On the way to the Apennines: the Via degli Dei – Italian Cuisine

The (re) discovery of ancient paths is one of the tourist trends of recent years. Although there is very little tourism, because we are talking about "real" travel. Here is our guide to one of the most popular itineraries in Italy, which connects two iconic cities. «A complete journey in an authentic territory, made of mountains, woods, history and genuine flavors

It starts from a Neptune, that of Piazza Maggiore, in Bologna, and arrives in the presence of another Neptune, in Piazza della Signoria, in Florence. There Via degli Dei (120 km, 5 or 6 stages) it seems to have been born to pay homage to the god of the waters, yet it is a road that is traveled (almost) entirely in the mountains, climbing the paths of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines that connects – or better said separates – Emilia-Romagna from Tuscany.

Together with the Via Francigena it is among the most famous paths in Italy (over 5 thousand visitors in 2018 and 2019), but should not be confused with the equally well-known Path of the Gods: one is on the Amalfi Coast and lasts (just) 10 km, the other is in the Apennines and it has 120 kilometers! But let's see in more detail what it is and how to travel it, thanks also to the help of new guide Walk Italy (edited by Luca Gianotti, publisher, € 14), which collects twenty walking itineraries among the most beautiful in Italy.

An ancient Roman road
Like many Italian paths, this too – which owes its name to the places divine which crosses: Monte Adone, Monzuno (Mons Iovis, mount of Jupiter), mount Venus etc. – traces aancient Roman road: the Flaminia Minor, a military route built by the consul Caio Flaminio around 187 BC. C. and which served the empire to defeat the Ligurian tribes. It became very popular in the Middle Ages, when pilgrims and wayfarers even preferred it to the Via Francigena because by walking up they managed to orient themselves better. And it is still popular today, both because it connects two iconic cities of our Italy, and because even if there is enough street, in a week or so – depending on the preparation – everything is done. Here there is neither the sea nor the high mountains, yet "this is a complete journey in an authentic territory, and to travel it you feel part of that two-legged revolution that brings people together and resurrect territories ", writes Cristina Mori in Walk Italy.

The Via degli Dei is a complete journey in an authentic territory

1-2 ° stage: Monte Adone and Madonna dei Fornelli
The start is from Piazza Maggiore, in Bologna, from which you continue in via d'Azeglio and Zaragoza and then go up – and a lot – to Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca, which with its 660 arches holds the longest arcade record in the world. Here you take the CAI112A path to Talon park in Casalecchio and then follow the first signs of the Via degli Dei (VD), between unpaved and, some, asphalted stretches. The first stop is made in Badolo, in the middle of the Pliocene Buttress Nature Reserve (to sleep: B&B On the way of the gods, tel. + 39 340 3807128). The next day you can decide whether to get to the summit of Monte Adone (do not do it if there is rain: the ground may be too slippery) or continue directly along via Valle Verde. From here you get to the center of the town of Brento and then follow it to Monzuno. Arrived in Campagne (after a nice climb), the last 8 km are completed until the Madonna dei Fornelli (to sleep: B&B Romani, historical family structure that offers private rooms with bathroom, but also dorms for backpackers and tent camp; tel. 0534 94113).

To eat: The Tigellanti (Monzuno), a historic place from the 1300s, is housed in an ancient medieval watchtower. Today's style is mountainous, warm and essential. As the name already suggests, this is the realm of tigella, the fried pasta typical of Emilian cuisine, which is cooked in oil or lard and accompanies cold cuts, sauces and cheeses. Here the tigelle are made with organic flour at km 0 and you can also taste sweets with jam. Reservation required (tel. +39 348 015 6263).

3rd stage: in Tuscany
Stage 3 is the one that leads into Tuscany. It follows first the path 019 to Pian di Balestra and then the signs Via degli Dei – Futa and Roman road, where you can admire features of the ancient Military Flaminia. Continuing on the path you arrive at Piana degli Ossi, where there are the remains of an ancient furnace from the 2nd century BC, and then to the top of the «Banditacce, highest point of the whole route (about 1200 meters). A little further on here is another important milestone: the half the waywhich is the distance more or less the same between Bologna and Florence (in a point called the "Poggiaccio"). From here we continue with the indications for Futa, first on a dirt path then on the paved road SS 65, and which is to be followed up to the entrance of the Germanic military cemetery, the largest of those made in Italy (welcomes 30,683 bodies from 2,069 Italian municipalities). After passing the square, take the path on the way Santa Lucia Monte di Fo ’ which leads straight to the Hotel il Sergente (tel. 055 8423127), in whose restaurant you can taste an excellent Tuscan-Emilian menu in a family atmosphere, from homemade tortelli to grilled meat (with a side dish of beans with a bird).

4th stage: the tavern burned
On the fourth day, go up to the "Apparita", following the GEA signs and then the CAI 00 path that leads to Monte Gazzaro, at 1125 meters (this path is also not recommended in case of bad weather). After signing the summit book, you go down to the Pass of the Osteria Bruciata. Why is it called so? Why here, at one time, there was an inn where "human flesh" dishes were cooked, which the owner prepared after robbing and killing his patrons. It was a friar passing by who, once he arrived in Sant'Agata del Mugello, went to the guards to denounce the horrible custom. The guards climbed the step, found the remains and evidence of the assassinations, and hanged the entire host family, burning the inn so that it would never be rebuilt. Legendright? Yes, of course, so it was thought, at least until some remains of walls and a floor with traces of fire were found a few years ago.

Like that friar, you too will continue the path for Sant'Agata (CAI 46 and CAI 46b). Here, you can visit one Romanesque church of 984, one of the most beautiful and significant churches of the whole Mugello, entirely built in alberese filaretto, a limestone very used in the Middle Ages and coming from quarries in the area. Or reach out San Piero a Sieve (to sleep: B&B La Pieve, tel. 055 8487182).

To eat: Icchè restaurant there is (San Piero a Sieve), where – although it seems incredible, given the context – you can eat excellent raw fish (tel. 055 848112).

5th and final stage: arrival in Florence
Being a little long (33 km), the last stage can be broken by sleeping in Bivigliano or taking a bus to Fiesole for Florence. The way forward is that of the CAI which leads to Medici Fortress of San Martino, and then, from here, to the castle of Trebbio. Crossing "fields of olive trees, villages and the gentle hills of Mugello" you reach Tagliaferri, from where you then follow the CAI signs for Bivigliano (to ask: B&B Cortevecchia, tel. +39 335 361193). Before arriving in Bivigliano, however, the stage at sanctuary of Monte Senario it's an obligation. It is one of the most important sanctuaries in Tuscany and is still inhabited by (few) friars who in their refectory also offer a small refreshment for travelers (but it is not a restaurant). To try are above all i spirits produced in the convent distillery, especially the Gemma d'Abeto, produced since 1865 with extracts of silver fir.

To continue towards Florence, take the path 00 to Fiesole and then the 02 towards Poggio Pratone, from which you can perhaps enjoy the most exciting view of the whole trip, with the Renaissance city that peeps out on the horizon in all its splendor. From Fiesole, if your legs allow it, take path 07 to Monte Ceceri and then from here to the Maiano quarries and, in via Lungo l'Affrico, you will arrive in the city. You did it, a beautiful Florentine you will have deserved it …!

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