Novara by the invitation of the citizens; shortly after, the citadel surrendered. Ludovico was paralysed; it is thought that if the Duke of Orleans had marched on Milan he would have met no serious resistance.
Meanwhile the King had left Naples with some 1,200 French lances, 4,000 Swiss, and 2,000 Gascon arblasters. The other half of his army, partly Italians, was left with Montpensier, the viceroy, to deal with Ferrantino, who had recently landed in Calabria with Spanish aid. On reaching Rome, the King found the Pope had fled to Orvieto. Florence Charles avoided, since the Florentines claimed, and he was determined to refuse, the surrender of the fortresses, especially of Pisa. At Pisa he found himself equally unable to satisfy the Pisans. At Spezia, against all sound advice, he detached 500 horse and 2,000 foot to operate against Genoa with the aid of the fleet and the Genoese exiles. But he had the forethought to send on a force to occupy Pontremoli, which capitulated. The Swiss, violating the terms of the surrender, sacked and burned the place, destroying valuable stores.
The possession of Pontremoli gave the French access to the pass. Beyond the summit lay the army of the League. The chief part of the army, about 40,000 strong, was in Venetian pay, and commanded by the Marquis of Mantua. Beside men at arms there were some thousands of Stradioti, the ferocious light cavalry of Albania. The chief part of the forces of Milan was engaged in the siege of Novara, but a Milanese contingent was present. Over the steep pass the Swiss, in sign of penitence for their late excesses, dragged by hand the heavy cannon, each ordinarily drawn by thirty-five horses; and French nobles, notably la Tremouille, did not disdain to work beside them. At Fornovo the French vanguard came into touch with the Stradiot advanced posts, and halted. The rest of the army, coming up, encamped for the night in great lack of provisions. Negotiations were opened for a free passage, but came to nothing. The next day the French advanced.
At Fornovo the valley of the Taro is of moderate width. On the right bank were posted the allies and there was their fortified camp. The French resolved to cross the river, and to force their way along the left bank. The river had been much swollen by a thunderstorm during the night and rain was still falling. Thus the French army, having once successfully effected its crossing, which it did undisturbed, was partly protected. The vanguard was expected to bear the main weight of the attack, and included the bulk of the artillery, with 3,000 Swiss, and a strong body of men-at-arms. This body, moving on too fast, became separated from the rest of the army, and had only to sustain a trifling charge of the Milanese horse under the Count of Caiazzo. Little use was made on either side of the artillery. The main attack was made by the Marquis of Mantua. Though it was originally directed on the centre, the necessity to deviate for a ford made it really an attack on the rear under Louis de la Tremouille. The King's main battle then wheeled