Lunigiana, the northern peninsular of Tuscany, is nestled between the Appennini and Apuane Alp mountain ranges following the river bed of the Magra that separates Liguria from Emilia Romagna. Known as the “Undiscovered Tuscany”, Lunigiana is relatively untouched by tourism or heavy industry making it nature lovers’ perfect holiday destination. Lunigiana, literally translated as “earth of the moon”, takes its name from the ancient Etruscan city of Luni, a Roman settlement founded in 677 BC. The region historically served as a passageway for pilgrims between the rest of Europe and Rome (Via Francigena) and was fought over between the Malaspina and the Medici families leaving its landscape dominated by medieval castles with tower watchposts, fortified stone walled hill top hamlets, baroque villas and palaces with XVII/XVII century frescos and ancient churches. Nature provides Lunigiana its greatest attractions from trekking paths through the Tuscan / Emilian Apennine National Park (www.appenninopark.it/parco.asp ), skiing at Zum Zeri or at the Cerreto Pass (used for the World Skiing Championships) or the thermal springs and caves at Equi Termi. Lunigiana is also renowned for its farmhouse cuisine that takes the freshest ingredients from its nature, namely chestnut flour, mushrooms, natural herbs (Torta D’erbi), fresh ricotta and other cheeses, DOP (Protection of Origination) honey and lamb (Zeri). During the summer months, almost every town and village will host a sagre (festival) dedicated to different and many traditional gastronomy of the region.
Pontremoli: This castle town is magically set on the confluence of the River Magre and Verde and acts as the northern gate to Lunigiana. Characterised by its many stone bridges (from which it takes its name, literally translated as “ponte tremulus” or “trembling bridges”) and cobbled narrow streets winding onto its piazzas and up to its northern gate, “Porta Parma” and the Castello del Piagnaro which hosts the Museum of the Statue Stele, ancient stone carvings from the settlements of Luni dating back to 3400BC. Pontremoli hosts the Premio Bancarella Literary Festival each year in the middle of July and the medieval festival of “Medievale” at the end of July as well as normal market days every Wednesday and Saturday mornings of the year and antique and artesian markets on the first and third Sunday morning of each month.
Fivizzano is the widest village of Lunigiana. It extends from the Appenines to the Apuan Alps. The numerous valleys, of the torrents Rosaro, Mommio and Lucido meet all the course of the Aulella. In the zone it is possible to admire great landscapes, from hills to mountains with a mild climate.
Considered the Florence of Lunigiana, Fivizzano has always been an important center. Castles, churches and noble palaces show it. Fivizzano gave itself to the Medici family in the XV century and remained in their possession until the come of the Lorena. The walls of Fivizzano were erected for order of Cosimo de’ Medici in 1540, while the baroque font of the main square was constructed from Cosimo III in 1683. Beyond the walls, the village of the Verrucola where the castle of the Verrucola lies, erected from Spinetta Malaspina the Great. Fivizzano gave birth to Jacopo from Fivizzano, one of the first printer.
Every summer in July, the “Disfida degli arceri di terra e di corte” fill with people the medieval village. Nearby, we can visit the Romanesque churc of Saint Paul of Vendaso, the village of Soliera with the sanctuary of the Madonna of the Necks, the villages of Gragnola with the castle and Vinca. Moreover, the Botanical Garden of the Frignoli and the village of Sassalbo.
Filattiera is a fortified hilltop settlement of Byzantine origin, dominated by its castle tower, church and medieval piazza. Its name comes from the Byzantine term “Fulacterion: meaning “watch tower” thereby signifying its strategic position as an enemy watch post. At the bottom of the hill, its parish church, the Romanic Church of Sorano, Logarghena and the local church, La Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista.Twice a year, the church hosts a procession of the cross with band music along the road leading to Tarasco.
Both Bagnone and Magrate are hill top settlements dominated by their Malaspina castles. The Malgrate castle was built in 1355 and has been recently restored. Based on a rock above the river, Bagnone has several watermills and was historically fought over for its strategic position on the crossroads between the Appennines and Lucca/Bolano. Just outside Bagnone, there is another village worth visiting with its eleventh century castle, Castiglione del Terziere which has also been perfectly restored.