Everyone knows Dante Alighieri, author of the Divine Comedy, the most famous Italian literary work of all time, while perhaps not everyone knows that in the early 1300’s the Supreme Poet travelled between Lunigiana, in Tuscany, and Reggio Emilia crossing the Apennines, to reach the noble Guido da Castello. According to other commentators, the poet personally visited Bismantova in 1306, on his way from Padua to Lunigiana.
Dante probably reached the Ospedalaccio Pass, along the ancient road that from Sassalbo arrived near today’s Cerreto Pass then descended the Secchia valley up to the Bismantova Stone, that we find in Canto IV of Purgatory, chosen to describe the harshness of the ascent to the mountain of Purgatory. The great poet writes: "but here it is necessary that we fly".
Dante was in exile from Florence because in 1302 he had been condemned, following political struggles, to the stake and destruction of his property, and never saw his city again. He travelled as an exile to many courts in northern Italy until his death.
It is possible to reach Cerreto pass (Link) by car, it is the point of connection between Lunigiana and the Reggio Apennines, via the SS63. From here continue on foot or by bike for an easy trek to the Ospedalaccio pass, on the medieval road.
We are in the heart of the National Park of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines.
From the parking lot located right on the pass you have to take the CAI 00 path, also marked with SI- Sentiero Italia, and continue for about 40 minutes. The route does not present particular difficulties or unevenness.
Walk through dolines and chalky outcrops, go around a hill until you come out again on the ridge and the wide pastures of the Ospedalaccio Pass, at the altitude of 1280 m, crossing which you reach a forest road.
In ancient times there was the hospice of “San Lorenzo delle Cento Croci”, to give refuge to wayfarers and pilgrims, which also included a small sacred building, as was usual in isolated places like this. The remains of these ancient buildings were found in the first decades of the twentieth century thanks to excavations by the University of Pisa.
It is likely that Dante Alighieri stopped in his pilgrimage at this hospice, founded in medieval times by the powerful Canossa family and abandoned in 1500 a.D.
Take the path backwards and, once you get back to the car, you can take advantage of the Restaurants of the Pass to have lunch in the name of tradition, or continue for the second stage.
Going down towards the plain along the roads of the Reggio Apennines, the Bismantova Stone can be seen at a distance, majestic compared to the surrounding territory, and the same happened centuries ago, when Dante Alighieri walked his path.
Today it can be reached via the SS63 to Castelnovo ne' Monti; from there take Viale Bismantova that leads to Piazzale Dante, at the foot of the Bismantova Stone, about 4 km from the village.
Bismantova Stone is an imposing geological formation, 1 km long, 240 meters wide and 300 meters high compared to the surrounding plain, 1041 meters above sea level; its formation dates back to about 15 million years ago.
Impossible not to be fascinated by this place and its atmosphere where nature, history and religion merge. Here, in fact, there is also a hermitage and the Laudato si' centre, with a museum inspired by the themes of the custody of creation and geology.
Arriving at this place, which seven hundred years ago was much less wooded than today and had a more harsh and wild appearance, the great poet was struck by it to the point of deciding to use it in his most famous work, making it the mount of Purgatory in the Divine Comedy, with its steep rocks.
You can decide to take a walk around the Bismantova Stone or simply climb up to the summit plateau, on CAI trail 697, which starts a short distance from the parking lot and is well beaten - an excursion that takes a couple of hours. From the top of the Stone you can admire a 360 º panorama that ranges from the peaks of the ridge to the plain of Emilia.