Via degli Abati (Abbots' Way), also known as the Mountain Francigena, is an ancient route, dating back to the Early Middle Ages, followed by the monks of San Colombano monastery in Bobbio to reach Rome, crossing part of the territory of Pavia and the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines in the provinces of Piacenza, Parma and Massa Carrara.
The challenging route covers 190 km, with a considerable overall height difference, and it's divided between mule tracks, cart tracks and paths; only small sections give way to asphalt roads.
Via degli Abati is also knows for the sport event "The Abbots' Way", one of the most important ultra-marathons in nature (with only about 10% asphalt).
Following this historic route, it is a must to start with an exploratory stop in Bobbio, one of "Borghi più Belli d’Italia", which welcomes pilgrims with its suggestive Devil's Bridge, an ancient "ponte gobbo", of irregular profile, over the Trebbia river, and the Abbey of San Colombano, one of the most important monastic centres in Europe. Here, before setting out, we recommend to savour Emilian gastronomy delicacies: Piacenza's PDO cured meats (PDO Coppa Piacentina, PDO Pancetta Piacentina, PDO Salame Piacentino) to be tasted in combination with excellent Colli Piacentini PDO wines.
From Bobbio, the route heads towards Coli, a small mountain town surrounded by nature between the green pine forests and chestnut woods, located on a promontory between the valley of the river Curiasca and the slopes of Mount S. Augustine.
Nestled in the passage that winds between Val Trebbia and Val Nure, the cave of San Michele definitely deserves a stop, a rocky ravine where San Colombano used to retreat and where, according to tradition, the saint died on 23 November 615. Destination of pilgrims since the High Middle Ages, it has become a place of worship with official reconsacration (2003).
Sella dei Generali is a high plateau between the two valleys, that offers a suggestive perspective of the Apennines and allows you to decompress on Val Nure and immerse yourself in a nature still intact, where you can rediscover the pleasure of the environment, the pure air and silence.
From the Sella dei Generali you reach Nicelli with the remains of an ancient tower house of the family that gave their name to the locality, with evident traces of medieval architecture.
Continuing it's possible, by way of the detour, to reach Farini, particularly lively in summer when there are festivals, fairs and food & wine events. In addition to the typical dishes of the Piacenza tradition you can taste the mountain potato of Mareto, De.co. product of Farini, and the many dishes cooked there such as gnocchi, bread and the famous Potato Cake De.co.
From Farini, passing through Groppallo, the route winds on the Apennines of Piacenza up to the Passo di Linguadà.
Before it, it's possible to take a panoramic and challenging detour that leads to Monte Lama (1345 mt.) the largest plate of jasper in Emilia Romagna where there are numerous findings of the Paleolithic age; from whose top, on clear days you can enjoy a wonderful view of the Apennines and the Alps in addition to the frequent company of bardigiani horses to pasture.
The parish church holds a surprise: Parmigianino's altarpiece The Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine, also known as the Bardi Altarpiece.
From Bardi we continue along the Via degli Abati towards Borgo Val di Taro.
The route runs along the Val Noveglia, called also Via dei Monasteri (Monastery Route) because of the many religious buildings such as the ancient Monastery of Gravago.
Borgotaro is an elegant town in the upper Val Taro, famous for its PGI Porcino mushroom.
From Borgotaro you reach Pontremoli through Passo dei due Santi and then rejoin Via Francigena route.