If there are two memories you’ll take away from Lunigiana in Italy, it’s mountains. And food. Tucked away at the northern tip of Tuscany, between the Appenines, the Apuan Alps and Liguria, Lunigiana really is off the beaten track.
Not many foreign tourists venture up here. It’s a bit of a journey from Lucca along the ancient Via Francigena to venture into this “land of 100 castles”. The small towns hidden amongst the forested valleys are mainly built from grey sandstone. But the locals know and love this part of Tuscany, especially for the food, views and fresh air during the summer. Autumn is also a special time to visit, for the porcini mushroom, and chestnut season.
The highlights of the Lunigiana Tuscany
Pontremoli is the main attraction of the Lunigiana, a picturesque small town crossed by a river, with some attractive buildings. It has a castle too; a legacy as a centre of trade and pilgrimage in Medieval times. The castle hosts the most interesting museum in the Lunigiana: the Museum of the Steli Lunigianesi which has some mysterious prehistoric statues and menhirs on exhibit.
A few kilometers from Pontremoli is the Romanesque Church of Sorano, near Filattiera, the most charming of Lunigiana’s churches.
Bagnone is one of the most attractive small towns in the area. It’s divided into two parts, the higher part literally clinging to the mountain side, and dominated by the castle with its cylindrical tower. The nearby castle of Castiglione del Terziere is another scenic spot.
Filetto is another place worth a visit. Every August there is a medieval festival and market here, and the nearby Romanesque Church of Codiponte. The scenic hilltop town of Fosdinovo is home to the beautiful Malaspina Castle.
Lunigiana is a perfect destination for an active holiday. Biking is popular, and many people come to walk the Via Francigena which passes through here. Castle connoisseurs will be happy as there are plenty dotted around the mountains. A few are done out as B&B’s and make for an authentic Medieval stayover.
What to eat when you are in Lunigiana
Food is something Lunigiana takes pride in, and sampling the local fare is an essential part of a visit to these parts. The culinary tradition differs a bit from the rest of Tuscany. Here you can try the ‘panigacci’ (flatbread used to accompany the local cheeses and cured meats). Or the ‘testaroli’ (puff pastry dressed with pesto or mushrooms sauce). Chestnut flour is the base for many of the local recipes.
Did you know?
There are more that 100 castles in this small area of Tuscany, Italy. Some are ruins, some are restored and used as museums or as tourist accommodation.
Don’t miss: A cooking course with a difference
The Ethnographic Museum of Villafranca. A museum hosted in an ancient mill. Stages demonstrations of ancient cooking techniques, and tastings of local produce.