The major sight in the Lunigiana area, Pontremoli is the perfect base from which to explore a different side of Tuscany. You’ll find intriguing prehistoric statues and some interesting architecture in the green enclave of the Magra Valley, not to mention the superb food this area is famous for.
On the northernmost point of Tuscany, Pontremoli was the “door to Tuscany” when in ancient times pilgrims, armies and merchants would travel along the Via Francigena. It was an important strategic area, torn by political conflicts. The town’s name comes from the Latin “Ponte tremulus”, (shaky bridge), referring to the bridge on the river Magra in Medieval time.
Pontremoli, Lunigiana – A town divided in two
Those busy and troubled times are visible today in the architecture: in the castle and the tower whose nickname is “Il Campanone” (the big bell). This tower was part of the stronghold built in 1322 by the Duke Castruccio Castracani to divide the city in two. It was his way of preventing the frequent and bloody clashes between the two political factions, the Guelphs and Ghibellines. In the 16th century the town didn’t have need of its defences any more, and the tower was restructured, given a dome and today is Pontremoli’s most beloved symbol.
In the centre of the town, pastel colours palaces, elegant colonnades and arches contrast with the severity of the stone edifices. After a walk around the two squares divided by the Campanone tower – Piazza delle Repubblica and Piazza Duomo – and a visit to the Cathedral, make your way to the Pignaro Castle that hosts the most fascinating museum of the Lunigiana.
What to see in Pontremoli, Tuscany
Museo delle Statue Stele Lunigianesi – Housed in the 14th-century Pignaro castle, this fascinating museum is a must for history buffs. It has a permanent exhibition of Iron age menhir statues, and casts of many others. These stylised depictions of men and women, the menhirs were created from the IV to the I millennium B.C.
Porta Parma – this gate is the main entrance to the city, and was built in the 18th century.
The Church of San Francesco – the highlight of this church that was completely redecorated in the 18th century is the marble bas-relief by Agostino di Duccio “Madonna and Child” (15th century)