Dwight Peck's personal website

San Marino and the Romagna region

Two weeks mostly checking the weather reports hourly

You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.

Forlimpopoli and Bertinoro near Forlì

We've just been to visit Brisighella south of Faenza and we're on our way to see Forlimpopoli -- here we're passing Forlì (and should have spent a day here as well, but didn't). 22 December 2017.

Round the far side of Forlì, we're passing the Ravaldino fortress. From 1302 Forlì was ruled by the Ordelaffi clan, but in a moment of civic weakness in 1480 Pope Sixtus IV scooped the city up for the Papal States and gave the lordship as a fief to his nephew Girolamo Riario. When Girolamo was assassinated in 1488, his countess, Caterina Sforza, got herself smuggled into the Ravaldino and faced down the rebels for two weeks until Milanese forces came to the rescue, then ruled for a decade as regent for her son Ottaviano. She acquired the nickname "the Tigress of Forlì" by defeating a Venetian attack in 1498, with an army trained by herself, and then when Cesare Borgia and his French army showed up in late 1499, she permitted her Forlì citizens to surrender to avoid a massacre and sealed herself up in the Ravaldino with her garrison. On 12 January 1500 the walls were breached by artillery, and Caterina resisted in hand-to-hand fighting but was taken prisoner -- Cesare reneged on his promise of decent treatment and she was imprisoned in the Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome for 18 months until the French army released her. She died at 46 in 1509; her son by her Medici third husband, Giovanni dalle Bande Nere, was the most gallant and inspiring mercenary captain of the age, but died at 28 in 1526. Machiavelli blamed her defeat at the Ravaldino in 1500 on the 'poorly built fortress'. (E. Lev, Tigress of Forlì: the life of Caterina Sforza, 2012)

And now, still another fortress. This is the Piazza Garibaldi and the Rocca of Forlimpopoli, just 7km east of Forlì and historically always in its shadow.

There were earlier fortifications here, but in 1356 the Ordelaffi lords of Forlì strengthened them -- notwithstanding, in 1360 the papal enforcer Cardinal Albornoz got to Forlimpopoli on his check-off hitlist and destroyed the town, looting properties and murdering the citizens.

The form of the fort is simple: a quadrangle of walls with four circular bastions at the corners, and with a keep built into the southern curtain wall. There was evidently a ravelin set here in front of the entrance but it's long gone.

The Piazza Garibaldi

Trembling with anticipation: is it open?

Of course it's open -- it's only got three sides on it! Who knew?

The interior, around the courtyard, hosts the local government offices, the archeological museum, a theatre and a music school. And a parking lot for people with passes.

Our gateway. Some defenses.

Up the road a ways, the Chiesa dei Servi, or Servants of Mary, from the mid-15th century with its 18th century circular tower.

The Rocca di Forlimpopoli, or Rocca Albornoziana. The present fort was built on the orders of Cardinal Albornoz, 1360-1365, to ensure that the locals would be paying their papal taxes promptly forever, and when the Cardinal had moved on, the Ordelaffi regime had improved the defenses by 1371 -- Sinibaldo Ordelaffi and his son Pino continued strengthening it to 1402.

Forlimpopoli itself, now a small city of about 13,000 on the historic Via Aemilia between Forlì and Cesena, began life with Paleolithic occupants and later Umbri and Gaulish settlements, but was founded as a Roman settlement in 132 BC -- the name of the town recalls the Latin Forum Popilii, from its founder the consul Publius Popilius Laenas. It became a municipium in the next century, supplying goods to the Roman fleet at Classis near Ravenna.

The town had its first Catholic bishop in the 5th century and was under the rule of the Byzantine Exarchate of Ravenna from the 6th century, but it fell under Papal political control subsequently, and by the 13th century it had been granted to the Ordelaffi family as a papal fief. In 1361 Cardinal Albornoz destroyed the town for its resistance to papal reconquest, and ten years later, it's said, the town was listed as no longer extant. The bishopric had been moved to nearby Bertinoro, and a new fortress had been built in place of the cathedral.

