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Aulla | Tuscany Region


aulla tuscany

Sulla is a small town in the Massa Carrara Province of the Tuscany Region, rich with cultural history it is now mostly forgotten by most visitors to Italy. Aulla was built to defend the bridges and roads leading into the region of Lucca, Liguria and to the Cisa Pass. During the years of the Via Francigena Aulla was the liveliest center in the Lunigiana.  Sitting at the confluence of the Magra river and its tributary the Aulella, Adalbert of Tuscany erected a castle, houses, storehouses for merchants and traders, and an abbey for hosting the pilgrims of the Via Francigena.

The historic center, which was almost entirely razed by World War II bombings, is the site of a marble fountain built in the year of Italian unity, a stretch of city walls with embrasures, and the palace that belonged to the Centuriones of Genoa, to the Malaspinas, and - finally - to the governors appointed by the duke of Modena. During the period of Modena’s dominion there remains the only notarial archives deposited by law in a commune: about two thousand volumes of documents drawn up in Modenese Lunigiana from the 15th through the 19th century.

Another totally unsuspected discovery is the Abbey of San Caprasio, with its archaeological digs, the monumental tomb of the saint, and the chapter hall that narrates the story of the abbey through the testimony of pilgrims, precious medieval sculptures, and many daily objects. Here, the visitor will meet the saint who inspired Provençal monasticism and was its spiritual guide, and see his relics, now preserved under the high altar, and the precious stuccowork reliquary in which they were kept. The relics were rediscovered a thousand years after they were hidden to protect them when the territory was invaded by the infidels who landed on the beach of Luni.  

High up on the Brunella hill stands the massive fortress ordered built by the Centuriones of Genoa; it may have been conceived by Giovanni delle Bande Nere, whose intention it was to make Aulla the capital of his seigneury. Today, the fortress is the home of the Museum of Natural History; in the park, planted by the English owners in the early 1900s, there is an interesting  botanical nature path.

In the surrounding area, Pallerone hosts a spectacular mechanical nativity scene in one tower of the Malaspina castle, open all year round; Bibola and Vecchietto regale the visitor with enthralling panoramas of the Apuans along the path of the Via  Francigena, a trail that can be walked from Aulla to Sarzana in six hours. Continuing along the Cisa state road toward Sarzana, you will find the sanctuary of the Madonna degli Angeli, a medieval hospice and retreat where you mayread the story a nobleman from Pontremoli who was saved by intercession of the Virgin from an attack by the highwaymen who terrorized the Strada delle Lame. The elegant hamlet of Caprigliola, with its mighty Medici walls and the medieval tower of the bishop-counts of Luni, rises on a hill that surveyed the Roman Via Aurelia, the Via Francigena, and the Way of Saint James. The remains of the Ponte della Bettola, hidden by the willows that grow in the bed of the Magra, was ordered built by Florence and the Bishop of Luni in the 15th century after the tragic drowning of a group of pilgrims on their way to Spain.

Bagnone | Tuscany Region


bagnone tuscany

Bagnone lies in the upper portion of the mountainous Lunigiana Region that is part of the Carrara Massa Province in Tuscany. Starting as a castle and its lands, Bagnone then became a vicariate of Florence in the 15th century. The town’s economy was primarily based on chestnut and sheep farming. Bagnone is an exciting tourist destination thanks in particular to its weekly market and large seasonal fairs. Today, the area’s economy is centered around agriculture production, primarily grapes and olives.

Bagnone was founded on a bend in the Bagnone torrent, which runs under the ancient village that grew up due to presence of the Malaspina castle. In the mid-1400s, the four ancient families of the village were joined by artisans and shopkeepers from Vico, Fornoli, Taponecco, Pontremoli, Pàstina, Merizzo, and Panicale. In 1428, from Malgrate, there arrived, “nude and now dressed,” the spice-seller Giovanni Antonio da Faye, the great and disenchanted chronicler of the Lunigiana of the 15th century. At his death, he was interred in Bagnone’s military chapel.

