fbpx
loader image

Pontremoli

 

“Contribuì generosamente alla guerra di liberazione con la partecipazione di molti suoi giovani ai primi nuclei partigiani, offrendo splendido esempio di spirito di sacrificio ed elette virtù civiche.” (1940 – 1945)

Pontremoli
Info icon

Pontremoli, defined as the “door” as well as the “key” of communications between Tuscany and Lombardy, is a municipality in the province of Massa-Carrara, in Tuscany. It’s located at the northern end of Lunigiana and it’s the historical capital of this region. The town is a dream, a woody fortress surrounded by medieval fortifications, all close to the Ligurian and Tuscan-Emilian Apennines. Thanks to these features Pontremoli has been awarded the name of “Città dalle Altissime Torri” (“City with High Towers”), archaeological sites of remarkable prehistoric interest, suggestive places which are renowned for their exquisite culinary specialities.

With its ancient name, the town is also remembered as a place of rest along the Via Francigena, the itinerary covered by Sigeric, Archbishop of Canterbury, when returning from his pilgrimage to Rome.

Pontremoli is also the northernmost municipality of Tuscany: it’s located in the upper valley of the Magra river, at the confluence with the Verde, in a basin framed by green and lush hills. Immediately close to the homonymous Verde Valley, we find the treasures of the Magra Valley, the Gordana Valley and the Teglia Valley. There are many smaller villages and hamlets scattered among its numerous escarpments and waterfalls, such as Guinadi, Vignola, Cervara, Prà del Prete and Farfarà, Traverde, Braia, characterised by the typical houses with “piagne” (sandstone tiles) roofs.

Pontremoli, which has important road infrastructures – the A15 motorway and Pontremoli’s railway line, directly linked to Parma and La Spezia – and is located on one of the oldest routes that connect the Val Padana with Liguria and Tuscany, is home to a large historic centre, characterised by the unmistakable sound of the Campanone, the evocative Castle of Piagnaro, the Museum of the Stele Statues, the festival of the prestigious Bancarella Award, which has earned it the name of “Città del Libro” (“City of Books”). In August, Pontremoli becomes the scene of Medievalis, a historical re-enactment attracting thousands of tourists from all over Italy and beyond.

Pontremoli, defined as the “door” as well as the “key” of communications between Tuscany and Lombardy, is a municipality in the province of Massa-Carrara, in Tuscany. It’s located at the northern end of Lunigiana and it’s the historical capital of this region. The town is a dream, a woody fortress surrounded by medieval fortifications, all close to the Ligurian and Tuscan-Emilian Apennines. Thanks to these features Pontremoli has been awarded the name of “Città dalle Altissime Torri” (“City with High Towers”), archaeological sites of remarkable prehistoric interest, suggestive places which are renowned for their exquisite culinary specialities.

With its ancient name, the town is also remembered as a place of rest along the Via Francigena, the itinerary covered by Sigeric, Archbishop of Canterbury, when returning from his pilgrimage to Rome.

Pontremoli

Pontremoli is also the northernmost municipality of Tuscany: it’s located in the upper valley of the Magra river, at the confluence with the Verde, in a basin framed by green and lush hills. Immediately close to the homonymous Verde Valley, we find the treasures of the Magra Valley, the Gordana Valley and the Teglia Valley. There are many smaller villages and hamlets scattered among its numerous escarpments and waterfalls, such as Guinadi, Vignola, Cervara, Prà del Prete and Farfarà, Traverde, Braia, characterised by the typical houses with “piagne” (sandstone tiles) roofs.

Pontremoli, which has important road infrastructures – the A15 motorway and Pontremoli’s railway line, directly linked to Parma and La Spezia – and is located on one of the oldest routes that connect the Val Padana with Liguria and Tuscany, is home to a large historic centre, characterised by the unmistakable sound of the Campanone, the evocative Castle of Piagnaro, the Museum of the Stele Statues, the festival of the prestigious Bancarella Award, which has earned it the name of “Città del Libro” (“City of Books”). In August, Pontremoli becomes the scene of Medievalis, a historical re-enactment attracting thousands of tourists from all over Italy and beyond.

