By Gigi Musetti
THE ANCIENT ROAD OF MOUNT BARDONE
The ancient road from Mount Bardone (also known as Romea) to Pontremolese was already known at the time of the roman conquest of North West Italy and North of the Alps in Gaul and in England.
Some people, as for instance the historian Emanuele Repetti, maintain that it was non other than the ancient Via Emilia of the roman consul Scauro which from Luni, instead of continuing towards the ligurian Riviera tumed right and, crossing the Apennines by Val di Magra and Val di Taro, Pontremoli-Montelungo-Cisa pass-Berceto-Cassio-Terenzio-Fonovo-Borgo San Donnino (now Fidenza)-Fiorenzuola-Velleja-Tortona reached the land of the Sabazi, ligurian people.To support this theory there is the roman name Cassio still used for the highest peak of the Apennines beyond Berceto and the existence,not far from Foro or Mercatale (now Fornovo) which the Romans used to build on main roads for trade with the local population. Some people even maintain, with valid arguments, that Hannibal, sworn enemy of Rome, after crossing the Alps with a mighty army and numerous elephants, and defeating the roman consul at the river Trebbia in 217 BC took this road on his march to Rome.Among others the historian Cavedoni asserts this after having carefully consulted the roman texts of Polibio, Tito Livio and Cornelio Nepote on the Italian campaign of the Carthagian general.He concludes: "I see no reason to doubt that Hannibal avoided Modena and coming from the vicinity of Piacenza took the shortest road for Liguria i.e. the present day Pontremoli."In his "Annali" Muratori reports that "In 667 AD King Grimoaldo led his Longobards into Tuscany by the Bardone Alps. i.e. by the Via Claudia, without the Ravennati (subjects of the Exarc)realising". It then became very important for the frecuent pilgrimages to Rome and Jerusalem from France and England through Moncenisio, Milan, Piacenza, and Fornovo where they were joined by those of the German zone coming from Garda, Mantua and Parma. This was recorded by the+
Chronicler Flodoardo of Rheims,in his "Historia remensis" on occasion of the voyage to Rome in 718 of Moderanno, bishop of Rennes in France. Before crossing the Alps Moderanno went to Rheims to pray on the tomb of Saint Remigio and prepare himself religiously for the long journey. Here he was given by the abbot Bernard some relics of the Saint's garments. When he reached the foot of the Appennines he prepared to cross by the usual Mount Bardone road but when night fell as he approached the pass he rested with his escort and hung the sacred relics on the branch of a tree.The following morning he set off without them and it was only after going a good strech and reaching the chapel of Saint Abondius of Berceto that he realised that he had left them and asked the cleric Vulfado to go back and get them. This cleric obeyed but he did'nt manage to get them because every time he reached towards the precious bundle the branch on which they hung went higher and the relics remained miraculously inaccessible.On being told this,Moderanno returned to the place but neither did he manage to get them because the same extraodinary effect happened .So he understood that it was God's wish that part of the relics should stay there and he gave some to the chapel.He then resumed his journey with the rest of the sacred relics,reached Rome and stayed praying on the tomb of St. Peter for a long time.On his return journey to France he passed by Pavia and was received by the longobard king Liutprando and told him the story.The king was much moved by this miracle of the relics of Saint Remigio and ordered that an important monastry should be built at the Berceto chapel which he gave to the abbey of St.Remigio of Rheims to gether with 800 acres of land. The chronicles of Flodoardo are confirmed by the Longobard historian Paolo Diacono who,listing the pious works of king Liutprando, writes: " In summa quoque Bardone Alpes Monasterium, quod berceto dicitur edificavit....". When Moderanno had returned to France,he gave to the Abbott of S.Remigio the documents relating to the donation of the longobard king and when he reached his own diocesis of Rennes, feeling nostalgia for the mountains where he had personally experienced that miracle, he appointed a successor and returned to Mount Bardone and settled at Berceto in the monastery built by King Liutprando and remained there to his death on 22.10.730 AD.His body is preserved in the Cathedral of Berceto to gether with those of St. Bucardo and St.Abondio,the patron saint.In the "Itinerarium" of Sigerico, Archbishop of Canterbury, this road is again recorded and in fact he relates that in 990,on returning from a pilgrimage to Rome, he passed through "Luca (Lucca), Campmaior (Camaiore), Luna (Luni) 'S.Stefani (SantoStefano), Aguilla (Aulla), Puntremel (Pontremoli) 'S.Benedicte (S.Benedetto di Montelungo), S.Moderanne (Berceto) and other places.Mount Bardone does not exist on the ancient roman road of the Tosco-Emilian Appennines: the name,which surely derives from Mount Longobardorum,was in use in chronicles of that time to indicate the chain of mountains extending from Piantonia to the Cisa pass.There is a small village called