Bagnone soon became one of the four great marketplaces in the Magra valley: under its portico, a lively melee of sellers of fresh fruit and vegetables, merchants from the Parma area, butchers, tailors, cobblers - and of course, gamblers and moneylenders.

The beautiful parochial church of San Nicolò has a precious organ and a venerated relic of the Holy Cross, and with its stately facade dominates what may be defined as a classical Italian square, faced by the hall of justice, city hall, the schools, and the Palazzo dei Cortesini. The nearby Villa Quartieri stands in a large park; the square at the entrance is adorned by a large portico/monument to the fallen in all wars. Everything, including the recently restored theater, built during the Fascist era and now returned to its original function, pays mute homage to the consummate artistic skill of the stoneworkers of Lunigiana.

In Treschietto, the tower of Giovan Gasparo Malaspina, at the edge of a ravine, evokes the sly marchese who collected excommunications and death sentences, while in Jera we breathe the rarefied air of the mountains among producing chestnut groves and streams abounding in fish.  The water-driven mills of Vico and Corlaga still grind chestnuts into flour, while archaeological exploration in the environs has turned up the only post-medieval kiln ever discovered in Lunigiana, where testelli and earthenware were produced.

But the greatest surprise in the area is Castiglione del Terziere, seat of the Florentine captaincy, with its castle/palace brought back to life by Loris Jacopo Bononi, physician, poet, and writer, who collected some of the most precious testimony about the Lunigiana region: documents, antique books, valuable first editions, and handwritten manuscripts by men of letters and poets. Here is the legacy of centuries of culture in Lunigiana, of the incredible array of poets, writers, notaries, men of letters, military leaders, able politicians, and men of the cloth who lived at the most celebrated Italian courts and who exported the genius of this border land throughout the world.  

The church at the Pieve bears witness to the ancient ecclesiastical organization of the Diocese of Luni. The road from Collesino leads to the homes of Apella near Licciana, the homeland of the legendary Risorgimento hero Anacarsi Nardi, executed by firing squad with the Fratelli Bandiera.

Casola in Lunigiana | Tuscany Region


casola in lunigiana tuscany

Casola in Lunigiana is located in the Carrara Massa Province of Tuscany. Casola, from the roman "Casuli", is the entrance to the Parco delle Apuane in the Lunigiana. A very rich landscape of natural treasures, which is situated above a peak in the high course of the rivers Aulella and Tassonaro, in a key position which unifies the two mountain chains: the Apennine and the Alps in a border zone between the Lunigiana and the Garfagnana.

The origins of Casola are very ancient; its valleys were inhabited as far back as the Iron Age. In the 9th century, Casola was a possession of the Bishop of Luni; in 1306, by a treaty between the bishop and the Malaspinas, witnessed by Dante Alghieri, it came under the control of the great house of the Magra valley. In 1496, the population of Casola sided with Florence and became an important podesterate and trade center. Casola was crossed by the Via del Volto Santo, a major variant for pilgrimage and trade, as testified by the remains of the hospice at Tea. It was a well-traveled thoroughfare, already in use in Roman times, that united Lucca with the roads of the Magra valley bottom and the communications node of Aulla, with its powerful Abbey of San Caprasio.

The fortress was built around the 15th century near a castle that today shows only remains of a tower and walls. The ancient Palazzo comunale is the home of the Territorial Museum of the Aulella high valley, which tells the story of Lunigiana from the Palaeolithic to the present. Along the road linking Val di Magra to Garfagnana was built the Hospital of Tea, representing the place where traders and pilgrims stayed when they crossed Casola. The old town is well worth a visit and offers a variety of palaces, portals, medieval and renaissance shops. Nearby, you can visit the Codiponte and Offiano Parishes, the San Lorenzo Parish Church and the Sanctuary of Minucciano in Garfagnana and the wonderful villages of Regnano,

Comano | Tuscany Region


 comano tuscany

Common is a town in the province of Massa Carrara, and in the area of the Tuscany Region’s Lunigiana territory.  The area is well known for its green surroundings and mild climates.

