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Far from the Riviera MARCHE


Far from the Riviera

Article published in Motoitalia magazine in 2008.

The area between Romagna and the northern part of the Marche is usually well known for its long beaches and shallow sea, well exploited in what is one of the main European 'entertainment'. The coast is very crowded during the summer, and then falls into a sort of hibernation with the first cold. Those who frequent the beaches then hardly think about looking towards those Apennine hills and mountains which are also clearly visible from the coast. We did it, and moreover in autumn, to discover beautiful streets and charming villages, made even more attractive by the tranquility of the cold season.

Read the story published in the magazine.

Our journey begins in Sogliano al Rubicone, a town lying on a ridge of rolling green hills, with a beautiful view from the Apennines to the Adriatic.
School memories come to mind, here lived and poet Giovanni Pascoli. We refrain from following the itinerary of Pascoli's places because we always preferred the more sanguine and vital Carducci, but we greatly appreciate the suggestive Fountain of the Butterflies, which refines the square dominated by the surreal and ultra-modern mass of the former Casa del Fascio.
We leave the village heading south along a road that runs in undulations as gentle as the landscape that surrounds us.
The sweetness of nature is sharply opposed to human hardness, these hills were the scene of bloody clashes during the Second World War because a German defensive line passed through them which in October 1944 temporarily halted the advance of the allied troops.
After about ten kilometers we cross the border between Emilia Romagna and the Marche and the landscape changes as we cross the Marecchia river, becoming characterized by steep peaks of singular shapes, often surmounted by ancient fortresses. The peaks of San Marino can be glimpsed on our left, while the great ridge of Monte Carpegna rises to the right.
The road now begins to climb hills dense with vegetation and the landscape gradually opens up until we see the plain and guess the sea on the horizon.
Fort of San Leo appears suddenly after a turn, high on its rock, and even if we expected it, it is a view that impresses us; we can only stop for a moment to admire its daring.
The road to the Fort is worthy of the construction, at the crossroads of the Quattroventi a path begins carved into the rock that takes us to the top of the limestone boulder where the fortification is.
San Leo is of very ancient origins, Dante mentions it in the IV Canto of Purgatory (Vassi in Sanleo (...) with it i piè; but here it is necessary to fly ...), and to us it appears as a hawk perched on its rocky spur to watch the vast horizons of Montefeltro, since the times of the Byzantines of Belisario.
The fortress then saw Charlemagne, King Berengar II and the siege of the imperials of Otto II, belonged to Matilde di Canossa, and then became a vital fortification of the Montefeltro family and finally passed to the State of the Church.
The current San Leo is due to the art of the great architect Francesco di Giorgio Martini who not only made it an impregnable garrison for the military means of the Renaissance era, but also an architectural masterpiece where the cliff and the fort are integrated and complement each other.
Once the military uses ceased, the Fort was degraded to a prison; the most illustrious, or at least known, prisoner was the alchemist and adventurer Giuseppe Balsamo, better known as the Count of Cagliostro, who died here in 1795. Extensive restorations in the last century have restored San Leo to its Renaissance appearance, and today it is a museum as well as a phenomenal vantage point.
After the visit, the road becomes winding but the curves are wide-ranging and we can look around absorbing all the beauty of the places we cross.

Going up towards the 986 meters of the Serra pass, an enchanting view of San Marino and the sea opens up, while the road that descends from the pass seems to wind through an apparently infinite succession of mountains.
We pass near the remains of the Montecopiolo Castle, which was owned by the first of the Counts of Montefeltro, ancient lords of this region who took their name from them.
The road is all ups and downs (cyclists call this kind of routes with the curious term 'Eat-E-Drink) and then comes out in a sort of plateau, where among rocks of fantastic shapes are the ruins of yet another Castle, that by Pietrarubbia.
The center of Montefeltro is Carpegna, a town lying on the slopes of the mountain of the same name and from which the ruling families of these lands originated, the Carpegna, the Montefeltro, perhaps even the Faggiola. The harmonious and solemn Palazzo Carpegna reminds us of these ancient times right in the center of the town.
This is a short trip and here we are at the southernmost point where we will go.
Leaving Carpegna, we take north towards San Leo on a road that winds up and down through vast and dense oak forests lying around mountains with singular shapes, bare and steep.
Pennabilli is in a valley dominated by two rocky peaks, Penna and Billi.
The first is the historic center while the second is the remains of a castle. Here began the story of power and conquests of another great medieval and Renaissance family, that of the Malatesta, who at the height of power subdued all of Romagna. Today the historic part of the town is well restored and pleasant, with buildings from the thirteenth to the seventeenth century.
The roads seem to love the ridge routes, it seems as if those who designed them thought about the pleasure of the eyes as well as that of driving. We are on the road that connects the Marecchia and Savio valleys and the view is wide over San Leo and the Rocca di Maioletto, in front of us are the rugged rocks of Monte della Perticara that looms over the homonymous village, a village of ancient foundation, quiet and surrounded by greenery, which was, from Roman times until a few years ago, a mining center for the extraction of sulfur. As we have seen other times during this trip, the castle of the town, owned by the della Faggiola and Malatesta family, is reduced to ruins.
We stay on the SP11 and soon we leave the Marche to return to Emilia Romagna crossing the Barbotto Pass, an important name for a 515-meter brow that climbs into the woods and then opens at the top onto an expanse of wild mountains and gentle slopes. The village of Barbotto is a little further on and we cross it directly to Montegelli. The whole area is rich in gastronomic traditions; in the villages you can still taste the real 'Piada', cooked on clay 'Testo' and therefore soft and crumbly.
In Montegelli the tradition of 'Savor' has been recovered, a sort of very rich jam made of green, red apples, quinces and green and red pears, finally flavored with almonds. It is an ancient recipe, born when sugar was rare and expensive and people engaged in hard work in the fields needed a lot of energy.
We reach the gastronomic apotheosis of the journey at the very end, when we return to Sogliano al Rubicone to discover the Fossa cheese
It is a normal cheese which, placed to mature in wells, perhaps of medieval origin, dug into the particular tuff of the area, undergoes a sort of fermentation that transforms it into something that, beyond the unmistakable aroma, also has a unique taste.
And the ancient flavors of the area, inexpressibly distant from the plastic wraps and the greasy fried foods that cheer the coast during the summer, are the third reason, in addition to the history represented by the castles and the panorama, to embark on a journey in the Marche hinterland and Romagna.

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