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Along the Prato Andreaccio ridge to the Acquacheta waterfalls

Eight walks inspired by The Divine Comedy

Continuing his descent into Inferno, and after having encountered Brunetto Latini, he comes to the edge of the Seventh Circle, which is divided from the Eighth by a stretch of rock down which the Flegetonte, one of the rivers in Inferno, flows in a noisy waterfall. To make the image clearer, Dante uses a simile, comparing the stair of rock and the sound of the Flegetonte waterfalls to that of Acquacheta, a sizeable watercourse in Romagna which flows into the river Montone. Rising in the Apennines on Monte Levane, just before flowing by S. Benedetto in Alpe, it falls spectacularly from a high crag of sandstone, splitting into a whole series of rushing streams.

Come quel fiume c'ha proprio cammino
prima del Monte Viso 'nver levante,
da la sinistra costa d'Apennino,
che si chiama Acquacheta suso, avante
che si divalli giù nel basso letto,
e a Forlì di quel nome è vacante,
rimbomba là sovra San Benedetto
de l'Alpe per cadere ad una scesa
ove dovea per mille esser recetto;
così giù d'una ripa discoscesa,
trovammo risonar quell'acqua tinta,
si che 'n poc'ora avría l'orecchia offesa.

Like as that stream, whose separate waters glide
By their own channel from Mount Vesulo,
Eastward above the Apennines' left side,
On high call'd Acquacheta, ere the flow
Precipitant has reach'd its lowly bed,
No more at Forlì then that name to know;
Above San Benedetto, from her head
Sounds thundering headlong to a base, just where
Full many, in truth, might well be hous'd and fed;
So from the summit of the craggy stair
Such found we that ensanguin'd water's roar,
As in a little space no ears could bear.

(Inferno, Canto XVI, 94/105)

Given the context, the reference to Monte Viso is hardly surprising. Dante provides here one of the most precise geographical descriptions in the whole of The Divine Comedy; he explains that the Acquacheta (and therefore also the Montone) is the first of the rivers flowing down the left-hand slopes of the Apennines that you come to heading east from Monviso that has "its own path", that is flows directly into the sea and not into the Po. That's in fact what happened 600 years ago, when the river Reno had not yet been artificially deviated (it flowed into the Po delta in Dante's time) and the river Lamone petered out into marshland without directly reaching the sea. The fame of the Acquacheta waterfalls, already well-known in the 14th century, has remained undiminished - indeed has increased considerably - over the years, in part due to Dante's reference to them in his work. The poet undoubtedly visited more than once the area around S. Benedetto in Alpe. This area is particularly suitable for walking, with its interesting steep-sloped mountains covered with beech and chestnut trees dropping down into valley bottoms deeply etched by watercourses. Water erosion has also revealed in many points the imposing strata of sandstone that make up the backbone of the Romagna Apennines, creating natural steps and spectacular rock features over which cascades flow. This walk is without doubt one of the least well-known in the area, and allows you to get to the Acquacheta waterfalls from above (the more popular path takes you to a point where you can view them from below), bringing you, therefore, to the edge of the "Seventh Circle".

Park in the large parking area at S. Benedetto in Alpe and go back onto the state road, turn right and cross the bridge over the Fosso Acqua Cheta. Climb the steps on the right just after the bridge, which lead to a small chapel and a clearly-defined path that runs along the right-hand side of the mountain stream. The path was once marked by the CAI and the red and white marks, though faded, are still a useful guide. After walking for several hundred metres along the banks of the stream, you come to a junction. Go left here on the path that climbs steeply and leaves the stream. The path brings you to a point affected by a small landslide, and takes you round it from above. The path continues in the chestnut wood, mid-slope but climbing gradually to a small plateau where there are a number of centuries-old chestnut trees. The path cuts across the slope for a short while, then begins to climb onto one of the ridges coming down from the Monte del Prato Andreaccio. The chestnut trees begin to give way to beeches, some of which are columnar.

When you reach what is clearly a pass, there are two options for reaching the Case Monte di Londa. The first is unmarked and follows the line of the crest, climbing up and beyond the peak of Prato Andreaccio and then descending to the houses. The second, which is poorly-marked - the red and white signs are very faded -, cuts across the northern slopes of the mountain along the more-commonly used path that leads to the abandoned Case Pian della Posta. Here you join a mule-track that takes you without any great difficulty to the large grassy amphitheatre where there are the Case Monte di Londa, which have also been abandoned. When you get to these abandoned houses, the mule-track bends left and cuts across the western slope of the Monte di Londa. Be particularly careful at the junction a few hundred metres further on. Here you leave the main mule-track and take the path to the right that leads onto the eastern side of the Balze Trafossi (watch out for the CAI signs, which are useful here). From here onwards the path begins to drop quite markedly, passing the house of Sodaccio built on a rock outcrop and coming to the Fosso Acqua Cheta. Don't cross it but carry on to the right until you come to an easy ford where you can cross and get onto to smooth layers of sandstone that lead to the main drop of the waterfall.

You then return the way you came, sticking to the left (orographically speaking) of the mountain stream till you reach the grassy plateau of the Romiti, where there are the ruins of an old convent perched on a small rise. Don't cross the plateau but keep to the right of it, getting onto the old mule-track that goes downhill and crosses the Fosso Cà del Vento just beneath a noisy waterfall. Keep to the main mule-track and soon you come to a natural balcony where you get an excellent view of the whole Acqua Cheta waterfall. Carry on along the mule-track running along the left-hand side of the valley; there's no danger of getting lost as it's well-marked and much used. Along the way there are lots of points where you can get to the stream, and there are plenty of stretches of rock and small cool pools. The track finally joins the asphalt road linking S. Benedetto and Marradi. Go right along the road which brings you back down to the starting point.

Time required 4 hours
Vertical height 520 m
Maps   Multigraphic 1:25.000, no.25/28, "Appennino Toscoromagnolo"
How to get there S. Benedetto in Alpe can be reached from both Firenze and Forlì via the SS. 67 Tosco-Romagnola and the Passo del Muraglione


Text and picture: Cinzia Pezzani & Sergio Grillo
Translation: Jeremy Carden

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