Comano is mentioned in history for the first time in a document dated 938, when King Hugh of Provence gave the town and its castle to his wife Berta as a wedding gift. These lands always attracted the attention of the Este family, who selected Comano as their point of departure for extending their dominion into Lunigiana. The time of Countess Matilde, the brief dominion of Castruccio Castracani of the Antiminelli, and then the definitive rise of the Malaspinas: these are the milestones in the millenary civil and religious history of these valleys.
Another high point in the civil history of the area was construction of the castle built on the Groppo San Pietro, which in the Middle Ages played an important strategic role; the remains of the structure have unfortunately been dispersed with time.

Filattiera | Tuscany Region


Filattiera tuscany

The town of Filattiera extends for 48.97 square kilometres in a mountainous area, on the left side of the Magra, in the high Lunigiana. Located in the Massa Carrara Province of Tuscany's Lunigiana area. The name of the town, deriving from Fulacterion, a byzantine term indicating the defence fortresses in important strategic points, means the original time and the architecture.

In Filattiera, in the shade of the most elegant, striking parish church in all of Lunigiana, the meadows hide archaeological treasures that have already been studied and await only to be displayed and illustrated in the local museum. Exhibits will show how this plain has been inhabited without interruption from prehistoric times through the Roman era, the age of the Byzantines, and the great Middle Ages until Filattiera became the capital of the Malaspinas, who selected as their emblem the flowering blackthorn.

The parish church of Santo Stefano di Sorano, recently restored and reopened for worship, was built as a place of worship in the 6th century, near the great Byzantine defensive works on the site of a large Roman farmhouse (1st-3rd century) on the road that from Luni rose toward the Po valley. But even earlier, the Apuan Ligurians had installed their pantheon of stone idols, which were brought down by Christianity and the cultures of other peoples and ended up being used as simple stones for construction or as tombstones, as is the case of the female stele and Iron Age warrior on display inside the parish church.

The village that stands on the hill is typically medieval in plan, with its 13th-century castle and houses aligned along the ridge. In the southernmost portion there remains, isolated, the complex of the first medieval settlement with the military watchtower and small church of San Giorgio. This church preserves the most extraordinary epigraph of medieval Lunigiana: it recalls the meritorious deeds of an extraordinary man of the cloth, perhaps named Leodegar, who converted the inhabitants to Christianity, broke the pagan idols, built churches, and gave bread and repose to pilgrims along the Via Francigena.

For the pilgrims, the village built a hospice dedicated to Saint James, which still bears a beautiful marble bas-relief of the saint. At the upper door, on January 16th, the eve of the feast of Saint Anthony Abbot, the ancient rite of the purifying bonfire is still celebrated. An enormous pile of wood is ignited immediately following the blessing; a brand from the fire is carried into the stalls and coops to protect the farm animals, over whose well-being Saint Anthony holds vigil.

A short distance from the parish church, an ancient water-powered mill, still in working order, echoes the not so far-off past in which the wide plain, reclaimed from the river, was fertile and intensively cultivated farmland.

Near Filattiera, in the village of Ponticello, the medieval homes recall the difficult times when the inhabitants locked themselves and their harvests into tower-homes; their access doors, high up on the walls, were reached by ladders which were pulled up in case of danger. Between Ponticello and Caprio, the nobles of Pontremoli built elegant villas; toward the Appennines, the powerful Rocca Sigillina and Serravalle controlled important military and trade routes toward Parma.

Lost among these mountains are the ruins of an important military stronghold from the early Middle Ages: Montecastello, a 7th-century bastion that defended the valley from invaders from beyond the Appennines.

