The partisan struggle in this area had a great importance in the formation of the civic consciousness that arose from the rubble, both material and moral, of war. Local populations played a major role, providing shelter and help – bedding and food, but also a communication network of primary strategic importance – to numerous allied soldiers and officers who had escaped the Germans, and to the partisans. This involvement often led to tragic episodes and fierce retaliations on civilians, commemorated by tombstones, sculptures, and museum houses.
The proposed itinerary follows the events that punctuated the period 1943-1944, through a path that ideally connects the first moments in the aftermath of 8 September 1943, with the formation of the first nuclei of Resistance, up until the liberation of Cesena, on October 20, 1944.
Our Paths of Memory ideally begin in La Seghettina, a hamlet of the Municipality of Bagno di Romagna. It is an isolated place between Lake Ridracoli and the Lama forest. It can be reached either by leaving the car in Corniolo and crossing San Paolo in Alpe, in about two hours and thirty minutes, or, in the summertime, through a much more enjoyable route, crossing Lake Ridracoli, in about three hours. Once we reach the Dam of Ridracoli and leave the car, we can take the shuttle and then walk the road that leads to the landing stage of the lake's electric ferry, which will leave us on the opposite shore. From here, in about two hours on a not so well signposted path (it is an old mule track) we arrive at the Seghettina: an old house with a plaque that commemorates the story of numerous and prominent high-ranking Allied officers, including generals Neame, O 'Connor and Combe. They had fled the day after 8 September from the fortress of Vincigliata, near Fiesole, and sought refuge in Camaldoli and then came to this house, thanks to the inhabitants of the area, who hid them from the German roundups. Aided by the partisans, they managed to get back in touch with the Allied army.
We return to the parking lot of the Dam, we take the car back and then we head towards Strabatenza, reachable in half an hour by car, along the dirt road.
The village of Strabatenza, now abandoned, played an important role in the partisan struggle: the partisans of the “Romagna” Brigades established their headquarters in the rectory of the church of San Donato. A few steps from the church, the Monument to the 8th “Garibaldi” Brigade is well worth a stop: inaugurated in 2010, the large boulder, adorned with the star of the Brigade, commemorates those who "chose to fight for the freedom, democracy and dignity of Italy". From here we can walk the Path of Janošik the partisan, inaugurated in 2017 and dedicated to the memory of Giorgio Ceredi, partisan of the 8th “Garibaldi” Brigade. The path, a medium-easy and pleasant route to be travelled especially in the spring / summer period, is marked with red stars along the way, and touches in about two and a half hours the ruins of the houses that gave shelter to the partisan squads: the Fondi with its charming stone bridge, the Casaccia, Ca’ del Tosco.
From the area of Strabatenza, we cross the village of Poggio alla Lastra and drive along the Carnaio mountain pass, which leads to San Piero in Bagno: along the road we find a memorial that commemorates what has gone down in history as the Carnaio massacre: here, on 25 July 1944, after a long day of round-ups, 26 unarmed citizens were shot by the Nazi-Fascist troops. Next to the chapel winds the Parco della Memoria, a path that uses the road in a figurative way to separate and connect the events of the great history, the European and national one, to the local one. The Carnaio massacre is also remembered by a stone plaque placed on the facade of the Town Hall in San Piero in Bagno.
Also in the territory of Bagno di Romagna, there is Monte Comero (1373 m asl), where one of the most violent battles between partisans and German troops took place. Today the area offers beautiful landscapes and trails, perfect for a few hours of hiking, starting from Lake Pontini, crossing the Bosco delle Fate up to the Holy Spring, to the Oratory of San Romualdo, then to the Casale.
The itinerary continues along the E4 highway; around Sarsina, we turn off towards Tavolicci. In this fraction of the Municipality of Verghereto, one of the most heinous episodes ever occurring in Italy during the war years took place: on 22 July 1944, 64 people, including 19 children under age 10, were murdered by the IV Polizei Freiwilligen Bataillon Italien (a Italian-German police volunteer battalion), who then tried to hide what had happened by setting fire to a house in the town. Today it is possible to visit the House-Museum of the massacre, restored and furnished as in the time of the war, and the Memorial that commemorates the victims.
From Tavolicci we can walk a path in about an hour that leads to Ca' Sem and Campo del Fabbro, the places where the men of the village were killed after being forced to witness the massacre.
Also in Verghereto municipality, in Capanne, about twenty minutes by car from Tavolicci, the Brigade had organized an infirmary: between 6 and 7 April the place was reached by the German soldiers who slaughtered seven partisans.
We head back to Sarsina and we move towards Cesena; after a few minutes we arrive at the hamlet of Sorbano: here is the Parco della Resistenza, “In memory of the fallen for freedom”, to commemorate the ferocious Nazi reprisal of 28 September 1944, by the German 114th Jäger Division.
The complex was conceived and built in the late seventies, and includes tourist trails, a playground, a votive temple and a sculpture by a great Romagnolo sculptor and architect, Ilario Fioravanti.
