The great part of the territory covered by the route: “Viae Misericordiae ad Iesum per Mariam” has as its reference system the natural one of the Valleys, which is more suitable for framing autonomous historical-geographical units. In fact, the rivers with their valleys constituted since the protohistoric age, the settlement poles for the people attracted by the possibility of easily replenishing water and exploiting the bisectors that cross the valleys longitudinally: Valle del Marzeno, Valle Lamone, Valle Senio and Valle Sintria and Samoggia, as natural routes of connection between the individual nuclei of population density. The Lamone valley takes on particular importance compared to the contiguous ones due to its transit function in the mountain area of Faenza. Since ancient times, it has constituted a demographic attraction and a directrix of commercial traffic between the Po Valley and the Tirreno da Faenza towards the innermost centers of the Arno valley. This route corresponds to the municipal road of the second century. to. C. which develops as the natural extension of the cardo maximus of Faenza, along the course of the Lamone and presumably covering the current route up to Florence. (Quarantolo) Quartolo, the Rio di Quarto, the Rio di Quinto are all toponyms that recall the distances from the milestones placed in the area of Fognano.
“Since Faenza was on the axis of road communication that goes from the Via Emilia to Tuscany, through the Lamone valley, it is from here that one of the most frequented and well documented itineraries of Rome went from the written sources. The definition given in the Descriptio Romandiole of 1371 is very meaningful: ‘stratam magistram qua itur a Faventia Florentiam’. But there are also many testimonies of the Roman era of the journey: apart from the mention in the Peutingeriana Table and in the Antoniner Itinerarium, the repeated presence of military toponyms then ascertains a continuous use during the Middle Ages of a road whose construction dates back to the first decades of 2nd century BC, following the rise of the town of Faenza (hence the name of Via Faventina) which served as a link between Ravenna and Florence. “5
A first start to the modification of the landscape occurred in the central centuries of the Middle Ages (XII-XIII) when a strong demographic increase led to the transformation of new territories into culture. The resulting economic and agricultural development was an intrinsic phenomenon. The dissemination of late ancient and medieval human settlements in the valleys of Faenza or better in the Romagna Faentina was reflected on the mesh of ecclesiastical institutions distributed throughout the territory in an equally capillary manner as the demic aggregates.
The foundation of churches and chapels marked the stages of the rural population; they are an example: Pieve di Tho, or rather the Pieve di San Giovanni in Ottavo (Brisighella), S. Maria in Rontana (Rontana), S.Stefano in Juvarino (Modigliana) and others. In the early Middle Ages, these ecclesiastical centers drew their own organizational imprint on the territory, placing themselves as nodal points of administrative, economic and settlement reference. Another phenomenon is that of the fortification, for example the proliferation of castles as centers of stately power able to exercise, on the local basis, an important aggregative function (Castel Raniero, Pergola, Oriolo, Brisighella and others). The spread of castles in relation to the geographical and environmental situation leads us to believe that the low and middle hill was preferred from the settlement point of the mountain areas. The settlement methods were mainly those of occupying relatively low reliefs at the entrance of the valleys or at the first buttresses to exercise a control function. Continuing towards the Bassa Romagna (flat area that goes from the Apennine valleys towards the Adriatic sea), between the Lamone river and the Senio we find the “Valles Argentensium” 6 and the ports. Although much changed compared to the first centuries after the year one thousand, the territory of Bassa Romagna preserves testimonies that refer to the streets of the ancient pilgrims traveling to the capital of Christianity. In the first centuries after the year 1000 the main arm of the Po passed through Ferrara, and the whole plain between Argenta and Bagnacavallo was submerged by the marshes, the Valles Argentensium “, where the river spread. The pilgrims who wanted to reach the Via Emilia, therefore, had no choice but to sail by landing in the ports of Argenta, Bagnacavallo, Santa Maria in Fabriago or other minor places such as San Lorenzo di Lugo, to continue until Faenza. Surrounded today by land reclamation, resulting from the drying up of medieval marshes.7
