Pontremoli stands at the foot of the Apennines, at the centre of a vast basin that extends as far as the Cisa Pass and embraces the large area of the Magra, Verde and Gordana valleys. The name comes from the Latin pons tremulus, which referred to the old bridge over the River Verde: tremulus is an old name for the poplar, the material used to build the bridge, or it might stem from the fact that the bridge tended to shake.
The old town centre sits on a spit of land between the confluence of the Verde and the River Magra, at the foot of the Piagnaro hill, which is topped by the castle of the same name.
You can see the town’s medieval history in its countless sandstone bridge houses, which are rather sombre. Pontremoli underwent significant economic development in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, which saw it furnished with many new and beautiful signorial palaces. Along with Mulazzo, the town was a cradle of mobile booksellers, who, went to the towns and countryside further north with their wares in wicker baskets on their backs: the “Bancarella” literary prize is associated with this tradition.
From Pontremoli, heading towards Passo del Cirone along the SS62, you come across Mulinello. Follow the signs for Cavezzana d’Antena to reach the sulphurous water springs and spa. Carry on along this road as far as Casalina, where you can visit a water mill. At the end of the town, on the left, a path leads to Ponte della Valscura, a single-arched medieval bridge on the Via Francigena. After Groppodallosio, you reach Pracchiola, where you can make your way to Cascata del Piscio, a 40-metre-high waterfall. G.E.A. (an environmental association) tours begin in Passo del Cirone and you can take in the sandstone Cirone church.
At the start of the Verde river valley, you come across Casa Corvi. Towards Cervara, just after Borgallo, there’s the crossroads that leads to Grondola. Along this road, just after having crossed a small bridge, on the left you’ll see a huge, old oak tree. Here, you’ll also find Farfarà, an old set of farmhouses in a natural scenario close to the Pisciarotta waterfall, also known as “Tomba”, about 40 metres high.
Along the road that leads to Zeri from Pontremoli, take the road for Valunga, where you’ll see signs indicating the Stretti di Giaredo, an extraordinary 1km canyon along the river Gordana. To explore the incredible meanders of the straits, you need to carry on along the river bed, against the current, for about 500 metres.