The Sella DEI GENERALI
A mountain paradise on the Via degli Abati
The Sella dei Generali is a plateau that offers, among other things, a magnificent view of the Valtrebbia and Valnure. Particularly frequented by grazing animals, this area is rich in springs which are probably fed by an underground lake.
The pass is basically composed of two steps. The first place on the ridge between the Trebbia and Nure valleys, while the second is located a few hundred meters away, between the valley of the Perino stream and the Nure valley.
Here it is possible to enter with a still intact nature, where you can rediscover the pleasure of the environment, pure air and silence, and where oral testimonies tell us about the presence of the ruins of a watchtower once placed to control the route.
You can go up to the Sella da Perino, in the direction of the Passo del Cerro / Bettola. After 3 kilometers you continue over the bridge, along the road that leads to the small center of Aglio, crossing the splendid wood up to Pradovera. From this point, after another three kilometers, you reach Passo Santa Barbara , turning left, where the plateau begins to take shape.
The other access road is the one that goes up from Coli, about a kilometer and a half after Bobbio, towards Genoa. Turn left, crossing the bridge over the Trebbia, then going up towards Coli, from which you continue following the signs for Peli, turning left and continuing for another three kilometers.
Coli is a small mountain center at 639 meters above sea level, located between the valley of the Curiasca river and Mount Sant'Agostino, near the Via degli Abati and the Sella dei Generali . The area was inhabited by the Ligurians in the first century AD, and it was probably they who gave the place its name. Later, it passed under Lombard control, to then become an important monastic cell after the foundation of the Bobbio Monastery. In its surroundings there are some interesting destinations to be included in the path to the Sella.
In fact, near Coli stands the famous Spelonca di San Michele . It is a rocky ravine where tradition has it that San Colombano used to withdraw in prayer, where he apparently moved to the Curiasca, and where he died on November 23, 615. After the disappearance of Colombano, the Spelonca became a pilgrimage destination, and a small church was built here. In the 10th century, the church built in the cave was enlarged and officially dedicated to the Irish saint, and another nearby and larger one was erected, always dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel. The two buildings fell into disrepair in the 1800s, and today only a few partially recovered remains remain visible.
Since 2003, it has returned to being a place of worship with an official rededication. The ancient Michaelica cross , in carved stone, was instead transferred to the church of Coli together with the wrought iron cross, replaced by a copy left at the hermitage.
The dedication to San Michele, however, seems to be attributable to the link between San Michele, the angel-warrior defender of the faith, also considered protector of travelers and pilgrims.
From the thirteenth century, after the period of monastery rule, Coli passed to the Grassi family, belonging to the Ghibellines, who built the Castello dei Magrini . The castle was then abandoned by them to move to that of Faraneto. The fortress ended collapsing in 1969, and today only a few ruins of a watchtower are visible.
Another castle in the area is that of Faraneto , which was inhabited by the Grassi in 1441, and which in the 1600s was abandoned by its owners, who moved to Piacenza. The building has returned to life thanks to the intervention of the current owner Marco Ferreri, and retains two beautiful portals, a large hall 43 meters long and 22 wide, as well as wells with bounties and pitfalls and torture instruments.
In the surroundings there are also other fortifications, such as the so-called Macerato Tower , a surviving part of a castle dating back to the early medieval period. The manor belonged to the Monastery of San Paolo di Mezzano, which then passed to the Anguissola and Caracciolo family in the 13th century, and was then sold to local farmers in the 19th century. A short distance away is also the Castello di Pozzo , an outpost of the Macerato Castle, highlighted by a square-plan crenellated tower and a courtyard surrounded by stone houses
A few kilometers from Coli, the Sanctuary of Sant'Agostino is visible, surrounded by a thick pine forest. It was built by Bishop Abbiati of Bobbio starting from 28 August 1622, the feast of Sant'Agostino, but in 1629 a plague epidemic caused the interruption of the works, which were no longer resumed. Only in the 1900s were they completed and rebuilt, with a new facade built in 1968.
In the center of Coli stands the Church of San Vito, Modesta and Crescente , built between the 18th and 19th centuries, on the site where the oldest church of 1014 stood, which depended on the Bobbio Monastery. The Michaelic Cross from the Spelonca of San Michele, dated between the 8th and 9th centuries, was placed on the counter-façade, which in the center bears a solar symbol, reminiscent of Celtic crosses.
Excursions along the Via degli Abati
The Sella dei Generali is a destination for hiking trails of varying levels of intensity and difficulty, starting with families up to trekking enthusiasts. The paths touch, among other things, Cima Liscaro , to reach the summit plateau of the Sella, a place that stands out for its magical and mysterious atmosphere, and which hosted numerous hunting camps in the Mesolithic.
The routes closely follow the trend of the so-called Via degli Abati, which is an attraction in the process of being rediscovered. It is in fact a still little known historical path, which was born in the Lombard period to ensure the crossing of the Apennines from Pavia to Pontremoli, in order to facilitate commercial contacts and the flow of pilgrims to Rome.
The creation of the stretch of the Via degli Abati between Bobbio and Pontremoli was opened between the seventh and ninth centuries, and drew its importance especially in reference to the activity of the powerful Abbey of San Colombano . From Bobbio, in fact, it was necessary to maintain contact with Rome and the Papacy, as well as foster trade between Lombardy, Tuscany and Lazio.
The Via then maintained its importance for a long time, only to begin a phase of decline, which began when the Byzantines were removed from the control of the Passo della Cisa as a transit place, along the Via Francigena di Sigerico. Today, however, the path goes through a phase of rediscovery and relaunch, thanks also to the activity and commitment of the Via degli Abati Association.
Starting from Bobbio, cross the famous Ponte Gobbo , climb gradually to Case Gambado, Bellocchio and Santa Cecilia, then reaching Coli, near the cave-cave of San Colombano. After passing the remains of the Castello dei Magrini, you cross the clear waters of the Curiasca stream , which along its way forms small pools and waterfalls. From there you reach Faraneto, in view of Peli, where a fortification once stood. Later we reach Pescina, where the remains of a high-medieval building were found, and then climbed to the Sella dei Generali.
The whole route of the Via degli Abati is well signposted, thanks also to the fact that some of its features coincide with the Via Francigena. Despite many stretches of the route passing through dense and shady woods, it is always easy to keep the direction.On the way it is possible to stay overnight in bed and breakfast but also at the special hospitality places managed by the parishes along the Via.
Its layout has been included among the nine most beautiful walking routes in Italy, chosen from all the itineraries that are articulated along the religious paths and the transhumance routes of the Bel Paese.