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Ameglia | La Spezia Province

AMEGLIA | LIGURIA REGION

Ameglia La Spezia

The ancient town of Ameglia is today a privileged tourist destination, with mountains right in the background, in the middle of a regional park, and including smaller seaside resorts at Fiumaretta and Bocca di Magra, situated each on one side of the Magra river.

 Archeological excavations have discovered an ancient necropolis, probably of the 4th century BC, showing that the area was a transit route from the mountains to the sea. It was later a Roman town, as shown by the remains of a Villa Marittima, and maintained its importance in the Middle Ages. In 963 the Castrum de Ameliae is mentioned as a bishopric seat. In the 13th century it was surrounded by defence wall, and the sighting tower and port were also built. It was for a time ruled by Castruccio Castracani, then came under different families of the area, such as the Doria, Visconti, and Campofregoso. In the 19th century it was under the jurisdiction of Lerici, then in the 20th century a remarkable tourist development transformed the previously mainly fishing economy. After the Second World War it was a cultural retreat of artists, poets and intellectuals as Giovanni Pintori, Giulio Einaudi, Marguerite Duras, Franco Fortini, Albe Steiner, Elio Vittorini, Italo Calvino.

What to see

  • A Roman Villa of the 1st century BC at Bocca di Magra, near the moth of the Magra river.
  • The fortified borough of Montemarcello, on the monte Caprione, with a fine view over the Val di Magra and the Gulf of La Spezia, where the 15th century church of San Pietro can be visited.
  • The Regional Park Montemarcello Magra, with an interesting Botanical Garden on top of Monte Murlo.

La Spezia | La Spezia Province

LA SPEZIA | LIGURIA REGION

Castle LaSpezia

La Spezia, at the head of La Spezia Gulf, is one of the major Italian military and commercial harbours, located between Genoa and Pisa on the Tyrrhenian Sea. It is today a modern city (almost all buildings date after 1920), and its province includes beautiful places like Lerici, Portovenere and the Cinque Terre, all lying on the La Spezia Gulf, on the Tyrrhenian Sea.  

The name of the city appears for the first time in 1160 in a contract signed by one Baldus de Specia. In the 13th century it was a small borough of Carpena, an important maritime center. In the late 13th century it was involved in the civil strife between the Fieschi on the one side and the Doria and Spinola families on the other side for the supremacy on Liguria. Oberto Doria attacked and defeated the Fieschi in the fortress of La Spezia, della Spezia.

After that the town was included in the Republic of Genoa. In the 14th century the town was one of the main centers for salt trade, and the Genoan Doge Simon Boccanegra established a Podesteria there, which in 1371 included also the jurisdiction of Carpena. In that period La Spezia was surrounded by defensive walls and in 1407 also the castle of San Giorgio was built.

In the late 16th century the fortress of Santa Maria on the promontory between Varignano and Castagna as a difense against pirates. In mid-17th century a new impulse to trade came with the entrance in town of Jewish and foreign merchants; weekly markets and yearly fairs are established.

In 1797 the French occupation marked the end of the Genoa supremacy and in 1815 the town was included in the kingdom of Sardinia, and nas made province capital. In 1861 works for the military Arsenale were begun, to make of the town the main military port of the kingdom. During the Second World War, the city's port was used by the German Kriegsmarine as the main base for U-boats operating in the Mediterranean Sea, and as a consequence was heavily bombed by the Allied Forces.

Lerici | La Spezia Province

LERICI | LIGURIA REGION

lerici castello san giorgio

Lerici is a village along the Italian Riviera on the Bay of Lerici, also called the Gulf Pearl, which has recently become appreciated as a tourist center, though had always been a favorite destination for poets and writers, including Boccaccio, Petrarch, Shelley and Byron, D.H. Lawrence.

Percy Bysshe Shelley and his wife Mary lived about three miles north in an isolated old boat house called Villa Magni, and anchored their sailing boat in Lerici; the poet drowned on July 8, 1822 in the Bay of Spezia, returning to Lerici from a journey to Leghorn and Pisa, and he is buried in the English cemetery in Rome.

Its name comes from portus illycis, possibly derived from the Greek iliakos (that is, originary of Troy), leads to the theory that it was founded by refugees of the trojan war. This is confirmed by the similarity of the territory to the Trojan coast, and by the name of a bay, Venere Azzurra, dedicated to Venus, the goddess worshipped by the Trojans.

In Roman times Lerici was a minor center, but after the fall of the ROman empire in 476 AD and the rise of Genoa, Lerici became a war theatre for the strife between Genoa and Pisa.

In 1241 after the Giglio island battle, Pisa occupied the town, and changed it into a fortified harbor, but only 15 years later Genoa reconquered Lerici and the castle of San Giorgio was built. For a century, between 1396 and 1491, it was occupied by the French, who used it as a transit port. Then in the 17th and 18th centuries it grew in importance, and in the 19th century was very active in the movement for Italian unity.

