The Lunigiana, a land rich in history in northern Tuscany
The land of the crescent moon
The Lunigiana area is located both in northern Tuscany (Massa-Carrara province) and in Liguria, covering quite an extended area from the Apennines to the Magra River. The name Lunigiana comes from Luni, an ancient Etruscan city that became a Roman colony, the main urban centre on the northern Tuscan coast. There are many undisclosed myths regarding the name of this area. The symbol of this ancient land is a crescent moon (luna in Italian) held in a bear’s claw.
The Lunigiana is a land rich in history and things to do: fascinating castles, Romanesque churches, medieval villages and streets, prehistoric stele statues, ancient pathways of the Via Francigena and refined works of art dating from different centuries. It’s a territory to be explored slowly, taking your time to appreciate every single nuance, savouring the local food, such as testaroli, panigacci, chestnut flour, honey, olive oil, wines, cured meats and cheeses. There are many towns worth visiting in Lunigiana. These are the most important:
has always been a crossroads and this is the source of its wealth. From the Via Francigena to the road that connects it to Genoa, from the road to Borgotaro to the one for Parma, Pontremoli has a long history and many vestiges of this past. In the old town centre there is a museum with a series of stone stele statues, the Romanesque church of S. Giorgio dating to the eleventh century, the cathedral with many polychrome marbles, the “Campanone”, which is the town’s symbol today.
is situated in a mountainous area on the left bank of the Magra River. The first thirteenth-century settlement is still well-preserved and examples of this are the military church of San Giorgio and the watch tower. Over the following century, the Malaspina castle and the old hospital dedicated to San James were built.
Bagnone's main activities focus on local products: the town's economy was based on chestnuts and sheep farming, and today’s main attractions are the fairs and the markets. Here you can find an old market with arcade and a castle dating back to the second part of the fourteenth century. Nearby, visit the beautiful medieval village of Castiglion del Terziere with the castle, the castle of Treschietto, the ruins of Iera, and Corlaga and Corvarola.
Villafranca in Lunigiana
is the centre of peasant culture, with its ethnographical museum housed in the old fifteenth-century mills displaying agricultural and shepherds’ equipment and craft tools, objects of common, personal and domestic use, and local, magical, protective and religious objects. There is also Malaspina castle, dating to the twelfth century. Near Villafranca, in Filetto, tens of “stele” statues were created in its forests, which must have been a sacred pagan place.
is dominated by Malaspina castle, now privately owned. The Sanctuary of the “Madonna della Neve” on Gaggio hill is distinguished by a chestnut tree behind the altar. Local food, panigacci, is celebrated every August with a fair. The area offers a wide range of chestnut woods and paths, where you can go hiking, horse riding and cycling.
lies in a strategic position between the steps of the Cisa, the Cerreto and the Lagastrello. It has always been a strategic crossroads, insomuch as the ancient village was almost completely destroyed during the Second World War. Here you can visit the Saint Caprasio Abbey, the Brunella Fortress and the museum of natural history of Lunigiana.
is known as “the Florence of Lunigiana” as it represented a typically Medici-ruled town in the northern part of Tuscany. It has a strategic position, and so became an important marketplace and its square became the social centre of the city, but in 1920 the city was partly destroyed by a great earthquake. There are wonderful remains of the city’s ancient walls built by Cosimo I de’ Medici in 1540. In the centre you can visit the Fantoni-Bonomi palace, which hosts the Museum of Printing, the Cojari Palace and the Villa of Benedetti Chigi.
is the last village of Lunigiana before the sea. Malaspina castle is the best preserved of its kind in the entire Lunigiana. You can also admire the Baroque parish church of St. Remigio with the sepulchre of Galeotto Malaspina and the oratory of the Compagnia dei Bianchi with a wooden sculpture of the Virgin Mary dating to the fifteenth century.
is a small village known for its caves and spas.
There are also many natural areas:
The Tosco-Emiliano State Park, which covers over 60 km between Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna. Here, there is a high level of biodiversity and it is important in terms of its nature and landscape. There is evidence of human presence from prehistoric to medieval to more recent times.
The Alpi Apuane Regional Park represent one of the most extraordinary and original mountain chains in Italy. One of the most famous characteristics are the marble mountains. There are over 1,300 grottos, some of which are open to the public. The Apuan Alps have authentic rare botanical examples and a particular fauna.
The Fiume Magra State Park has well-preserved fluvial environments with plenty of diversification, especially for various species of bird life including ducks, cranes, kingfishers as well as various types of herons.
The Piana di Filattiera has a functioning mill that produces flour from grain, corn and chestnuts.