Food & Wine

Lunigiana, which is proud to be called “Land of Ancient Flavours”, is always ready to share its great food and wine heritage with tourists. These recipes are rooted in the humble choice of simple ingredients, they are the result of the agricultural and bucolic activities of local people.

The dishes, in the case of Pontremoli specifically, are designed to warm your body and soul in winter and, like in the past, they are mostly cooked in the wood-burning ovens or in the testi, which can be found in every house. When we talk of unique dishes that are the result of the wise relationship between man and nature, wild herbs have a great importance: they are an essential element of the exquisite herb cake, with chard, pecorino cheese and eggs, and they can be used as fillings in the first courses. The simple combination of water, flour and salt gives life to testaroli and panigacci, which are often accompanied by cold cuts and cheese –  the delicious culatello, fillet, the mortadella of Lunigiana; alternatively, they can be seasoned with pesto or mushroom sauce.

Testaroli are a typical product of Pontremoli, a Slow Food presidium, and takes their name from the first stage of cooking that occurs precisely in the testi, round metal or terracotta tiles, placed directly on the embers. The dough, which at first is almost liquid, is poured into the container up to half a centimetre and cooked for about ten minutes into the closed container. The secret of the tastiness of the testarolo lies precisely in the cooking method using the testo. It tastes heavenly if cut into a diamond shape and covered by a generous amount of Genoese pesto, which in some cases is prepared with pestle and mortar. According to the chronicles, panigacci are originally from Podenzana. Unlike the softer testaroli, they are a thin type of focaccia that can be accompanied by fresh cheese and local cold cuts.

Another great protagonist is the chestnut. This small fruit of the woods is the big boss in many recipes and it can also be included in the form of processed flour: we find it in the form of pasta, with the gnocchi of chestnut flour, or the tortelli with chestnuts and ricotta, in the desserts, with the chestnut cake enriched with kernels of walnuts and raisins, or the sweet pancakes, and even in the bread category, with the Marocca di Casola among the most famous types. Dry/in oil porcini mushrooms or stuffed mushrooms, very fragrant and perfectly cooked in the traditional testi, are some of the typical specialities offered by the best restaurants in town and surroundings. Pappardelle with rabbit sauce, cabbage or legume soups, rich and steaming spelt soups, or the light “tritolata”, made with elongated pasta and seasoned with oil and cheese, are superb first courses that satisfy your palate as well as your eyes.

Among the second courses that greatly stand out, the roasted Zeri lamb with potatoes and stockfish with polenta. As if polenta by itself is not enough, it can be served with rabbit and wild boar, the latter rigorously browned in abundant red wine. Don’t miss the Tuscan pork loin cooked in a pot and flavoured with chopped garlic, fennel seeds and rosemary.

Tripe  with tomatoes, pork escalopes with mushrooms and many dishes based on game and classic pork products such as the Colonnata lard, aged in marble tanks, enrich the tables of the town’s taverns. The green gold of these lands, PDO classified, is no less than the highly sought-after local extra virgin olive oil. The same goes for the honey, which has been recognised as a product of protected origin for a long time. When it comes to desserts, we cannot fail to mention the fragrant Amor pontremolesi, consisting of  wafers filled with creamy vanilla, the dry almond cake, the spongata of Pontremoli, a traditional dessert made with chocolate, honey, hazelnuts, raisins and cinnamon, not to be confused with that of Sarzana. And now to the highlight: 100% DOC, the wines produced by the farmers come from the native vines on the hills of Candia and from the Plain of Luni. There are the white ones with their fresh aroma and the red ones, with a full-bodied flavour, all PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) classified, as an alternative to the DOC designation. The grapes used are Arbarola, Trebbiano, Pollera, Ciliegiolo and Merlot, for the rosé version. The commitment of the families who have been involved in the production of wine for generations on end and the meticulous care during the winemaking  process give life to products of superior quality that are almost alien to the industrial type of production.

