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Piagnaro Castle, Pontremoli

At the foot of the Passo della Cisa sits an ancient town suspended between thousand-year-old mysteries and lost riches

Discovering Pontremoli, a bridge between central and northern Italy

Paolo Lapi by Paolo Lapi
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A “bridge” that links the north with central Italy: this is what Pontremoli has always been, defined by Frederick II as the “key and door” to the Apennines and by Charles VIII as the entrance to the mountains.

Today, it is the heart of the European cultural route of the Via Francigena, remembered by Sigeric, the Archbishop of Canterbury, as the 31st stop on his return journey from Rome (990/994 CE).

A place of passage and rest, situated amid a range of green valleys dotted with evocative villages, a junction of historic roads, like those of Monte Bardone (today, della Cisa), Borgallo, Bratello and Cirone, Pontremoli has always welcomed and hosted visitors, as shown by the many religious Orders that have settled here over the centuries.

A “small” city with a rich history: a medieval oppidum with “immensely tall” towers and a trading village, recognized as a free comune by the Emperors Frederick I Barbarossa and Frederick II, coveted but never conquered by the Malaspina Marquises, rulers of the rest of the Lunigiana, contested over and desired by many Italian and European powers.

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- Credit: Alessio Grazi

A celebrated and noble oppidum for Charles V, between the 1600s and 1700s Pontremoli transformed into a village filled with aristocratic palaces and churches that were sheer treasure troves of devotion and works of art. The city boasted a theatre, Teatro della Rosa, was declared in 1778 to be a “Noble City” by Grand Duke Leopold II, and a few years later in 1787, was raised to the status of episcopal see by Pope Pius VI.

And thus the 18th century began in Pontremoli, a palette of Pontremolese Baroque, where the medieval and Baroque periods co-exist, uniting the rigid forms of the former and the animated features of the latter.

Pontremoli is like a book filled with pages to skim and taste, and has become the “City of Books”. Since 1952, in the Piazza “below”, in the shadow of the Campanone, the town’s beloved medieval tower, the “voice” of the city awards the Premio Bancarella.

Pontremoli, via Francigena, Lunigiana
Pontremoli, via Francigena, Lunigiana

Pontremoli

is land, the territory that envelops the town and the stones from which it is made;
is water, the streams that embrace it and the mirrors of rainfall in which it is reflected;
is air, the winds that smack it and the breezes that caress it;
is fire, the bonfires that illuminate it on cold winter nights and the passions that inflame the hearts of its people.

 

Pontremoli is a long, stone “road” that transforms as you look up into a “road” in the sky.

Pontremoli is a precious “gem” nestled in the middle of tree of the most beautiful regions in Italy, Tuscany, Emilia Romagna and Liguria: the town is a meeting place and where things happen.

Piagnaro Castle in Pontremoli
Piagnaro Castle in Pontremoli - Credit: Alessio Grazi

The Piagnaro Castle, the thousand-year-old fortress and lookout for Pontremoli and the surrounding territory, a military center for the soldiers of the past, whose souls are said to still roam the grounds along with the sounds of their weapons, is today home to the mysterious “ancestors” of this land between the sea and the mountains. This is where the Stele Statues of the Lunigiana are housed, the ancient and silent “forefathers” carved into stone, animated by the light, for an emotional experience that makes this place energize the limitless nature of man’s heart.

Caffè degli Svizzeri, Pontremoli
Caffè degli Svizzeri, Pontremoli - Credit: Alessio Grazi

The Vetrina della Città, located deep under Pontremoli, is a “descent” into its heart, where visitors can discover the first “stop” of a journey where history, tradition, flavours and visions blend together. From this secret place made up of layers of history, resting in the city’s “vegetable gardens,” visitors can listen to – and touch – the sound of the River Magra as it rushes more or less violently (depending on the season) toward the sea.

Pontremoli, “the bridge suspended in history, under which the river of time runs,” awaits for you to discover its features and carry it with you in your heart.

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Lunigiana
The far edge of Tuscany, the Lunigiana is a historic region between Liguria and Tuscany. Nestled between valleys that open at the foot of two mountain chains, the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines and the Apuan Alps, it’s long been a transit territory ...
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Lunigiana