A very fascinating leg, where small villages alternate with forests and points with beautiful views of the Apennine mountains, in particular Monte Cimone and Corno alle Scale. The village of Bruscoli is the intermediate stop, only stopover point located in Tuscany. From Madonna dei Fornelli, it heads towards the charming village of Qualto, then pass near Montefredente and then towards Ca 'de' Santoni, with the characteristic Pian del Voglio Church in sight. While crossing a beautiful beech and fir trees forest, it enters Tuscany region, arriving to Bruscoli immediately after, a charming village with several points of interest that are worth a stop. A descent along the Biscione torrent, with its beautiful falls, and then the Gambellato torrent, to be crossed at a beautiful farmhouse, heads to Roncobilaccio. A suggestive climb leads to the magical Boccadirio Shrine, located near the arrival in Baragazza.
NOT TO BE MISSED
The Bruscoli area occupies the right side of the Gambellato valley. Its history begins long ago, the first substantial traces date back to the Etruscan period, when the valley was crossed by a branch of the so-called "iron road" that connected the southern coast of Tuscany to Spina, on the Adriatic Sea, for trading with Greek people. Close to the village of Albagino, located near the Gambellato torrent, numerous votive bronzes belonging to an Etruscan temple have been recently found. Toponymic traces of the Byzantine period and of the Goth population remain from the early Middle Ages: the toponym Bruscoli seems to derive from this age. The stories told by the elders speak of the passage of Frederick Barbarossa, perhaps also Frederick II of Swabia came here and stayed in the fortress of Bruscoli. These stories are supported by recent research. We have news of the castle of Bruscoli since the twelfth century, when it was the gateway to the territories of the powerful family of the Alberti di Prato Counts (vassals of Frederick Barbarossa), whose territory extended from Bruscoli to the Tuscan Maremma. Finds from this and other historical periods are exhibited in the town's Historical and Gothic Line Museum The hamlet of the ‘Albergo’ is really outstanding: incorporated into the current town, its history goes hand in hand with the fortress one. It includes, in addition to the thirteenth-century church, dedicated to San Nicolò first, later to San Francesco, then to Santa Maria and today to the Madonna del Rosario, also a palace from the fourteenth-fifteenth century, a Medici family palace, perhaps an ancient customs house and another palace, by the Medici as well. In these residences, there are superb and valuable coats of arms of the most important families who dominated these territories, such as the Medici, the Minni, etcetera. There are also several naturalistic points of interest, including the Biscione waterfall, unique in the area with its 50 meters high. The Museum of Sacred Art, located on the premises of the parish church, is also worth a visit.
Recently famous all over Italy because of the exit of the A1 highway and the jams that often formed there before the construction of the Variante di Valico, between Bologna and Florence, Roncobilaccio has a very ancient history, as a mountain outpost, presumably built shortly after the year 1000. Its vicissitudes were linked for many years to the events of the Pepoli family and the nearby Boccadirio Shrine. Today, some testimonies of the ancient history of the village have remained in some houses, that were renovated, but still retaining traces of the past, such as a tower house. Worthy of mention are the Private Oratory of Santa Croce, from the 17th century, and the modern church of the same name.
(Castiglione dei Pepoli)
A border village, Baragazza has a very ancient history, characterized by the disputes between Tuscany and Bologna, which at the end of the fourteenth century managed, with a big effort, to gain control over it. Its church is dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel and was rebuilt in the late 1700s: a valuable painting of the Florentine school depicting the patron saint appears on the main altar. The history of this community has always been linked to the Boccadirio Shrine’s one. In the village there are some accommodation facilities and places to eat.
The leg does not present any particular difficulty, it is only a little long. For this reason, as for the abundancy of interesting sites that the area has, at the half of the stage there is a stopover in Bruscoli. This is also the place where 3 pathways have junction, giving many options to the wayfarers: Via degli Dei, Alta Via dei Parchi and Via Mater Dei of course. There are several chances to find accommodation especially in the Tuscan part and in the Roncobilaccio area. In the Montefredente area, with a small diversion, it is possible to reach the village, where several services are available.
There is just one warning: to check carefully the effective possibility of crossing the Biscione and Gambellato torrents without troubles. It is strongly recommended, especially in case of heavy rains, in the preceding days also, to gather information in Bruscoli about the conditions of the waterways. In the event of a flood, it is possible to take the alternative route showed on the map, from Bruscoli descending towards the Cerdello area and then, along Via delle Capanne, towards the Roncobilaccio highway entrance, to rejoin the path in Roncobilaccio itself.