Accommodation, tourism and events

On Wednesdays and Saturdays, from April to October, be ready to visit the historic center, the villas and the wonders of the town, following the guides of “Pontremoli Segreta” (“Secret Pontremoli”): a special tour for groups and families. The starting point is Piazza Duomo, in front of the tourist info point. In this same period, don’t miss “Cycle and Taste in Lunigiana”, where you can taste the zero miles food of this rich land along secondary roads with little traffic. Here, again, you will be accompanied by specialised guides and you will be able to enjoy the cycling route using power assisted bicycles.

Stretti di Giaredo Adventure” will take you to the wonderful canyons carved by the Gordana stream, through a journey filled wild nature and fun. You need to know how to swim and you also have to bring the right gear, so that you can explore the ravines in complete safety.  Authorised guides are guaranteed, you will be provided with suit, helmet and lifejacket. River trekking, which is part of the experience, awaits you every Thursday and Saturday. The festival of the patron saint, Saint Geminianus, with the lighting of traditional bonfires, is held in January.

Firemen are in charge of the lighting of the fire, just as in the Bonfire of San Niccolò, which is usually held  two weeks prior to the St. Geminianus festival and includes the so-called Challenge of the Bonfires. The festival is organised by the Pro Loco of Pontremoli in collaboration with the Municipality. On the third Sunday of the month, every January, March, June, July and December, don’t miss the traditional antique festival. Between the end of June and the beginning of July, the St. Peter Festival, which has been celebrated for over 50 years, is waiting for you. Originally, it was the festival of livestock; since 1994, it has become an occasion that brings together young people, with street artists and concerts playing a major role in the event.

There will be no shortage of excellent local culinary products, with special and custom-made food stands. Fireworks conclude the event. The St. Peter festival is organised by the cultural association San Pedar. The celebration of Our Lady of the People takes place in July, with a solemn procession through the streets of Pontremoli in memory of the promise made to the Lady, who in the 17th century saved the town from the plague. Our Lady of the People is also the patron saint of the town and vicariate of Pontremoli. In recent years, this celebration has been associated to the diocesan festival dedicated to priests and deacons. The famous Premio Bancarella (“Bookstall Award”) is a literary event born in 1953; it honours the history of Pontremoli and beyond, and takes place every year on the second Sunday of July. In some periods of the year there are also the “Bancarellino”, for children, the “Bancarella Sport”, dedicated to sport books, and the “Bancarella Cucina”. The award ceremony comes from the tradition of Pontremoli’s peddlers, who met in spring at the Cisa Pass, on the ancient Via Francigena: among them, there were booksellers. The story of the booksellers of Pontremoli and Lunigiana is enveloped in mystery; what is certainly true is that today many bookstores in northern and central Italy are still managed by people who emigrated from Pontremoli; their surnames are easily recognisable.

Another event not to be missed is Medievalis, which evokes Frederick II’s arrival to Pontremoli. During the celebrations in a town that provides the ideal setting, there are conferences, handicraft stalls, a special reenactment of a process to a heretic, shows and remakes of ancient workshops of the period, art exhibitions by the students of the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence. On this occasion, the castle is decorated accordingly. There are also archery and medieval fencing lessons, as well as numerous culinary offers by the restaurants of the town centre.

How to get here

BY AIR

The airports of reference are the Galileo Galilei in Pisa, about a hundred kilometres from the town, and the Vespucci in Florence, a little over a hundred kilometres from it. From major terminals such as Malpensa, Orio and Linate, connections to Milan, which is an obligatory stop, are guaranteed by the shuttle service and shuttle bus. From the Central Station of Milan, you can comfortably continue your journey by train, making sure to change train in Parma; from there, proceed on the regional train until you reach your destination.