Let's go back towards Sarsina, and passing through Calbano we head towards Pieve di Rivoschio. Along the way we meet the hamlet of Ranchio, where a clash took place between three partisans and a group belonging to the same unit that had carried out the Tavolicci massacre: the partisan Gino Fantini was captured, tortured and killed.
We continue from Ranchio to Pieve di Rivoschio, a particularly significant place for the Resistance in Romagna: here the first partisan nucleus of the Cesena territory settled, made up of former Garibaldi soldiers veterans of the Spanish war, and from June 1944 the Command of the 8th Garibaldi Brigade settled in Campofiore, two kilometers outside the town. In Pieve di Rivoschio there is now the Park of Peace and Resistance and the exhibition The Gothic Line - From Massa to Pesaro, from the Tyrrhenian to the Adriatic, set up on the initiative of the Coordinamento provinciale per i Luoghi della Memoria.
Now it’s time to take the road towards Mercato Saraceno, cross Linaro and pass Tombette and then Ciola: these last two places also saw clashes and shootings, together with Raggio, respectively on 19 August, 10 September and 16 October 1944. Once in Mercato Saraceno, we take the E45 highway towards Cesena.
In Cesena, numerous places bear traces of the war and the Resistance, both in the town center, to be explored on foot, and in the surrounding countryside.
We leave the car outside the center – possibly taking advantage of the three park-and-ride located around the town centre and taking nr. 4, 5 or 6 minibuses – and we reach the Rocca Malatestiana. This late medieval fortress, partly also used as a prison until the 1970s, was the scene of two partisan raids that freed the prisoners, and of the shooting of eight anti-fascists in the Sferisterio, remembered by a stone plaque. In May 1945, 17 prisoners were killed in the fortress, including members of the RSI – the fascist Italian Social Republic, allied to Hitler – who had been arrested in northern Italy.
After coming down from the Rocca along Via Malatesta Novello to Piazza del Popolo, we move to the loggia of the Town Hall, where we can see some stone plaques. One commemorates the 126 partisans from Cesena killed; one recalls the Silver Medal for military valor awarded to the city, for the sacrifices of its population and for the partisan activity carried out in the 14 months of Nazi-Fascist occupation; one in memory of Gastone Sozzi, who was one of the leaders of the underground Italian communist party, killed in fascist prisons in 1928.
In front of the Town Hall, crossing Piazza del Popolo, we find the first of the traces of the tragic story of the Jews of Cesena: three stumbling blocks that recall the members of the Saralvo family, who lived in a house overlooking the square and who were deported to Auschwitz. The same fate befell the Forti and Jacchia families, to whom four stones in Corso Garibaldi and two in Corso Ubaldo Comandini are dedicated respectively. The Jews killed in Cesena are also remembered by a plaque placed on the side facade of Palazzo del Ridotto, which overlooks Piazza Almerici, in front of the place where the ancient synagogue stood. In the city, in fact, there was a Jewish community at least since the fifteenth century, then expelled in 1569 from the city, as well as from the entire Papal State.
In Cesena there was also a large air-raid shelter at the foot of Colle Garampo, in viale Mazzoni (currently not open to visitors), but numerous other places were used as shelters during the bombings: the tunnel called "foro della Diavolessa", the bell tower and the crypt of the church of the Osservanza, the crypt of the church of Santa Cristina, a gallery specially built in the basement of the Abbey of Santa Maria del Monte (which was later damaged by a bombing).
It is worth taking the beautiful Via delle Scalette up to the Abbey: some Allied tanks traveled downhill towards the city centre in order to take by surprise the German army, thus devastating the road and almost crushing the steps.
The city was liberated on 20 October 1944 by the Allies together with the partisans of Cesena GAP (partisans’ Patriotic Action Groups) squad: the entry of Canadian tanks from Porta Santi has been immortalized in several photographs.
775 Commonwealth soldiers rest in Cesena War Cemetery – in Sant’Egidio area, along the via Cervese – designed by British architect Louis de Soissons.
The sculpture by Ilario Fioravanti, located in Viale Carducci and inaugurated in 1974, is dedicated to the memory of the Resistance in Cesena: a mother painstakingly bears her wounded son on her shoulders. At the foot of the sculpture, the poem by Italian Nobel laureate Salvatore Quasimodo Alle fronde dei salici (At the branches of the willows):
And how could we sing, with the foreign boot on our hearts,
among the dead abandoned in the squares,
on the hard frozen grass, at the lamb lament
of the children, at the black scream
of the mother going to meet her son
crucified on the telegraph pole?
At the branches of the willows, by vow,
even our harps were hung,
they swayed lightly in the sad wind.
Many other episodes took place in Cesena, both in the city and in the countryside: from the formation of the first nucleus of the GAPs (partisans’ Patriotic Action Groups) in the area known as the Horseshoe (the hamlets of Bagnile, Martorano, San Giorgio, Ronta, Gattolino) to the roundups and killings by of the Nazi-Fascists of numerous GAP members; from the strikes at Arrigoni, a food factory that had considerable importance in the history of the city, to the massacre of Ponte Ruffio, in which eight former sailors of the Republican National Navy were killed, and many others, remembered by tombstones and memorial stones in their respective places.
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