A delightfully undiscovered and unspoiled area, Lunigiana is the northen tip of Tuscany close to both Liguria and Emilia. Bordered by high mountains and the sea, Lunigiana feels very different from the rest of the region and the locals still talk of “going to Tuscany.” when they have to travel off the valley to reach Florence or even the nearby beaches of the Versilia
The Lunigiana derived its name from the ancient port of Luni, which was established in roman times to serve as a trading place for the marble coming from the nearby quarries. The remains of this settlement can still be seen near the city of Sarzana but historic sites are not restricted to Roman ruins as the Lunigiana is scattered with castles, parish churches and walled villages built in medieval times all along the pilgrim route known as Via Francigena.
Pontremoli is the principal town and northern gateway of Lunigiana. It is a well-preserved medieval town in a scenic setting. Above the town is a restored castle with a museum of prehistoric stele statues. Pontremoli is known as the “City of the Books” because it has been housing a book market since 1458, at the very beginning of the printing industry.
Located halfway between Pontremoli and Villafranca. Filattiera is the ancient capital of the Malaspina, the family that ruled the area starting from High Middle Ages. The church of St. George and the defence tower of the 15th century castle are worth a visit. At the foot of the village, the Parish Church of Sorano is an important example of Romanesque architecture. The Pieve features a pre-Christian idol as well as traces of medieval frescoes.
Unlike the other villages of the region, Filetto is based on a squared Roman castrum plan with entry to the Byzantine village only possible through its two fortified doors at the opposite sides. Every summer Filetto relives the magic of ancient times with its Medieval Market which brings the whole village to life in the first two weeks of August. Among the other things, during the market one can experience a true ‘Medieval Banquet’ in the cloister of the old monastery.
Set on top of a hill in a very beautiful landscape, Fosdinovo is the last Lunigiana village before reaching the Tyrrenian sea. Its imposing castle, perhaps the best preserved of Lunigiana, welcomes the visitors at their arrival. The fortress is still owned by the heirs of the Malaspina family that built it between the XIII and XIV century. The atmosphere is one of borderlands: you can almost smell the sea without forgetting the mountains behind.
Located on the south-western slopes of Appennines, Fivizzano was known as “the bautiful corner” and was a popular retreat for the Florentine aristocracy trying to escape the summer heat. Sitting along the Rosaro River, Fivizzano is rich with baroque palaces, churches and fortified walls. On a nerby hill the Verrucola castle with its walled curtain and the medieval suburb born at its feet. is certainly worth a visit.
Each summer Fivizzano celebrates the traditional gastronomy of the region with the Sapori festival. Since Lunigiana is famous for its dishes and the quality of its food, this is your best chance to enjoy some of the local specialties. You simply can’t leave before having tried the “torta d’erbi” (a savoury wild herbs and vegetables flan) or the testaroli, an unusual type of fresh pasta made from an eggless dough that is first cooked like a crepe and then briefly plunged into boiling water before serving (usually topped with pesto sauce).