BY LAND

From the big cities of the North, drive along the motorway “del SoleA1 and connect to the motorway A15 Parma-La Spezia; exit at the designated tollbooth. If you are coming from neighbouring areas, you can reach  Pontremoli through the State Highway 62 of Cisa. From the South, you can take the A1 motorway in the direction of Florence, then follow the direction of Livorno and continue on the A11 motorway; once in Viareggio, follow the direction of Genoa, continuing on the A12 motorway towards Parma and then on the A15, continue the route as mentioned above. The railway station of Pontremoli is located along the Parma-La Spezia line, served by numerous regional trains. It is also known as Pontremoli line, precisely because Pontremoli is the most important centre of this railway.

How to get around

Pontremoli is located in the northernmost part of Tuscany and has got good transport services, well served on every front. The tourist offer is enriched by a myriad of medieval hamlets dotting the valleys of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines, each of them with its own traditions, and by the presence of passes of considerable importance for local tourism. Among the major ones we should mention the Brattello Pass, Cisa Pass, Borgallo Pass and Cirone Pass.

The town has got a happy location: the distance from the bays of Lerici as well as from the snowy passes of Zeri is minimal. The fortified town welcomes us with its many noble and historical dwellings, which in the past were the residence of wealthy and prestigious families. The houses, mostly masonry constructions, are rustic and solid, just like many years ago, when the original inhabitants built them. They are not far from the walls that surround the town.

You can enter Pontremoli from Porta Parma, although the historic centre can be reached via the Cresa bridge, in the upper part of the town. There are two ways to explore Pontremoli: you can go up or down, and depending on your choice you will see the landscape from different angles. Going up, you will reach the church of San Geminiano and the village of Piagnaro, home to the Piagnaro Castle, which dominates the entire town. Inside this fortified construction, there’s the Lunigiana Stele Statues Museum, which we will talk about in detail later. Having admired the hilly landscape from the bastions, you must absolutely visit the aforementioned historic centre, walking through Porta Parma and therefore reaching Piazza del Duomo, with the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Popolo, the most important religious building in town. It’s richly decorated in Baroque style and it faces the bishop’s palace. Going down from there, you will realise that Pontremoli is formed by a lower part, called Imoborgo, which is distinct and separate from the upper part, the Sommoborgo. The Sommoborgo houses the historic centre, and the two areas are separated by a large central space designated as a marketplace; this explains why there are two main squares in the town, Piazza Duomo in the upper part, and Piazza della Repubblica in the lower part, with the offices of the Town Hall; they are joined by a narrow passage near the magnificent tower of Cacciaguerra, one of the symbols of the town.

Continuing along the Imoborgo, you will reach Via Cavour, a narrow and cobbled street which leads to the evocative Torre dei Seratti or Casotto. This tower, together with the nearby bridge of San Francesco di Sotto, appears in the coat of arms of the town. Through the recently built Giubileo bridge, you can reach the district of Santa Cristina and Via Mazzini. While you enjoy an ice cream or an Amor of Pontremoli, you can admire the imposing buildings and the Accademia della Rosa Theatre, built in the 18th century and the oldest in the province, standing silently as a backdrop. Even though they aren’t normally open to the public, the church of Nostra Donna and the Dosi Magnavacca Palace are absolutely worth a visit.

The former is a wonderful example of Pontremoli’s Baroque, while the latter, currently a private property, is a prestigious dwelling from the 18th century. In Pontremoli, urban and extra-urban transport is provided by the CAT company, which connects the town to the other cities of Lunigiana, Massa and Carrara and La Spezia. There are several pay and display parking spots.

A bit of history…

The whole history of Pontremoli is closely connected to the commercial activities of the Via Francigena, which was also a reference point for religious institutions, such as Lena and Bobbio, and for knightly orders, such as the Tau of Altopascio. Important noble families, especially the Malaspina, but also the Antelminelli, the Fieschi and the Sforza,  courted this fairy-tale place. The village, defined by Emperor Frederick II as “clavis et ianuae Tusciae”, which means the northern gate of Lombard Tuscia, was initially built around the castle of Piagnaro, on Mount Molinatico, a castle whose origin dates back to the Lombards.

