Welcome to the Land of the Moon and 100 Castles
The historic region around the house, called the Lunigiana, has been inhabited since prehistory, with evidence being found in the caves of Equi Terme and Stele statues (human figures carved in stone and dating back to the third millennium BC), continuing to be discovered all over the region.
It takes its name from Luni, an ancient Etruscan city that became a Roman colony, the main urban centre on the northern Tuscan coast. The symbol of this ancient land is a crescent moon (luna in Italian).
The Lunigiana is a land rich in history and things to do: fascinating castles, Romanesque churches, medieval hamlets and streets, prehistoric stele statues, ancient pathways of the Via Francigena and refined works of art dating from different centuries. It’s a territory to be explored slowly, taking your time to appreciate every single nuance, savouring the local cuisine in typical food festivals.
Castles and Hamlets
The Lunigiana is often described as the region with the most castles in Italy, or the land of over 100 castles. In fact, during the Middle Ages, the area was dotted with 160 castles. Now, most of them are in ruins or private owned and closed to the public during most part of the year, but there are still a few ones worth a visit to get a sense of this ancient land: the Piagnaro Castle in Pontremoli, location of Stele Statues Museum, the Brunella Fortress in Aulla, site of Lunigiana Natural History Museum. More info on Terre di Lunigiana.
Museums and Romanesque Parish Churches
Unknown to the tourist mass, Lunigiana has more museums than one would expect. Besides the Stele Statues and Natural History museums, worth visiting are St Caprasio museum in the Abbey of same name in Aulla, Ethnographic Museum in Villafranca and the Museum of the Cultural Park of the Caves of Equi Terme. See also Ciao Lunigiana museums page.
Well worth a stop on your way between one museum and another, are the two Romanesque parish churches in Sorano and Codiponte
The Via Francigena
Lunigiana lies on the Via Francigena, an ancient road and pilgrim route from Canterbury to Rome, and the region has a long history of hospitality to pilgrims.
Today, you can still hike over many stretches of the route, in the footsteps of the pilgrims and medieval merchants, on a journey through history, art and the traditional food of the of this ancient region.
Nature and Natural Parks
Lunigiana is an hilly region delimitated by northern Apennines mountains and the “marble mountains” Apuan Alps. Parts of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennine National Park and the Apuane Alps Park fall within Lunigiana.
The Magra river and its many affluents offer well preserved fluvial environments and often create stunning landscapes with cascades and small canyons.
It is a mainly wooded area with some agriculture and very little industry. Pollution is almost nonexistent. Its landscape offers acacia and chestnut woods, high pastures, vineyards and olive groves.
The terrain makes the area ideal for outdoor sports such as hiking, cycling, and horse riding. Don’t miss a visit to marble quarries in Carrara: it will be an unique experience.
The Tyrrhenian Coast is just at 20 minute drive from the house, offering wide and sandy beaches on the Tuscany side (from Marina di Carrara to Forte dei Marmi) and rocky coves on the Ligurian side (Gulf of Poets and Cinque Terre),
Forte dei Marmi is one of the best known tourist destinations in Italy. Famous for its elite tourism and great nightlife, the town has peculiar pinewoods, tree-lined streets, villas with large gardens and a long, sandy beach with shallow waters.
On the Ligurian side, the gulf around the town of La Spezia, loved by 19th century poets Byron and Shelley – hence the name Gulf of Poets, offers Lerici and Portovenere medieval hamlets on the sea, green hills and crystal clear blue waters. Don’t miss a visit to St. Peter Church in Portovenere or to the castle of Lerici.
To the west of Gulf of Poets, five tiny villages perched between the sea and steep coastal hills form the Cinque Terre (five lands in Italian), which recently become a National Park and a UNESCO protected territory.
Food and Wine
Like in every other part of Italy, gastronomy plays a central role in Lunigiana culture. Traditional local cuisine consists of simple ingredients, mostly vegetables, mushrooms, fowls and courtyard animals.
Testaroli is the distinctive Lunigiana food. You can’t find it in any other part of Italy. They are made from a batter of wheat flour, water and salt which is cooked in oven in large cast iron pans with lids. They form a sort of savory pancake which is then boiled and cut up into small chunks and is usually served with Pestoor mushroom sauce. Panigacci are made by the same ingredients but cooked in clay dishes warmed up over an open fire and served as hot crispy pancakes which you can fill with a soft Stracchino cheese or various types of salami. Focaccette are similar to Panigacci but made with a mixture of wheat and corn flour.
Torta d’erbi (herbs pie) is a typical local savory pie made with a base of very light pastry filled with herbs (chicory, borage, watercress, nettle, valerian, poppy seeds, sow-thistle, burnet, essentially every herb that is not too bitter) and baked in a wood oven.
Wine is a large part of italian culture and Lunigiana makes no exception. Almost every family grows grapes and proudly makes its own wine. Commercial brands are mainly Colli Di Luni DOC or Toscana IGT and Candia dei Colli Apuani DOC. The Cinque Terre produce pleasant dessert wines such as Sciacchetrà.
Guided tours, for individuals and groups, are available at Turismo in Lunigiana