In the northernmost part of Tuscany you'll find a region famous for its atypical landscape; the beauty of the Lunigiana is defined by its proximity to both the Apuan Alps and the Tyrrenian Sea, a breathtaking mix of opposing landscapes.
Here, climb marble mountains 2,000 meters high and enjoy views of the sea and sandy coastline, or discover wooded uplands dotted with vine-covered hills.
Don't miss the Strada del Vino dei Colli di Candia e di Lunigiana in the Massa Carrara province, an area that offers countless itineraries for trekkers, bike lovers and, of course, foodies.
What to taste in the Lunigiana area:
Be sure to try Marocca di Casola bread, which is made using chestnut flour, wheat flour, boiled and mashed potatoes, yeast, a piece of sourdough starter and water. In olden times, the only flour available in this mountain area was ground from chestnuts; families here would bake the bread weekly in a wood-burning oven, a tradition that only one bakery in Casola carries on today.
For a different bread variety, try one made of white wheat flour (or whole meal flour), yeast, sourdough starter, water and salt. Vinca bread, produced daily in the bakeries around Vinca, is eaten during meals and can be preserved for rather long periods of time. The toasted slices of bread are especially delicious when paired with Colonnata lard and thin tomato slices.
Marocco di Montignoso bread, on the other hand, is made using corn flour, wheat flour and yeast and contains black olives, rosemary, garlic, sage, crushed red pepper and salt. Its production is linked to the area’s traditional economy when corn flour was more abundant and less expensive than wheat. Today, you’ll find the tasty break in bakeries and shops year round.
Colonnata lard is produced in Colonnata, a town found a few kilometers from Carrara in the Apuan Alps. This pork lard is a treat you can’t miss: layers of lard flavored with sea salt, ground black pepper, fresh rosemary sprigs and garlic cloves are cured in local Carrara marble quarries for 6-10 months. The end result? A butter-like meat too tasty not to try.
Testaroli are an unusual type of fresh pasta made from egg-free dough squished between testi (special cast-iron baking dishes) and then briefly plunged into boiling water before serving. The name stems from the pan itself, the testo, made of two terracotta or cast-iron halves.
Herb pie is a delicious homemade savory vegetable pie made with lettuce and seasonal vegetables (chard, onions, wild spinach, wild asparagus, leeks and carrots) and pastry dough prepared with flour and water. The pie is eaten as both a starter and main course and is mass produced in the Lunigiana.
The Lunigiana also boasts tasty rice cakes made from liquor, rice, sugar and eggs. The sweet treat features two layers (one made of rice and the other with a flan-like cream); this local favorite is found in most towns in the area.
The town of Zeri is known for its delicious and unique lamb. The area’s hardy sheep are kept inside during the coldest months and spend the rest of the year being pastured. Zeri's most traditional lamb dish is called “al testo,” which requires cooking the lamb in a cast-iron pot over burning coals. You’ll find lamb meat here in accordance with the breed's reproductive cycles, meaning it’s especially common between December and April.
Lunigiana honey was the first in Italy to obtain DOP (Protected Designation of Origin) status from the European Union and is currently the only DOP honey in Tuscany. Here, honey is a key ingredient in local recipes and alternative medicine, while the wax is usually used for making candles.
The area boasts a number of DOC (Controlled Designation of Origin) and IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) wines. Check out the Candia and Lunigiana Hills Wine Trail to taste a few excellent red and white wines (both dry and semi-sweet). You'll find Colli di Luni DOC wines (red and white) and Val di Magra IGT and Toscana IGT wines. These wines are produced using local grape species: Vermentino, Albarola and Durella for white wines, and Massaretta, black Vermentino, Pollera and others for the reds.