The hypothesis that Pontremoli may correspond to the legendary Apua, capital of the Apuan Ligurians, is very well-founded – other currents of thought place it near the hamlet of Belvedere di Saliceto, along the course of the Magra river, about 3 kilometres from the town centre. The town of Pontremoli, a lively and prosperous place, was mentioned for the first time in the travel diary of Sigeric, archbishop of Canterbury, around 990 AD: as a matter of fact, in the Middle Ages, the town grew considerably thanks to the Via Francigena and to the exchange of activities with Lunigiana… the Via Francigena passed through Pons Tremulus in the direction of the Cisa Pass and Lunigiana provided the inhabitants with everything they needed.

The increase in traffic on the Cisa road also played a key role in the expansion of the town. After the year 1000, the urban expansion gave the village a different configuration, with an elongated shape. The territory stretched up to the narrow strip of land at the confluence of the Verde and Magra rivers. In this period, Pontremoli was divided into parishes, many of which were under the control of the diocese of Luni, and was surrounded by walls and defended by six tall towers and by fortresses, such as Piagnaro, Cacciaguerra, Castelnuovo, built to defend and control the routes of Lunigiana. There were seven gates to enter the town, but only four of them have survived, namely Porta Parma, in the upper part, Porta Verde, near the Romanesque humpback bridge of San Francesco di Sotto, Porta Castelnuovo and Porta di Imoborgo, near the Seratti tower and the arch bridge of San Francesco di Sopra. Gradually, the town made alliances with Parma and Piacenza and, contrary to the rest of Lunigiana, it was in conflict with the Malaspina marquises, lords of the neighbouring territories, for the control of the borders but also of the town itself. Pontremoli claimed to be a free Municipality and, being allied with the towns of the Lombard League, in 1167 it took position against the arrival of Frederick Barbarossa, who was returning from the expedition in Rome against Alexander III.

In the 14th century, the deep internal struggles between Guelphs and Ghibellines forced Castruccio Castracani, lord of the town at the time, to divide Pontremoli into two parts: in the upper village or Sommoborgo there were the Guelphs, who were loyal to the Pope, while in the lower village or Imoborgo there were the Ghibellines, supporters of the emperor and of the Malaspina. These conflicts, together with the attacks of the neighbouring states, forced the beautiful Pontremoli to capitulate and submit itself to a long series of Italian and foreign lordships, from the Fieschi to the aforementioned Castruccio, passing through the Red Counts of Parma and the Scaligeri, the Visconti and the Sforza, and then falling under the supremacy of the kings of France, from Charles V to the kings of Spain and the Republic of Genoa. In 1650, Pontremoli became part of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and rediscovered itself as a virtuous town during a period of political stability and prosperous trade. It was embellished with noble buildings, villas, statues, architectural masterpieces, churches and the Teatro della Rosa: it was the period of “Pontremoli’s Baroque”.

In 1787, Pontremoli was designated as Episcopal See by Pius VI. At the beginning of the 1800s, the arrival of the Napoleonic troops brought about the end of the first grand-ducal period and, after the Restoration, Pontremoli returned under the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, eventually passing under the Duchy of Parma, following the implementation of the Treaty of Florence of 28 November 1844; it remained under this same Duchy until the Unification of Italy. During this period, Pontremoli was one of the administrative centres of the Parma States, and it included Zeri, Mulazzo, Villafranca, Bagnone and Filattiera. Today, Pontremoli is among the Cities to have been awarded the medal of Military Valour for the War of Liberation, as a result of its contribution to the partisan fights during the Second World War. The town is a sophisticated cultural centre at the intersection of three distinct regions, a place of legends and myths about werewolves and ghosts. But above all, it’s home to the exquisite testaroli.

