If Dante lived today, most likely he would travel through the Savio Valley to reach Ravenna. And the river Savio is our travel companion along the road that crosses the Cesena hills, in the heart of the central Apennines, following an itinerary to discover some of Dante's most cherished places, straddling Romagna and Tuscany.
Dante knew these places very well, as evidenced by the numerous citations present in the Divine Comedy and the bibliography in this regard, also linked to the popular tradition, according to which the "fugitive Ghibellin" also passed through the Savio Valley during his exile.
(The route can be done either along the E-45 or by choosing the state road, taking it a little bit easier and enjoying the view of the hills: no one is chasing after you!).
We start from Verghereto, the first municipality of Romagna past the Tuscan border, where, on the top of Mount Fumaiolo, the verses of the Supreme Poet accompany us to discover the Sorgenti del Tevere (source of the Tiber), the river sacred to the Romans, which arises here a short distance from the Savio and Marecchia rivers.
Dante knew this well, so much so that, in Hell, this sector of the Tuscan-Romagna Apennines is defined as "the yoke from which Tiber is defeated" (Inferno, XXVII 30).
Mount Fumaiolo is perfect for more or less long excursions, on foot and by bike, and in winter with snowshoes to immerse yourself in the magic of the snowy forest.
Going down to Bagno di Romagna, a splendid village known for its beneficial thermal waters since Roman times, today a temple of slow tourism and for years awarded as an Orange Village by the Italian Touring Club, it is possible to have the experience of finding oneself "for a dark forest”(Inferno, I 2) taking advantage of the numerous excursions organized within the National Park of the Casentinesi Forests.
The territory of the Park, which extends along the entire Apennine ridge between Romagna and Tuscany and houses the Integral Reserve of Sasso Fratino, Unesco Heritage Site, was certainly a source of inspiration for Dante in the choice of the setting for the opening canto of the Divine Comedy.
The route continues towards Sarsina, the birthplace of the Roman playwright Tito Maccio Plauto, to whom the Plautus Festival is dedicated every year in the splendid outdoor setting of the Plautina arena, with international guests.
Dante, who places Plautus in Limbo (Purgatory, XXII 98), seems to have a particular debt towards the author: it is believed that the verse "Abandon all hope, you who enter" (Inferno III 9), one of the best known of the Divine Comedy, is taken from the following line in Plautus' Bacchides (Bacchides 368-70):
Pandite atque aperite propere ianuam hanc Orci, obsecro. Nam equidem haud aliter esse duco, quippe quo nemo aduenit, nisi quem spes reliquere omnes, esse ut frugi possiet.
[Open it, please, open it quickly, this door to hell. Hell yes, because no one enters here, if he has not given up any hope of remaining honest.]
Sarsina is worth a stop to visit the National Archaeological Museum, rich in Roman artifacts found in the area, testifying to the fundamental role that this village assumed on the Rome - Ravenna commercial axis, a particularly lively port in Roman times.
Following the path of the Savio and the E-45 you reach Mercato Saraceno, among ancient churches and sweet rows that give life to highly appreciated wines, from Sangiovese to Famoso, a recently recovered native "ancestral" vine.
Praising the famous verses "Look at the heat of the sun that becomes wine, when it reaches the humor that of the vine runs" (Purgatorio, XXV 77), you can stop in one of the local cellars to toast with Dante, who certainly knew the quality of the Romagna wine that perhaps, who knows, helped him to face the difficulties of exile.
The road now leads us to Cesena, the provincial capital, cited in the Divine Comedy as “the one where the Savio bathes the side, just as it is between the plain and the mountain, between tyranny and a free state. " (Hell XXVII, 52-54).
Starting from the plaque that recalls the verse of the Divine Comedy placed on the walls of the Malatesta Fortress in the central Piazza del Popolo, you can continue towards the Malatestiana Library, a Unesco heritage site, a splendid example of a perfectly preserved civic library, which preserves numerous printed editions of the Commedia, from the period of the incunabula up to the twentieth century.
The route then touches Montiano, a balcony overlooking the sea over the rolling hills of Cesena.
Here, after a refreshment stop in one of the trattoria scattered on the hills, you can leave for a visit to the village and a bicycle excursion along its green paths, or walk the new "poetic paths", combining Dante's poetics with those of Romagna poets, such as Tonino Guerra, or perhaps taking advantage of the stop to read one of the many versions of the Divine Comedy in the Romagna dialect.
Ravenna is an exceptional treasure trove of art, history and culture, with the most beautiful Byzantine mosaics in the world housed in the splendid basilicas: take a stroll downtown to reach the main art sites of Ravenna on foot and you will be breathless.