The Via Vandelli

The Via Vandelli: All you need to know

The old via Vandelli, road of major historical importance, then replaced by the modern and more practicable Via Giardini, was built, on commission by the Duke of Modena, Francesco III d’Este, by the engineer Abate Domenico Vandelli in 1738, in order to allow communication between Modena and Massa, through the Apennine mountain pass and the Apuan Alps. Starting from Massa (MS), and following the via della Bassa Tambura one gets to Resceto, from where the road starts. For territorial reasons, it couldn’t go through the Pontifical State, the Grand duchy (Granducato) of Tuscany nor the Duchy (Ducato) of Lucca. The road suffered from these impediments. Once built, it turned out to be beautiful to see but in reality not very practical, above all because of the typical high mountain weather and snow which made the crossing of the Apennine chain difficult.

People avoided to travel it also because it was populated and infested by brigands and the laws made by the Duke in order to avoid its decline, i.e. laws planning to give free concession of pieces of lands to those who intended to build houses and structures along the road, were of no avail. The abandonment of the road made the engineer Vandelli go into a crisis and kill himself. The via Vandelli, which was directed towards Sasso Tignoso, above Sant’Anna Pelago, often keeping itself in ascent, then crossed the Alpe of San Pellegrino. It is still possible to take and enjoy a portion of this part of the road, a part well preserved and panoramic which goes through a series of truly amazing landscapes.

Along the way, there are still traces of the path that lead to an old iron mine and after a few steep turns, one gets to the “Vandelli window”, a clear cut in the rock created to allow at the time the parking of the stagecoaches, beyond which was found the Refuge of the CAI Nello Conti. In the part that goes down towards the Garfagnana, it is possible to watch, during the draining of the basin, the village that was submerged by the lake of Vagli (Fabbriche di Careggine) as the via Vandelli goes through it, crossing the typical bridge. The road continues from here towards Vagli di Sopra to reach the Pass of the Tambura which was widened artificially with mines in order to let the road (Via) go through it, going down towards Resceto. On this part of the road, there are many signs of the time when the road was used as a path for the sliding down of marble blocs. The sliding down of the marble blocs is celebrated precisely here each year by the Alta Tambura Association.

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