Levanto | La Spezia Province

LEVANTO | LIGURIA REGION

levanto la spezia

Levanto lies on the sea, in a beautiful valley of olive trees and pines, and since the 1920's has been a fashionable resort, with guests as the Mussolini and Agnelli families.

All over the valley there are, hidden here and there, enchanting discoveries for the visitors: tiny colorful boroughs, watermills, chapels. The coastal waters facing Levanto are the center of the Marine Reserve Cinque Terre.

In Roman times there was a settlement called Ceula near present-day Montale, which has a strategic communication center. Under the Franks there was on the place a sighting tower, which was then transformed into the belltower of the Church of San Siro. In the late Middle Ages Levanto rose in importance, and was a fiefdom of the Malaspina family first, then passed to the Da Passano and in 1229 to the Genoa Republic. It was at the time a commercial center, well-known for the "Levanto red" marble, directly connecting the sea and Genoa to the Francigena road. In the 15th century there was a remarkable growth nearer to the sea, which was called the Borgo Nuovo.

WHAT TO SEE

  • The medieval castle, rising on a hill south of the town, whose original structure goes back to the 11th century, but was rebuilt in the 16th.
  • The church of Sant'Andrea, in the Ligurian Gothic style, with facade made of black and white bands and a rosewindow above the portal, preserving inside King Henry VIII's cup, shown to visitors only on the patron's feast. The huge cup, in solid silver, gold-plated and all finely chiseled, was made by Parisian goldsmith for Henry VIII Tutor, who, the story goes, lost it in a chess game to Giovanni Da Passano, lord of Levanto at the time.
  • The Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre, a favourite destination for hiking lovers.
  • On the highest spot of the promontory, the early-20th century Villa Agnelli with its magnificent gardens.

Lunigiana Area | Tuscany Region

LUNIGIANA AREA | TUSCANY REGION

lunigiana region map tuscany

Lunigiana is a historical region located in both Tuscany and Liguria, between the La Spezia and Massa-Carrara provinces. It owns its name to the city of Luni, an ancient Etruscan city, and then Roman colony in 177 BC. In the 5th century, the Lunigiana was robbed by the Vandals, and then by the Longobards of Rotari. At the end of the first millenium, the earl-bishops of Luni and the Malaspina family fought for the predominion of Lunigiana. The dispute was finally resolved on behalf of the Malaspina that started an hegemony on the region.

Today Lunigiana corresponds to the valley of the Magra River, thus it is administratively divided between two Provinces: La Spezia and Massa Carrara. However, in the past Lunigiana covered a bigger area represented by the diocese of Luni.

Thanks to its geographical features and to its strategic position, the Magra Valley has always been a natural corridor that has seen the passage of different peoples who have strongly influenced the history and organization of this territory. Lunigiana has featured a strong cultural identity since the Prehistoric Era, as witnessed by the popular Statue Stele, anthropomorphic stone statues dating back to the 4th-1st millennium B.C., kept at the Piagnaro Castle in Pontremoli.

The name “Lunigiana” was first used in 1141 to indicate a territory belonging to the Roman municipality of Luni and to its 35 Parish churches scattered around the Magra Valley, Serchio Valley and the coast as far as Versilia in the South and Levanto towards West. This territory is today referred to as “Lunigiana Storica” (Historical Lunigiana).

The Romans, who had defeated the Ligurian people living in this area, founded the city of Luni at the mouth of River Magra in 177 B.C.. Luni was very powerful especially during the Imperial time when they started to excavate the nearby marble quarries in Carrara. Thanks to the harbour these products could be shipped to all the territories belonging to the Empire. Also, the area was well connected already in the Republican Age thanks to an efficient road system. Unfortunately, the city experienced a productive and trade crisis in the 4th century due to the shutting down of the marble quarries and to the abandon of the harbour that became a marsh.

After the decay of Luni no other city or political power managed to give a unified administrative entity to Lunigiana again. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, during the barbarian invasions (6th-7th century), in Lunigiana Byzantines fought against the Longobards, therefore in this period many castles and fortifications were built. When the Longobards won, Lunigiana passed under the influence of Lucca that continued also during the rule of the Franks.

While Luni was suffering sackings by the Saracens and Normans, the Frankish dukedom was replaced by a Carolingian march, however no political change took place until the 10th century. The territory was organized according to the “curtes”, rural land properties that were the basis on which the following division into fiefdoms took place. These lands belonged mainly to rich families, in particular to the Obertenghi, but also to the Church and its bishops.

At the half of the 10th century the King of Italy Berengario II founded the Mark of Liguria Orientale (Eastern Liguria) ruled by the Earl Luni Oberto of the Obertenghi family. Lunigiana was included into this Mark so it was no longer under the influence of Lucca.

