We stopped in the Ordelaffi square, to take a nice coffee, now it’s time for me to keep on going and to finish the 1 thousand years history of Piazza Saffi.
I may not have mentioned the fact that the square was officially born in 1212 with a legal act that was giving the “Abbot’s field to the Municipality” for 100 years. Every renovation of this act was a real event with a Palio, a competition between famous and brave knights. The book that still nowadays gathers all these official acts is called the “Libro Biscia”.
Piazza Saffi, the main market
The square had a commercial function; the merchants could enter it paying a fee without entering the town which was virtually divided between the Abbot and the Bishop. It was the age of Guelfi and Ghibellini anf Forlì (Forum Livii as it was called by the Romans) decided to be with the Emperor, Federico II of Svevia. The Forlì Arms has an Eagle, for this historical reason: in the paws, she holds two shields and one is a red one with a white cross, the red indicating the roman origin and the cross, the participation of some noble families to the crusades. The other shield was a symbol of the republic.
It’s right in this age that Guido from Montefeltro, the Sir governing the area, is fighting against the Pope. The battle, called “the sanguinoso mucchio” (the bloody mass) left hundreds of thousands people on the ground. Actually it’s horrible to think we are still walking on a huge cemetery!
Mr Guido, to win the battle, let the French army enter from one of the northern doors of the town and so he won!
Mr Saffi, the VIP of Forlì
The center of the square (where Mr Saffi is now watching us) was dedicated to a little chapel (the Crocetta, the little cross), but still this sign was taken away in 17th century and visiting San Mercuriale, the romanic church of the square, you can still see it near one of the stone lions, entering at the right side.
Ok, let’s start walking again from Piazza Ordelaffi (governing the town from 1412. The Cathedral, dedicated to Santa Croce, was also the center of the town and the main reference for the Ordelaffi family, which worked to establish its power also in the surrounding areas, making Forlì the capital of the Ghibellini in Romagna. But this glory lasts for a short time: the Pope sends Egidio Albornoz who conquer the town again.
Santa Croce was once a romanic church, but as you can see it now, it was almost completely renewed in 1841. Almost nothing remains of the original church. Entering, on the left, have a stop to see the Madonna del Fuoco. The legend is telling that during a burning of some houses, her image was the only thing that remained safe. That is why people started to adore her, considering her as the saint protecting the town.
Outside of the cathedral, left and right you find Corso Garibaldi, the noble street with many important palaces.
The street is completely car free, so you can walk safe, with your eyes up to the sky, admiring the decorations of the buildings.
From an historical point of view, you must know that Ordelaffi family succeeded, at the end of 15th century to conquer the town again, Forlì was one of the first free Italian municipalities with the best and amazing market in Romagna, a huge Palace (the Municipality headquarter today) with a comfortable Portico (which was different from the one you are seeing now and a fortress (still existing and visitable only partially) which was the shelter of Lucrezia Borgia and his son later after. But this was also the times of very easy murders. Cecco Ordelaffi is killed, his wife Barbara dies by poison. The pope Sisto IV pays the Ordelaffi family to have the town, Lucrezia Borgia, daughter of the Pope is the new sovereign. Lucrezia, as you may know as a troubled life, a lot of husband died in mysterious ways and also some enemies in her own family.
His brother, the Duke of Valentinois arrives to take power and Lucrezia find a shelter in the fortress. She has 8 children, one of them will become known as Giovanni dalle bande nere, the lord of Milan.
Wow, what a history in such a few meters of Corso Garibaldi. And walking, you are arrived again in the square. At the corner, you will notice again some metal bubbles on the pavement: here was the second bridge, the Knight Bridge.
What happened after Lucrezia and Cesare Borgia, the Duke of Valentinois? One of the Ordelaffi last heritage tried to get the power again, without success. In this period Palmezzano, the famous painter, does some of his best paintings, which are now in the Municipal Gallery. The pope conquered the town and from now on Forlì and Romagna will get under the Roman Catholic Church dome.
You may ask how Mr Saffi statue arrived in the square. Well, in 17th century the devotion to Madonna del Fuoco became stronger and stronger, the little cross was taken away and was built a column (which now outside the Cathedral) dedicated to the holy virgin. The beginning of the XXth century was the real deal: anarchists and people fighting against the Church destroyed the column. The square center remained empty till 1914, when the lyric singer Masini decide to pay for a statue dedicated to Mr Saffi. The beginning of the war is again a stop, the statue was damaged and the square remains empty again until 1961 when Mr Saffi returns.
Ok, the historical boring stuff is finished; it’s time to have a coffee!
Some tips to end your itinerary
The official day of celebrating Madonna del Fuoco in the 4th of February, if you are here in that day you will live the popular devotion of the town and also visit the original church where the painting was after the burning.
The little and narrow streets starting from Corso Garibaldi, are full of little nice corners to discover, and will take you to the huge building of Musei del San Domenico, a restored exposition center for temporary exhibitions and also house of Pinacoteca, where some of the famous painter Palmezzano’s works are.