Zum Zeri - snow


Perfect location for those looking to rediscover silence of the mountains

Zeri is the ideal destination for anyone who wants to rediscover the silence of the mountains without having to renounce all the comforts of modern life. Here you can discover rhythms which have been lost in other places and a countryside where they still raise a unique local kind of sheep which can not be found anywhere else as well as free roaming cattle. On the borders with Tuscany, Liguria and Emilia Zeri is just waiting to be discovered. Located in the Upper Lunigiana its valleys and ancient towns are attracting growing numbers of tourists who see relaxation, history, the excellent local cuisine, sport and leisure activities but also atmosphere and mystery.

The rural architecture in the mountain village of Formentara, the small marble “maestà,” which are the small statues of saints along the roadways, the ancient pastoral festivities and its unique cuisine all go to make Zeri an island of happiness.

Zeri dates back to very ancient days and is without a doubt the purest heir of the Apuan group of the Ligurian peoples. Here life was lived according to the rhythms and cycles of nature and of the family which was the fundamental nucleus of the community and was an independent productive unit. Here, more than in other valleys, you can still find something of this internal, autonomous equilibrium dating back to ancient times but which has been preserved down the centuries without any substantial changes.

The natural environment and Zeri’s old towns have remained intact in time thanks to the historical isolation of the area. And still today we can admire old farmhouses, churches, little towns perched high on hilltops and hidden mills. The climate is particularly favourable to year-round tourism as in Winter the ski resorts of Zum Zeri-Passo Due Santi are open while in Spring and Summer there are many mountain trails to be enjoyed.

As soon as you arrive in Zeri you get a feeling of sacredness: in Patigno, the administrative seat of the municipality, we find a sanctuary devoted to the Madonna of Lourdes on the Colle della Gretta hill and then there is the Church of Patigno, where Padre Beppino Cò attracts pilgrims from all over Italy. In his role of Father of the Order of Charismatics (his liberation masses are famous) he is and well known for his commitment and his unique religious charisma.

Zeri consists of 23 hamlets each one of which has its own church dedicated to a different saint and each town organises the festivities for its own patron saint. These celebrations involve not only the townspeople who organise them but are also an occasion to be enjoyed by people from all over the area who come to discover the local traditions and hospitality. Scattered throughoout the area there are many “maestà”, small marble bas reliefs of the Madonna or of different saints. You can see then as you make your way along the local roads and trails. Then there are the mysterious and atmospheric “facion,” or stone heads sculpted on the walls of some of the old farmhouses, the significance of which still remains a mystery.

In this area nature is still totally unspoiled with the local people cultivating the land and guarding the woodlands. A holiday in Zeri means a green holiday or a snowy holiday and is a unique chance to get away from city life.

The village of Formentara is an old mountain village. This ancient little town dates back to before the 1500s and consists of some twenty houses built with local stone and with roofs made from “piagne” which are large flat stones. Today it is uninhabited and a site of archaeological excavations, an atmospheric place which brings the visitor straight back to times long past, with traditions lost in the mists of time but still conserved.

The Colombara waterfall
The Colombara waterfall, close to the municipal road for Bosco, of a true delight, and on warm summer days offers visitors spectacular plays of light.

The Bridge of Noises
According to tradition it was from this bridge, which spans a very deep canal, that the body of a man who was possessed by the devil was thrown into the waters below. They say that even when he was dead he continued to scream and it is also said that still today it is possible to hear the sounds of chains and mysterious screams!

Montelama: the town of the magicians
In the past Montelama was famous because many of the townspeople were known for their witchcraft which included turning men into animals. We can’t vouch for these stories but Montelama has without any shadow of doubt a real air of mystery and magic about it!

The Casa Mori
The Casa Mori, which belonged to one of Zeri’s most famous families in the 16th century is a striking villa and typical of the homes of the landed gentry of the Lunigiana area. The main unit of the house stands on some 600 square metres and consists of 15,000 cubic metres. All told it has some fifty rooms including the cellars, all of which are vaulted, and cubicles. The Mori family was known for its wealth and it was said that you could circle the entire Rossano valley without ever leaving the woods and lands which belonged to the Mori family.

And so we come to food and wine and in Zeri we discover that there are housewives who are refined chefs whose aces up their sleeves are the extreme simplicity and genuineness of the local recipes cooked in “testi” which are cast iron recipients that have been put into the embers of the fire since Etruscan days. The local recipes rely for the most part on mushrooms, chestnuts and vegetables; unique products which can be enjoyed only in Zeri. The festival of the “testi” is held in April each year and involves food cooked according to this old cooking method and is, of course, a time of much merriment and folklore.

Then on each Sunday in May they celebrate the Five days of Taste with each of the Sundays being devoted to a typical dish. Starting with mouth-watering hors d’oeuvres and continuing with the pasta courses, made from chestnut flour, and the entrées where lamb takes pride of place as does sheep’s milk which is said to be an elixir of long life. And in fact the average age of the people of Zeri is over 95, making it one of Italy’s areas with the highest age index. And then there are the delicious local cheeses which are much appreciated by gourmets as are the many sweets made with hazelnuts.

Zeri’s cuisine is mainly based on chestnuts, mushrooms and lamb. The lamb is delicious and unique and can be found only in Zeri. Zeri’s sheep, an authoctonous race, is waiting to receive the DOP protected origin denomination. These valleys are also famous for their mushrooms and in particular the much-prized “porcini“ mushrooms which grow in the local chestnut groves and have a dark brown and highly perfumed cap.

Then there is another particular type of mushroom, called the “cavazza” which has a very strong flavour and grows on the bark of trees. The chestnut is the basis of the simple cuisine of the rural community. Zeri’s chestnuts are small and very flavoursome and using antique methods they are turned into the chestnut flour which is the foundation of many unique recipes like the “armelette,” which are lasagne made with chestnut flour, the “moglo,” a kind of very thin chestnut cake covered with ricotta cheese and cooked in the embers of wood-fired ovens in the special cast iron “testi.”

Zeri’s ricotta, which is produced in the area and can only be bought from the local farmers, is also quite unique. Then there are the beans and the potatoes for which Zeri is renowned, ancient cultivations which have conserved their traditional production methods and techniques and for which only natural fertilisers are used. These cultivations are known throughout Tuscany and it is thanks to the mountain climate and the composition of the soil if they grow to such a degree of excellence. Zeri’s apples are called “ox eye” for their size, but while small they are really delicious and, like so many of the other local products, can be found only in Zeri.

Cover image credit: zumzeri.eu



Historical area located in both Tuscany and Liguria offers gastronomic delights
Lunigiana is a historical region located in both Tuscany and Liguria, between the Spezia and Massa-Carrara provinces. ...