From Via Emilia to the Apennines, many are the places keeping the memory of this historical moment, that left deep marks on people and villages. This itinerary is a journey through Memory, that wishes to offer a chance for reflecting on the past and inviting everyone to understand that history was made here, too.
Starting this itinerary from Castel San Pietro Terme, move along Via Emilia towards Imola. Along this ancient consular road, where the 2nd Polish Army Corps advanced, at the entrance to the village of Toscanella turn right following the road for Dozza, and at the second roundabout you can find a large and convenient car park.
The town of Dozza, today known for being the village of the Biennale del Muro Dipinto and home to the Regional Enoteca of Emilia-Romagna, was not spared from bombings and destruction during the war. The Allies were advancing from the Apennines and feared two German strongholds, one at “Bertafredda” farm on the slope of Montecatone and one at “Bellaria” farm beyond Dozza. In order to neutralize these military targets, the allied forces shot grenades towards the town while fighter planes dropped phosphorous bombs.
German troops had got a command post inside the fortress of Rocca Sforzesca where several prisoners were kept under arrest. Another German command post was in via Ferraruola at “Bataiò” farm.
On 16th April 1945 the Italian fighters of the Combat Group Folgore of the marine regiment San Marco, volunteered to enter the village and verify the presence or absence of Germans; the agreed signal was the display of white sheets out windows of houses facing South, and so it happened.
After a walk around the village, taking the car along Via Ferraruola, at the end of the downhill road turn left and after about hundred meters you can see on the right one of the two Bailey bridges still used today by the residents.
This journey in time moves to Imola. The town in 1985 was awarded with the Gold Medal for brave Resistance Activity in the presence of President of the Italian Republic, Francesco Cossiga.
On the square Piazzale Giovanni Dalle Bande Nere stands Rocca Sforzesca, whose origins date back to 1261. From the 16th century the fortress was used as a prison and during the war period Nazi-Fascists had been detaining several dozen political prisoners, some of whom were killed or deported to concentration camps. In memory of them a commemorative plaque was placed by Anpi at the entrance courtyard.
Right next to the Fortress, with entrance in via Fratelli Bandiera 23, you can find the seat of CIDRA, Imola’s Documentation Centre on Antifascist Resistance and Contemporary History, a member of the National Parri Institute in Milan. Since 1983 the centre has housed a museum, an archive-photo library and a thematic library. It carries on various activities aimed at promoting knowledge of Imola heritage, such as conferences, workshops, book presentations; it works in particular in favor of school institutions at every level in the Imola area. The permanent exhibition Antifascism and Resistance in the town of Imola and its surroundings 1918-1946 makes use of six touch-screen stations and three monitors for viewing period films, photographs, documents and testimonies.
On Via della Resistenza, in front of the small church in Via Coraglia, you will admire the Anders Garden, dedicated to the soldiers and commander of the 2nd Polish Corps who passed by here on their way to liberate the town. This green area, designed and promoted by the Inheritance and Memory Association, is characterized by works by the sculptor Luigi Enzo Mattei, such as the stone pillar depicting liberators’ entry into the town and the bronze teddy bear Wojtek, the Polish soldiers’ mascot. As of December 2020, on the fiftieth anniversary of his death, this place also includes the bronze statue of General Wladislaw Anders.
From Imola, move now uphill along the Santerno valley following Via Montanara SS610 to Borgo Tossignano. At the centre of the village, you will see the monument dedicated to the liberators, Italian fighters belonging to the Folgore Combat Group.
Turning on the right in Via Rineggio you can marvel at the Bailey bridge over the Santerno river. It was intended for military action that was named after its creator, the British engineer Donald Bailey and was built during the Second World War to replace the bridges destroyed during war operations; it allowed the transit of tanks and heavy vehicles and did not require any special means for its construction.
Continuing your trip on Via Montanara, in the direction of Tuscany, after 10 km you will arrive at Castel Del Rio. At the town centre you can visit the War and Gothic Line Museum housed inside the ancient Palazzo degli Alidosi. Erected at the end of the Seventies, it boasts a very rich collection of war relics and a thematic library of over one thousand volumes. Also worth seeing is the monument to the Italian fallen soldiers of Gruppo di Combattimento Folgore, which stands at the primary school in Via IV Novembre. The names of the paratroopers and sailors of San Marco who fell during the spring offensive are engraved on the monument.