara is short: Sesta Godano offers the enchanting village of Groppo di Rio before heading towards the upper Taro Valley. Not far from Albareto the villages of Monte Groppo and Folta recall the ancient passages of the abbots of Bobbio directed to Brugnato.

You arrive in Tarsogno, then in Compiano and finally in Bedonia. In Montarsiccio you enter Val Ceno and cross it towards the Val d’Aveto: S. Stefano was one of the most important lands of the Malaspina and alone deserves the best start. Vico Mezzano and Vico Soprano (the highest village of the “street” at 1,100 metres) marks the path to Cariseto, the village lost in the Piacenza Apennines, that still preserves the remains of the castle where Barbarossa stayed overnight. The next descent leads to Ponte Organasco where you cross the Trebbia. In nearby Montarsolo a thousand-year-old oak tree is already a destination for numerous excursions. After crossing the administrative border, you arrive in Lombardy: First Santa Maria di Staffora, then the introduction of Varzi in the province of Pavia; in the area the attraction is the castle of Oramala, where the emperor spent another night, a place famous above all for the ghosts that populate it even today. Ponte Nizza and Salice Terme are the last stages of the journey: Voghera is on the horizon; here, at the age of 32, in the second half of the fourteenth century San Rocco died.
Tourist itinerary, journey of faith, inner journey in search of forgotten dimensions, along one of the roads of the mountains that long ago were the only possible ones and that today return to be extraordinary occasions at hand


LUNIGIANA BY WAY. PERCORSI A PIEDI IN BICICLETTA – COMUNICAZIONE E SEGNALETICA COORDINATA PER I PROGETTI 1. VIA DEL VOLTO SANTO – 2. CICLOVIA DELLA MAGRA. Progetto cofinanziato da FEASR – Regolamento (UE) 1305/2013 – PSR 2014/2020 Regione Toscana – Sottomisura 7.5 – sostegno a investimenti di fruizione pubblica in infrastrutture ricreative, informazioni turistiche e infrastrutture turistiche su piccola scala – infrastrutture ricreative pubbliche, centri di informazione turistica e infrastrutture turistiche di piccola scala.