Our journey “Viae Misericordiae ad Iesum per Mariam”, in the third stage, has as its reference the parish church of San Pietro in Sylvis, a notable example of Proto-Romanesque or seventh-century architecture, one of the most beautiful and best preserved in Romagna. The Comacchio Riviera, unique in Italy for the natural richness of the Po delta and Valli di Comacchio park, rich in flora and fauna and landscape environments united by valleys and the sea. An environment with great historical evidence from the ancient Roman to the medieval and modern. The coast is broad and wooded with the presence of abbeys the most important that of Pomposa where the music was born. The territory of Comacchio and that of Faenza were in commercial connection since the Middle Ages but particularly from the 18th century with the Naviglio Zanelli Canal that connected the Faentino territory with Comacchio and the Adriatic Sea, a centuries-old commercial road that brought the products of the Apennines to the sea and those of the sea in the Apennines. As in the past, the commercial streets were enriched with places of worship, art and culture as well as manufacturing. The Naviglio ran a line of 36 kilometers that can still be traveled but no longer by ship, from the Apennines to the Adriatic crossing the Bassa Romagna up to the valleys of Comacchio (the little Venice), formerly up to the Po di Primaro. In addition to the wealth of Comacchio, its coastline, parishes and castles, unique landscapes from the Maritime Park of the Po Delta and the Valli di Comacchio to the Apennine Park of the Vena del Gesso; the territory has a number of cathedrals from Faenza to Modigliana, from the Apennines to the Adriatic Sea, to works of art from various Italian schools: from Tuscany to Veneto and from Romagna, to the literary historical presence of Dante Alighieri, Fra Sabba da Castiglione a Dino Campana, rich in historical, artistic and sacred museums; Unesco heritage of art ceramics. The historical religious content of the territory is among the richest in Romagna: a strong presence of witness of faith of the medieval saints such as San Pier Damiani, of which the Faenza Apennines has a good presence of hermitages founded by the saint, who is Doctor of the Church is considered a father of the Church of the eleventh century; Santa Umiltà founder of the female branch of the Benedictine Vallombrosane, famous both in Romagna and in the Florence of the Medici of 1310; San Nevolone, a Tertiary Franciscan famous for his charity and help towards the poor like Blessed Bertoni; Blessed Bonfadini of Cotignola. Also in the Middle Ages it is worth to mention the now sanctuary of St. Anthony of Padua in Montepaolo (1220 – 1221), where the Italian mission of the great preacher began, and Franciscan master Santo Antonio da Padova (1231), famous throughout the world; and many other figures of medieval saints and blessed as Sant Emiliano, an Irish bishop who died on the return journey from his Roman pilgrimage to Faenza (1321); a strong presence of Marian shrines, small but rich in art and tradition in the popular faith, ranging from the Madonna del Mare (Immaculate Conception of Porto Garibaldi), Madonna del Bosco (of Alfonsine), Madonna della Salute (from Solarolo) to Sanctuary of the Madonna di Monticino (of Brisighella), Madonna del Cantone (of Modigliana) to finish at the Madonna delle Grazie (of Faenza) built between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The strong presence of the Saint educator and social Don Bosco (1888), who visited this land in 1882 bringing fruits of holiness and great witnesses active both in the laity, in the diocesan clergy, and in the world of the consecrated, in this period leaves a sign evident through the Cimatti family, the three brothers: Blessed Raffaella, the Venerable Vincent and the Servant of God Luigi missionaries, who have marked this territory of great spirituality and of a strong formative sense of charitable, educational and supportive character. Furthermore, in today’s times stands out the great figure of the martyred missionary Don Daniele Badiali, killed in Peru in 1997, whose cause of beatification is underway.
5 EMILIA ROMAGNA TURISMO, sito ufficiale di informazione turistica della regione, www.emiliaromagnaturismo.it/vie romei/valle-lamone
6 Idem; EMILIA ROMAGNA TURISMO, sito ufficiale di informazione turistica della regione, www.emiliaromagnaturismo.it/vie romei/tratto Lugo – Bagnacavallo
7 Idem; EMILIA ROMAGNA TURISMO, sito ufficiale di informazione turistica della regione, www.emiliaromagnaturismo.it/vie romei/tratto Lugo – Bagnacavallo