There are places that exude a unique spiritual energy. Silent places, which can be approached on tiptoe, where it is possible to rediscover ancestral values and sensations.
Here is an itinerary that will take you, step by step, to discover the places of the soul along the Savio Valley, in the province of Forlì-Cesena.
The first stop, near Verghereto, is the Hermitage of Sant'Alberico on Monte Fumaiolo (1,147 metres above sea level), set in the silence of the woods, still inhabited by a lay hermit, who also offers hospitality for retreats and spiritual exercises.
The hermitage can only be reached on foot or by bicycle along two routes.
The first (about an hour's walk) follows a path off the road towards Capanne, just outside the village of Balze.
The second can be reached by car from Balze towards Capanne-Alfero: after three kilometres, on the left, you come to a secondary road that widens into a large square, where you can park your car; from here, a short climb takes you to the hermitage in about 15 minutes.
The hermitage of Sant'Alberico is a crossroads of various ring trails on the Fumaiolo, including the Cammino di San Vicinio, which continues along the Savio Valley to Sarsina and beyond, and the Cammino di San Francesco, which runs between Rimini and La Verna.
Going down to Bagno di Romagna, the next stop is the Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta, in the heart of the village: documented as early as 861 AD, it represents a unique example within this territory called "Romagna Toscana" and houses precious works of art from the Florentine Renaissance.
The Basilica is the heart of the Museum of Sacred Art, an exhibition itinerary that includes the parish rectory and the Oratory of the Madonna del Carmine. The Museum holds more than 200 works, including paintings and furnishings.
Inside the Basilica there are traces of two miraculous events: a wood engraving called the "Madonna del Sangue", which in 1498 shed blood while being venerated in a private house a few steps from the Basilica, and the "Sacro Corporale" stained with blood that has remained unchanged over time, a sign of the Eucharistic miracle that took place in 1412.
Continuing towards Sarsina, we come to the Basilica of San Vicinio, visited every year by numerous pilgrims drawn by devotion to the saint and his thaumaturgical "chain"; the imposition of the latter, placed on the neck of those who request it, is accompanied by an invocation of blessing of soul and body.
The imposing cathedral is located in the town's central square; built around the year 1000, it houses the saint's relics.
Next to the Basilica is the Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art, which houses an important collection of sacred vestments, liturgical objects and paintings, mostly from the parishes that were part of the former Diocese of Sarsina.
Among the most precious objects are the collection of ancient bells, the collection of sacred garments, the small art gallery, the sacred silverware and various liturgical objects, witnesses to a sacred history that has indelibly marked the territory and the population.
Moving towards Mercato Saraceno, just a few kilometres from the village is the next stop on our itinerary: the Pieve di Santa Maria Annunziata in Montesorbo, a splendid jewel of art set in the countryside.
The Romanesque church with its Greek-cross plan, the only one in the area, presumably dates back to the 8th century and was of great importance in the early Middle Ages: the Savio valley was in fact a busy communication route and the presence of a parish church with a hospital annex was of vital importance for pilgrims travelling to Rome.
The exterior is in stone and brick; the façade, embellished with antique marble, and the external walls are the result of restoration work carried out at the end of the 17th century.
The itinerary ends in Cesena, at the Benedictine Abbey of Santa Maria del Monte. We advise you to reach it by taking Via delle Scalette, an ancient and delightful road of steps and cobblestones that climbs up from the city, among houses and trees, to the top of the Spaziano hill, on which the abbey stands.
The basilica is a much loved and cherished place by the people of Cesena, since ancient times the centre of worship and devotion of the community, as evidenced by the precious collection of ex-votos: votive images made and donated to the altar as thanks for the Virgin's protection. The paintings inside the church are also of great importance, especially in the dome, created in the 18th century by Giuseppe Milani from Parma.
Inside the basilica complex there is also the Laboratorio di Restauro del Libro Antico (Antique Book Restoration Workshop), active in the recovery and conservation of ancient texts on paper or parchment.