In the 10th-11th century, the territory was divided into numerous small land properties due to the crisis of the Italian Reign and to the absence of strong urban centres.

Therefore, in the 12th and 13th century Lunigiana experienced a political instability during which two political entities in contrast with one another emerged: the Malaspina family (part of the Obertenghi dinasty) on one side and the bishops of Luni on the other. They fought each other throughout the 13th century until the 1304 when they finally signed the Treaty of Castelnuovo in the presence of the poet Dante Alighieri (who was exiled in Lunigiana) as their solicitor.

With this treaty, the bishop of Luni maintained its rule over the coast and the lower Magra valley whereas all upper Lunigiana was assigned to the Malaspina who however were unable to create a unified fiefdom. The lands were in fact divided in two parts: the “Spino Secco”, ruled by Corrado Malaspina, included the lands on the right riverside of the Magra River whereas the “Spino Fiorito”, referring to Obizzo Malaspina, covered the left riverside with the exception of Villafranca. Pontremoli was the only town that was not subjected to the Malaspina rule and that acted as an independent Comune for centuries.

Throughout the Late Middle Ages Lunigiana was divided into smaller and smaller fiefdoms ruled by different foreign lords. Some popular characters of that time, such as Castruccio Castracani and Spinetta Malaspina, tried to unify the territory without any luck so in the 14th century Lunigiana was divided between the main cities of that period: Genoa, Milan, Lucca and Florence.

During the Modern Age Lunigiana continued to be a territory at the border of different municipalities and small fiefdoms ruled by the Malaspina. When Napoleon occupied Italy, the local fiefdoms had to pledge loyalty to the French Empire, but with the Vienna Congress Lunigiana was assigned again to the Italian dukedoms of Tuscany, Modena, Parma and Sardinia.

 

Muzzerone Climbing Area, La Spezia Province

MUZZERONE ROCK CLIMBING AREA | LIGURIA REGION

muzzarone

Great site just south of popular tourist destination of Cinque Terre (5 lands). The climbing is on good quality limestone that sits above the rocky coast of the Ligurian Sea. There are several small sectors, each with a few quality routes, I enjoyed the central wall and the Atlantide sectors. There are plenty of things to enjoy in the area and a few other climbing areas inland in case of poor weather.

MUZZERONE ROCK CLIMBING GUIDE

REGION Liguria
PROVINCE La Spezia
NEAREST CITY La Spezia

Rock Climb Italy, Muzzarone Climb Map

BEST TIME OF YEAR Spring and Fall
TYPE OF ROCK Limestone, pockets and columns
HEIGHT 200 meters
LENGTH OF ROPE 70 meters
EQUIPMENT  15 quick-draws
GUIDE BOOK  

There are several sectors to climb at each has a variety of difficulties and styles

 SECTORS

Rock Climb Italy, Muzzarone Sectors

1. PARETE CENTRALE
2. SPECCHIO and ATLANTIDE
3. GARIMPO
4 POLVERIERA and POLERIERA
5 CAJENNA
6 ORATORIO and PARETE STRIATA
7. MANDRACHIA

Pignone | La Spezia Province

PIGNONE | LIGURIA REGION

pignone la spezia

Located a few km from the Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre, Pignone is about 90 km from Genoa and 80 from Pisa. The Castellaro, on the hill facing the village, is an important site of the Bronze Age, related to the "people of the Swan", the ancient Ligurians. The legendary Cycnus, King of the Ligurian, was a friend of Phaeton, a son of Apollo, and for this reason was changed by Jupiter into a swan and placed among the stars, forming the Cygnus constellation.

Today Castellaro, accessible through two easy paths, is an area of great interest, subject to environmental protection for its delicate, complex karst system. On the site there are traces of dry stone walls from prehistory.

The medieval settlement rose on pre-existing Roman pagus, situated at the crossroads of two ancient roads, the former lading to Segesta, today's Sestri Levante, the other to Velleia in the province of Piacenza.

The history of the village of Pignone is connected to the Romanesque church of Santa Maria Assunta, surrounded by a fascinating maze of "carruggi" (=narrow alleys). The name appears in a bull by Eugene III in 1149; in 1252 Guglielmo, the bishop of Luni, gave Pignone to the powerful Fieschi di Lavagna family. Cardinal Luca Fieschi in February 1312 accompanied the young emperor Arrigo VII of Luxembourg, traveling to Rome to be crowned emperor, ant they stopped at Pignone.

During the Renaissance some remarkable buildings were erected, as those of the noble families Bordigoni and De Lucchini, and the loggia overlooking Piazza Marconi, under which in April 1465 the inhabitants of Pignone swore allegiance to the Duke of Milan, Francesco Sforza.