Nature

The secret paths immersed in nature, their views among oak trees, chestnut woods and medieval bridges, and the unique characteristics of Lunigiana, which distinctly recall bygone eras, are those elements that, every year, reinvigorate the enthusiasm of adults and children alike.

The valley of Pontremoli is crossed by the Magra river, with its tributaries Marigola and Civasola, and by the Verde stream, which offers places where you can swim or admire small waterfalls. The presence of these watercourses, which proceed undisturbed towards the sea, makes the climate cool even during the summer months. The entire vast municipal territory of Pontremoli is rich of waterways and develops in a fan-like pattern along the Apennine ridge on the border with the Parma area, to which it’s linked via the aforementioned passes. Majestic waterfalls and quaint landscapes, which are almost uncontaminated, give life to breathtaking views; to realise that, you just have to go to Piscio di Pracchiola, a waterfall of about 30 metres along the first section of the Magra river, which can be reached on foot from the homonymous village in forty minutes.

From Cervara you can reach Lago Verde and the Farfarà waterfall. Perhaps, the most suggestive panoramic point on water is located along the Gordana stream, near the Straits of Giaredo, small canyons which have been excavated over the centuries. The valley of the Gordana stream is entirely located within the westernmost part of the municipal territory, and guards the hamlets of Dozzano and Scorano, as well as the 18th century Villa Pavesi-Negri, with its picturesque “Italian style” garden, which is worthy of remark. There are many routes where you can test yourself with trekking, getting to know the differents legs of the Alta Via Francigena up to Valdantena, or from the Cisa Pass to Pontremoli, immersed, at a thousand metres of altitude, in the nature of Righetto, where a steep downhill path ends right in Groppoli, following a modern variant of the pilgrims’ itinerary. One of the main attractions for walkers is the medieval bridge over the Magra in Groppodalosio. The territory is also crossed by the paths of the Grande Escursione Appenninica – “Great Apennine Excursion” (GEA), which overlap with those of Lunigiana Trekking. It’s possible to partially venture into them, with the necessary precautions, by mountain bike and on horseback on the designated dirt roads. Nowadays the Via Francigena, covering more than a hundred kilometres and being a crucial route for the development of Pontremoli as well as of its satellite villages and recognised as a cultural itinerary by the Council of Europe (on a par with the Camino de Santiago), is travelled by an increasingly larger number of young pilgrims, young and passionate walkers who follow in the footsteps of the Archbishop Sigeric. They walk uphill paths and mule tracks and, at night, they find accommodation in the facilities scattered nearby.

The Taro valley, located between the Magra and Vara valleys, within the province of the nearby Parma, is famous for its chestnut and beech woods and it’s home to lavish porcini mushrooms. Mushrooms are the protagonists of the itinerary dedicated to the tasting of typical themed dishes: the Strada del fungo porcino IGP (“Road of PGI porcini mushrooms”) in Borgotaro. The Taro Valley is also appreciated for its many itineraries in the countryside, which are also suitable for cycling excursions. The Ghirardi Regional Nature Reserve and WWF Oasis, a protected  and particularly wild part of the Apennines, awaits you to melt your heart. Not far away, the Via degli Abati crosses part of the provincial area of Pavia and the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines in the provinces of Piacenza, Parma, Massa Carrara, reaching also the municipalities of Bardi and Borgotaro. It’s a slightly more challenging variant compared to the usual Via Francigena but the scenery is surely impactful; originally it was travelled by the monks of Bobbio Abbey. From Pontremoli, you can easily reach the Regional Park of the Cedra and Parma Valleys, better known as the Parco dei Cento Laghi, in the eastern part of the Parma Apennines, on the border with the provinces of Reggio Emilia and Massa-Carrara; this is another highly important protected area delimited by pastures, meadows in bloom and ridges covered with thick forests.  In Cento Laghi there is no shortage of ecosystems that are fundamental for the local fauna, which includes rare species such as the Apennine wolf and the golden eagle. At lower altitudes, Parmesan is produced and you come across the farms where Prosciutto di Parma has still got that same genuine taste of the past.