Bardone on the road to Calestano in the Parma region where this roman road passed: it is a small village with inhabitants distributed in a dozen houses built of stone with roofs of stone slabs, under the fine bell tower of the characteristic romanic country church, Santa Maria Assunta. The Mount Bardone road followed roughly the present Main road No 62, the so called pass is not the Cisa pass at l041m, it was a bit further and at a higher level;then for further security of travellers it was deviated towards Terenzio- Berceto- Bergotto- Corchia- Valbona e Cisa on the Parmense side and the emperor Napoleon I,with a decree of 5th july 1808 gave a new direction that was resumed in 1835 by Maria Luisa of Austria,Duchess of Parma. Without doudt this old romea road,at least from the present pass of Cisa to that of Righetto above Montelungo 3km distant, was higher up as may be deduced also from the acts of "The process of the trial for robbery from Doctor Franco Reghini Costa of the mount Cisa. Pontremoli 1671".These are kept at the separate division of Pontremoli (Convent of Saint Annunziata) of the State Archives of Massa. Reghini Costa was a lawyer of Parma and it was during a journey towards that city that, not far from Righetto,in a field of Ferdano (quite cold) a place with many ferns where there was, along the road,a small chapel with a lodge always open to accomodate any needed people,he was attacked together with his escort and robbed of some of the money he had with him and also of the sword with a silver hilt by three men with multicolored masks and armed with arquebus. Because of murders and crimes that ftequently occurred "In Colla de Cisa et in loco dicto Vallescura propter nemora et arbores in eisdem locis circa stratam publicam,ob quae viatores sibi a longe providere non poterant"every year,according to the Pontremolese statutes "the men of Gravagna, Montelong and Cavezzana (d'Antena) were obliged to cut and burn all the existing trees along the road at a stone's through "usque ad Colum Cisa". However,as this inconvenience persisted "the murders and dangers that travellers on the narrow Cisa Pass" caused the pontremolese Council and the Duke of Parma in 1584 to create a troup of guards and maintain a number of soldiers for six months , of the year to accompany and defend the travellers from any possible danger;and this practice was "of great consolation for the travellers".Thus wrote the friar Bernardino Campi, pontremolise historian at the end of the 16th century. The remains of the barracks of the guards are surely those on Mount Zucchello above the village of Montelungo, while to the North West of Mount Cisa,at the foot of Mount Zucchello towards Vallescura, opposite the access road to the Copiado farm,property of the heirs of the late lamented citizen Mr Quinto Mascagna,there are some ruins which possibly belong to the afore mentioned Chapel and a bit higher there are the remains of an old mule road which could also be a tract of the old road of Mount Bardone.
The foundation of the Monastery of Berceto was the first step towards the institution of an organized reception system along this ancient Romea road:churches, chapels, hostels etc,providing the need for lodging and assistance of the numerous pilgrims and travellers that journeyed on the toscan side of this road. At about seven km from the pass of the Cisa,in the locality " Al palàsi "(palace), at lower Montelungo, beside the mule track (old Romea) leading to Succisa there are many remains of what could have been the major benedictine hostels. The road of mount Bardone was of strategic military importance and was travelled by illustrious politicians, soldiers and ecclesiastics of which Sforza lists: Arnolfo, king of Germany when in 895,invited by pope Formoso, he went to Rome; Adalberto the marquis of Toscany who travelled in 896 with the count Hildebrando, leading a large army; the emperor Arrigo IV in
1110;the Pope Callisto II who, in l120, went to Rome from France to be crowned with the tiara; king Lothario and Pope Innocence II in 1133 on accasion of a visit to Pisa; the Icelandic abbot Tragorense who described in detail the itinerary travelled in 1154 to go to Rome with numerous pilgrims icelandic,francs,gallic,fleming, english, saxon and scandinavian; Philip August, King of France,returning in 1191 from the third crusade to the Holy Land; the emperor Frederic II travelled through three times in: 1226, 1236 and 1249;
Lodovico IV called the Bavarian, in 1327on the way to Rome to be crowned Emperor; John, King of Bohemia and Poland in 1333 on his way to Lucca to put down an insurrection against him; Sigismund King of the Romans in 1331-32 on his way to Rome to receive the empirial crown; King Alphonse of Aragon in 1435; Galeazzo Maria Sforza, duke of Milan who in 1435 went to Florence with his wife Bona of Savoy (with such a sumptious retinue that had never been seen in living memory)as reported by a chronicler of that time; Charles VIII,King of France, passed in 1495 and returned in the same year with a powerful army and on this occasion his soldiers burned down Pontremoli almost completely; again the Emperor Charles V in 1536 and Pope Paul in 1539 to cite the most important.