Sinibaldo I Ordelaffi, Lord of Forlì and Imola, was made a papal vicar by Urban VI in 1379 and set about building city walls to protect the recovering town. After he had been imprisoned by his son Pino in the Ravaldino fortress in Forlì in 1385, and died there in the next year, Pino continued improving the city infrastructure. From 1480 Forlimpopoli, with Forlì, passed under the control of Girolamo Riaro and his wife and then of Cesare Borgia; by 1535 the Pope had transferred authority as a papal fief to a series of powerful families, beginning with the Zempeschis and Savellis, and the papacy resumed direct control through appointees after the Napoleonic Wars.

Chiesa dei Servi, or Servants of Mary, from the mid-15th century . . .

. . . with its interesting 18th century tower.

Street scene

The Via Andrea Costa, looking back at the fortress

The Piazza Pompilio along the northern side of the rocca

The Piazza Pompilio, and the Equine Butcher Shop in the centre

The former moat

And the southern gateway and keep again


Just 4km south of Forlimpopoli, but historically more influenced by the Malatestas of Cesena and Rimini than by the Ordelaffis of Forlì, Bertinoro is a side-of-the-hill town with a hilltop fortress. The present town, spread out below the hill, houses about 11,000 people, as well as (in this castle) a University of Bologna Residential Centre for Higher Education since 1994 and the Museo Interreligioso, or Interfaith Museum, since 2005.

The castle appears to have been built in more or less this form in the early or mid-10th century, home to the Counts of Bertinoro. In 1177 the Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa, during his disputes with the Lombard League, stayed here for some months; with the end of Swabian rule in the mid-13th century, possession was contested by several local lords -- and it's said the Dante took refuge here in 1302 (where didn't he?) -- but it then became the residence of the papal rectors for the Romagna.

It's closed to visitors today, of course. In the 15th century it was occupied by the Malatestas of Rimini and their appointees, and in 1433 Domenico Malatesta ('Malatesta Novello'), as Lord of Cesena, owned Bertinoro and other properties, and converted the fortress here into a more comfortable palace. After the Malatestas, the papal agents returned, and in 1581 the local bishop restored the complex and made it the bishops' palace in 1584, which helped to protect it from deterioration over the next centuries.

The town itself probably began as a Roman waystation between Forlì and Cesena, but in the brutal years of the 6th and 7th centuries it was moved up onto the hill. This is the Piazza della Libertà on the Via Giuseppe Mazzini, a 'central' piazza in the sense of having the government buildings but in fact just looking out from one side of the hill.

That is the 13th century Colonna delle Anella (Column of Rings), said to embody the town's ancient tradition of hospitality -- each ring corresponded to one of the twelve leading families in town, and when travelers arrived in town and hitched their horses to a ring, the family whose ring got hitched would lead the community in offering welcome. The column and the tradition are first mentioned by Dante in the Purgatorio, canto XIV, where he meets Guido del Duca on the terrace of Envy, a judge in Bertinoro from 1212 to 1218, who set up the column to discourage disputes amongst the town's leading families. The column was removed in 1539 but re-erected in 1926. There is now a recreation of that tradition in September every year.

The Chiesa di Santa Caterina d'Alessandria at the end of the piazza, built in the 17th century and now a co-cathedral in the diocese of Forlì-Bertinoro. Across the street facing the church is a convivial establishment called Epoca Cocktaileria.

The Palazzo Ordelaffi, now the City Hall, is said to have been built by the condottiere Pino, brother of Scarpetta Ordelaffi, 2nd Lord of Forlì; in 1306 Pino and Scarpetta conquered the existing castle here, and Pino, made the lord of Bertinoro by his brother (until 1310), set to building the palace here straightaway. The name of the town is controversially said to derive from a remark by Galla Placidia, famous daughter of Emperor Theodosius I in the 5th century, on being served some of the superb local wine here in a clay cup -- she said that a clay cup was unsuitable, this wine should be drunk in a cup of gold.

The view from the Piazza della Libertà. Massimo Fellini writes that this is called the 'terrace (or balcony) of Romagna'.

The City Hall

Leaving Bertinoro down the Via Mainardi . . .

. . . after a long day.

Next: Vogogna in the Val d’Ossola and the Simplon Pass

Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 18 February 2018.

San Marino
trip, Dec. 2017