Aulla is located in Lunigiana, a few kilometers from the border with Liguria, on a narrow tongue of land at the confluence of the river Magra the Aulella stream, a decisive place for the civil and religious life of the whole area before the year 1000. At that time, Aulla was already a small village and its importance was linked precisely to its central position along the Via Francigena, both as a pilgrimage road and as a commercial artery. The center of the village had an important role in defending the roads leading from Lucca and Liguria to the Cisa Pass.
Aulla's oldest monument is the Abbazia di San Caprasio (Abbey of San Caprasio), whose first construction dates back to the year 884. Inside the complex is the Museo del Pellegrino di San Caprasio (Museum of the Pilgrim of San Caprasio), which houses the findings of recent archaeological excavations that uncovered the saint's tomb in 2003. In the vault of the cloister stands the fascinating "Vangelo di pietra," (Gospel of stone) a display of medieval capitals found here.
A must-see for visitors to the town is the Fortezza della Brunella (Brunella Fortress), named after the hill on which it was built in the mid-16th century. The fort is a typical example of Renaissance-style military architecture, arranged for defense against firearms attacks. It is an almost square building with large polygonal struts that today - after a series of restorations - houses the Museo di Storia Naturale della Lunigiana (Museum of Natural History of Lunigiana), a playground, and one of Italy's very rare pet cemeteries.
Among the places to visit outside the historic town center are the small villages perched on the hills, such as Bibola (7th century), with the remains of the castle appearing from far away, and Caprigliola (12th century) with its elegant cylindrical tower.
Suggestive, in the hamlet of Pallerone, is the mechanical nativity scene - one of the oldest in Italy; nearby you can visit a small museum where you can admire pieces of ancient nativity scenes, including the engine that animated the 1937 sacred representation, and a photo gallery showing other ancient specimens.
Lunigiana is particularly suitable for those who love trekking and bike tours who, from Aulla, can follow the Via Francigena in the stretches Aulla - Pontremoli (Stage 23) and Aulla - Sarzana (Stage 24).
Typical dishes include the focaccette: flatbreads made of wheat and corn flour cooked in earthenware pots and eaten still warm along with cheese and cured meats, as well as many other local dishes including torta d'erbi (a savory pie with herbs), panigacci (a kind of round bread), testaroli (a kind of pasta), and sweet or savory dishes made with chestnut flour from Lunigiana PDO.
One of the best times to taste local specialties are the festivals held in small villages such as Vaccareccia where for three weekends in September you can taste typical flatbreads and other typical dishes.