This 33km leg leaves from Pontremoli and takes about 8 hours. It is a fairly level route with a maximum altitude of 250 metres along unpaved roads and trails and has long stretches that run through the woods.
After the elegant parish church of Sorano, which is the perfect introduction to the atmosphere of the via Francigena, you pass through the ancient village of Filattiera, then head along the Monia valley and reach Filetto, followed by Villafranca. Having crossed the Bagnone stream, you climb up to Virgoletta and head for Terrarossa, which is dominated by Malaspina castle. The final destination is the abbey of San Caprasio ad Aulla.
Take care along the busy stretch of state road no. 62 between Terrarossa and Ponte Taverone near Aulla.
Start: Pontremoli, Piazza della Repubblica
Finish: Aulla, Abbazia di S. Caprasio
Total length (km): 32.9
Accessibility: on foot or with mountain bike
Time on foot (h.min): 7.20
Climb in ascent (m): 386
Climb in descent (m): 565
Maximum altitude (m): 250
Paved roads: 52%
Unpaved roads and driveways: 22%
Mule-tracks and trails: 26%
How to get to the departure point: Parma- La Spezia railway line, Pontremoli station
Ponticello - a medieval village dating to the 14th and 15th century, distinctive with its round, pointed and vault arches, which connect roads and dwelling. In the village you’ll find a 10-12th century tower house.
Filattiera - The Filattiera area gives us a series of evidence, ranging from defensive structures to accommodation for pilgrims, which dates back to the Middle Ages and beyond. In the vast plains of the upper Lunigiana, the Pieve di Sorano stands on the ancient Via Francigena. The church occupied a place of great importance as a place of worship and gained its first fixed building towards the end of the 6th century. Drawing nearer to the old town centre of Filattiera, you will see Malaspina castle, historic residence of Opizzino. Heading into the town along the alleyways, once protected by the village’s walls, you reach the church of San Giorgio. It preserves the epigraph of Leodgar, an important document on the Christianization of the area dating back to the Longobard age. In the town, you can see traces of the San Giacomo d’Altopascio hospital; the area is famous for the protection and hospitality that it gave to pilgrims that traveled along the Via Francigena.
Filetto - The origins of the walled town of Filetto date back to the Byzantine era. The fortifications were used as a defense against the Longobards in the 6th and 7th centuries. In the village you will find Palazzo dei Marchesi Ariberti, a 15th-century palace joined to the village and to the church by two elegant raised walkways, and Convento dei Frati Ospitalieri, a huge 17th-century complex, with an inner cloister. Lastly, the parish church, built in the 19th century, with a tall bell tower. Nearby you find the oratory of San Genesio (16th century), located in the mysterious Filetto woods, where numerous stele and statues have been found. In August, Filetto hosts a Medieval Market, when the town turns back the clock and celebrates with medieval decorations, jugglers, minstrels, acrobats as well as traditional objects made by local craftsmen in iron, wood and stone.
Villafranca in Lunigiana - In 1181, Filippo Augusto King of France returned from the third crusade by traveling along the Via Francigena towards the north. In his chronicle, he records the village of Villafranca as “Lealville”—a “free” villa exempt from customs and taxes where trade and business was done. It was a place of transit for merchants and pilgrims. The merchants’ village, located along the Via Francigena at the crossing of two water sources and many roads leading towards Parma, Lucca and Genoa, was defended by Malnido castle, was the center of ample possessions on the part of the Malaspina marquises, and protected by the Church of San Niccolò. The area still conserves its fascinating history in the façade of the houses and in the coats-of-arms and signs sculpted on the rich doorways, which indicate the house of a notary thanks to the intricate work by artisans and merchants. The Ethnographic Museum of the Lunigiana is located in the area of the western gate and the ancient bridge on the Bagnone stream. The museum welcomes all visitors interested in learning more about the farming culture that characterized daily life for inhabitants of the area and was handed down from generation to generation. The museum boasts educational areas that instruct visitors on rites and traditions from the community. There are amulets against the evil eye and ex votos that testify to the devotion to saints venerated in local oratories and sanctuaries.
Aulla: a narrow stretch of land, where the Magra and Aulella rivers meet, is home to one of the most important chapters in the religious and civil life of the Lunigiana prior to the year 1000. Back then, Aulla was a small town defending the bridge and streets that lead to Lucchesia, in Liguria, towards Cisa, a time of great fortune of the via Francigena as a town of commerce and pilgrimage. Make sure you see the abbey and museum of San Caprasio (9th-12th century), whose recent excavations confirmed the town’s importance along the Via Francigena. Founded in 884 and given to the monks linked to the Malaspina family, towards 1070, it was changed and took on its current layout of a nave and two aisles. It underwent further work in the 14th century and during the Baroque age. Visit the Museum of Natural History, set up to spread knowledge about the natural sciences through a full and innovative description of the local landscape, at the Fortezza della Brunella (mid-16th century), which is named after the hill on which it was built in the mid-16th century. It is a typical example of Renaissance military architecture, structured so as to defend against sieges by firepower.
Near Aulla, pay a visit to Pallerone, a medieval village that is home to the tower of the ancient castle and the Malaspina chapel, now the parish church of Sant'Antonio, but originally named after Saint Thomas of Canterbury. It is decorated in 18th-century stuccowork and canvases as well as a 16th-century door.