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Visita il Mugello, culla dei Medici, a due passi da Firenze e le bellezze toscane

Walking and Biking



The Via Vandelli

The Via Vandelli owes its creation to the marriage of Ercole Rinaldo d'Este and Maria Teresa Cybo, which led to the Duchy of Modena and the Principality of Massa becoming one territory. However, the movement of people and goods within this area was drastically hindered by the geographic topography; in fact, in order to travel with a reasonable degree of comfort between Modena and the outlet on the sea, it was necessary to cross three different foreign states: the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, the Duchy of Parma, and the Sardinian states. The only other way of avoiding crossing into foreign territory was to venture onto the difficult centuries-old paths and mule tracks that criss-crossed the Apennines and Apuans. The Duke decided to create a single highway that would be "open and in such a praiseworthy state that all the coachmen could travel with their goods safely and unhindered", a highway able to satisfy not only military purposes but also the new and ever-increasing needs of commerce. The road started from Massa, passed through the Passo della Tambura (the subject of our itinerary), dropped down to Castelnuovo Garfagnana and from there, having crossed through the Passo di San Pellegrino, ended up at Modena.
In the village of Resceto it is not hard to find fragments of narrative about the Vandelli, a then-modern, carefully planned and technically-complex project which because of its history and exceptional dimensions has become interwoven with local folklore, legends, and beliefs. The rationality of the walls and paved way became a new framework for popular fables, as in the legend of "The old man and the lamb" (collected by A.C. Ambrosi), which is woven around the important role of the "Maestà", devotional images that lie all along the road.

Ultimately, one can see in the Vandelli an interesting and concrete paradigm of the relationship between nature and culture and a historic oscillation in the various contrasting ways of perceiving it. The reports of the Duke's engineers and inspectors who moved through these valleys exude a black and white anguish, in which the Apuan wilderness is viewed as a wild and dangerous enemy that needs to be tamed and transformed. For us today, in the age of parks, the Resceto valley is a gratifying and glossy-coloured oasis of tranquillity, and the Vandelli has become a cultural treasure blending in with nature. Time has canonised rather than pardoned the gap that was blasted by the dynamite of the Duke's engineers in order to open up the Passo della Tambura to traffic.



Text and pictures Gianfranco Bracci
Translation: Jeremy Carden

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