During the 16th century the original structure of the fortified village was changed with the creation of three access ways, of which today only one is extant, the door at the entrance of Ponte Vecchio, an unusual structure with a single stone arch, going back, according to some scholars, to the Roman age.

During the Napoleonic period the municipal seat was transferred to the nearby village of Casale, but with the advent of the Kingdom of Savoy in 1815 it was reinstated in Pignone.

Portovenere | La Spezia Province

PORTOVENERE | LIGURIA REGION

portovenere la spezia

Portovenere, with the Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto isles, and the towns of the Cinque Terre, belongs to an area of great beauty and uncontaminated landscapes which in 1997 was declared a UNESCO World heritage site.

The Palmaria island belongs to the comune of Portovenere, from which it is separated by a narrow strait "Le Bocche". On the island was a monastery in the early Middle Ages, where for a time stayed San venerio, the Gulf's patron; today it is a environmental oasis with rich Mediterranean vegetation and steep cliffs, connected to Portovenere by ferry.

WHAT TO SEE

  • The church of San Pietro, built in the ealy Christian centuries over the remains of a temple to Venus (the goddess that gives name to the place) rebuilt in 1256 by the Genoese as a reward for the help received in conquering Lerici.
  • The romanesque church of San Lorenzo, built by the Magistri Antelami in the early 12th century, in three naves, with arches supported by black marble columns.
  • The Palmaria island, which can be visited taking a ferry or boat, a paradise of Mediterranean vegetation, with fine grottos, ancient fortifications, quarries of Portoro marble (black with golden stripes), and crowded populations of royal gulls.
  • The Tino island, with remains of buildings of the 11th century AD, and the chapel built in the 7th century on the spot where the body of San venerio, born in Palmaria and a hermit on this island, was found. The island is a Military Area, and it is possible to visit only on the Saint's day, 13 september.
  • The Tinetto islet, with remains of an ancient oratorium of the 6th century AD and a larger monastery, destroyed in the 11th century by a Saracen raid. The island is also hope to a lizard that can be found only here, the pordacis muralis tinettoi.

Riomaggiore | La Spezia Province

RIOMAGGIORE | LIGURIA REGION

riomaggiore la spezia

Riomaggiore, situated in a small valley in the Riviera di Levante region, is the first of the Cinque Terre places one meets coming from La Spezia (the other four being Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso, all of them a UNESCO World Heritage Site) with its shoreline on the Gulf of Genoa, with a small beach and a wharf framed by tower houses.

Riomaggiore is the most southern town of the five Cinque Terre, all connected by rail or walking paths. The water and mountainside have been declared national parks (parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre). The town, dating from the late 12th century, is known for its historic character and its wine, produced by the local vineyards. The Via dell'Amore is a path connecting Riomaggiore to Manarola.

Manarola, administratively belonging to Riomaggiore, is the second town in the Cinque Terre from La Spezia. In the summer months, as in all the Cinque Terre, there is a dramatic increase in tourism. Manarola is the oldest of the Cinque terre, with a cornerstone of the church dating from 1160. There are other written references from roman times, that exalt the qualities of the fine wine from the region.

Sarzana | La Spezia Province

SARZANA | LIGURIA REGION

sarzana liguria

Sarzana, 15 km of La Spezia to the east of the Magra river, is the main center in Lunigiana, the area that takes its name from the ancient town of Luni. Apart from its rich historical past, and the wealth of monuments and art, Sarzana is also a modern town, a lively business and industrial center, famous for its glass-bottle factories.

The strategical position at the entrance to the valley of the Magra river, the boundary between Etruria and Liguria in Roman times, gave it military importance in the Middle Ages. In the Middle Ages it was mentioned in 983, and again in 1202 when the episcopal see was transferred here from the ancient Luni, 5 km southeast.

A branch of the Cadolingi di Borgonuovo family, lords of Fucecchio in Tuscany, which had acquired the name of Bonaparte, settled near Sarzana before 1264. In 1512 a member of the family moved to Ajaccio, and it seems he was the ancestor of Napoleon Buonaparte. Sarzana belonged first to Pisa, then to Florence, then to the Banco di San Giorgio of Genoa and from 1572 to the Republic of Genoa. In 1814 it was assigned to the Kingdom of Sardinia.

WHAT TO SEE IN SARZANA

  • The cathedral of white marble in the Gothic style, dating from 1355 but completed in 1474, contains two sculptured altars.
  • The Citadel, built by the Pisans, a massive fortress, demolished and rebuilt by Lorenzo de Medici, also known as Firmafede.
  • The castle of Sarzanello, built by condottiere Castruccio Castracani, whose tomb by the Pisan Giovanni di Balducci is in the church of San Francesco.
  • The Palazzo del Capitano originally designed by Giuliano da Maiano (1472), but later largely modified.

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