Fivizzano | Tuscany Region


fivizzano tuscany

Fivizzano is the largest town in the Lunigiana area of the Carrara Massa Province of Tuscany. Known as ‘the Florence of Lunigiana’, the city represented a typical Medici-ruled town that characterized the rule of Medici Family in the northern part of Tuscany (along with Pietrasanta and Barga). This is evident in the public, private and clerical buildings. It then became part of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany until 1844, when it was given to the Duchy of Modena, which ruled the city until the unification of Italy. In 1920, the city was partly destroyed by a great earthquake.

Visitors to the historical town centre will be able to see the wonderful remains of the city’s ancient walls, built by Cosimo I de’ Medici in 1540. These walls are of particular interest, similarly to the walls in Caprigliola. The city has two gates in the walls: the Modenese Gate and the Sarzanese or Fiorentino Gate. Thanks to its strategic position, Fivizzano became an important market place and its square became the social centre of the city. After the destruction of the earthquake in 1920 parts of the city were rebuilt.

It can be reached by taking the SS63 road, which goes from Aulla to the Cisa Pass and then towards Reggio Emilia. The first written evidence of the town is in a document that refers to the Castle of Verrucola - given by the emperor Henry V to Ugo d’Este in 1077. Originally called ‘Forum Verrucolae’, the town began as a market place ruled by feudal lords. When the Malaspina familyarrived, the town’s name changed to Forum Fivezzani and then in 1477 it became Fivizzano when the town became part of the Republic of Florence.

Fosdinovo | Tuscany Region


fosdinovo tuscany

Fosdinovo is located in the Carrara Massa Province of Tuscany.  As part of the Lunigiana area it has been a very old settlement that for centuries has dominated the Magra and the Luni plains. The atmosphere is one of borderlands: you can almost smell the sea without forgetting the mountains behind. Local cuisine is excellent and can be sampled in its many good restaurants.

The castle of Fosdinovo, the most frequently photographed in all of Lunigiana, is owned by the Marchesi Torrigiani-Malaspina and is always open for visits. The ancient 14th-century manor, on a square plan with round towers, has been much enlarged and restructured, as late as the 1700s, to adapt it to peacetime uses and the requirements of its owners. The castle is a unique venue for concerts, cultural events, and art exhibits. Dante’s visits to the Malaspina court are narrated within its walls, which also host a ghost said to appear in the rooms from time to time. The massive castle dominates the beautiful town, with its churches and oratories, home to precious works of art. The church of San Remigio and the marble tomb of Galeotto Malaspina are of special note. The atmosphere in the narrow streets of the village is that of a borderland suspended between the sea breezes and the mountain winds.

Il Gabellaccia Climbing Area, Carrara-Massa Province


Rock Cilmbing Italy, Gabellaccia Site

The Gabellaccia climbing site is located along the Genova to Livorno highway.  It is a large limestone wall that is still being developed.  When I visited a few years ago there were several good routes on quality rock, with plenty of additional space to expand.  The site sets well above the valley at 900 meters in a quite area. 


REGION Tuscany
PROVINCE Carrara-Massa
GEOGRAPHY Apennine Mountains
APPROACH TIME  20 minutes
ROCK  Limestone
HEIGHT  100 meters
RANGE OF GRADES  5 - 8c (50+ routes)


  • N.R.B.Q. 7a+
  • Sopravoliamo 6a
  • Nosfigatus 7c+
  • L'amico delgiaguaro 7b

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.


St Anna di Stazzema (Monte Lieto) Climbing Area, Carrara-Massa Province


Rock Climbing Italy, Monte Lieto

The Sant'Anna climbing area is an interesting place with a few walls about the town of S. Anna.  The rock is interesting and if you find yourself nearby and looking for somewhere different to relax, try the cliff.  Well protected and even though it sits at 800 meters elevation you can still climb if it rains or there is snow.


PROVINCE Carrara-Massa, Tuscany
Rock Climb Italy, St. Anna Stazzema Site
APPROACH TIME 20 minutes
ROCK Limestone
HEIGHT 30 meters
RANGE OF GRADES 4 - 7b (60 + routes)


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