On one side, from the Ligurian Apennines, you can easily reach fascinating landscapes such as the Cinque Terre and the Gulf of Poets, the Apuan Alps, while on the other side, in Tuscany, Versilia, Pisa, Lucca and the area of Florence will welcome you into a wonderful treasure chest full of history and culture. Last but not least, the municipality of Zeri in the province of Massa-Carrara, and specifically the ski resort of Zum Zeri at the Passo Due Santi, a border between regions, awaits you in winter with everything you need for a snowy holiday.

Luoghi d'interesse

Characterised by a masterful white facade and built where the first church of the knightly order of the Knights of Malta once stood, called Santa Maria di Piazza, the Cathedral of the town or Cathedral of Santa Maria del Popolo can be considered a relatively modern building in regard to the town and the context in which it is located. It was built to pay homage to “Saint Mary”, who is thought to have saved the population from the plague that broke out around the middle of the 1600s.

The details are refined and of clear baroque style – characterised by many decorations in gold, especially inside –, and the church has a Latin cross plan. The magnificent Madonna del Popolo (“Our Lady of the People”), the fulcrum and origin of this cathedral, can be admired in the niche placed above the main altar. The sober Teatro della Rosa was a project conceived by the homonymous Academy, which was founded by numerous noble families of Pontremoli and whose motto was “pungit et delectat”. The theatre, whose construction works began in 1739, was first open in the 1770’s. The building is a typical example of the architecture of the period and it’s the oldest in the province; masterminds such as Giovan Battista Natali, Antonio and Niccolò Contestabili contributed to its construction. Having been restored in more recent times, it officially reopened on June 9th, 2001.

Pontremoli, apart from encapsulating buildings, churches and an incredible amount of masterpieces that have earned it a unique artistic style, mainly owes its fame to… the bridges. Let’s look at the two most important ones. The Cresa Bridge, also known as Ponte di San Francesco di Sopra, dating back to 1300, stands out on the course of the Verde river with its stony structure and four symmetrical arches. It was once the main entrance to the town for travellers coming from Piacenza. Contemporary to the Cresa, another important bridge at the southern end of Pontremoli is the Casotto together with its tower, also known as “Torre Seratti”; they are  two of the oldest symbols of Pontremoli and they are also featured in the coat of arms of the town. The bridge is at the confluence of the two rivers, and it once allowed the exchange of communications with the coast. The enormous and iconic Castle of Piagnaro, a fortress within the town, was built at the beginning of the 11th century as a defensive structure to be integrated with the system of walls and tall towers of the village. Its function was also to control the road. It owes its name to the technique used to cover the roof, employing the “piagne”, irregular sandstone slabs extracted from the surrounding mountains and traditionally very common in Lunigiana. Over the centuries, the keep, the central built unit, has been remodeled several times.

Once the location of the barracks, the fortified tower, supported by mighty bastions, has a semi-elliptical shape and is about twenty metres high. From it, you can enjoy the best views of the town. Below the keep there is a quadrilateral courtyard, which is limited to the west by a late medieval walled curtain and to the southern and eastern sides by a large building, which is an amalgamation of several different structures. Located even lower, there is a second courtyard, which can be accessed through a ramp with a portal on top. The main entrance is located on the lower floor; it was once equipped with a drawbridge and it bore the coat of arms of the Medici family.

Since 1975, the stronghold has housed the “Augusto Cesare Ambrosi” Lunigiana Stele Statues Museum; these characteristic statues are anthropomorphic sandstone sculptures, dating from the 4th to the 1st millennium BC, which were found in the territory of the Magra valley. Since June 2015, the museum has been expanded with new acquisitions and multimedia materials. In the historic centre of the town, between the Duomo and Repubblica squares, Pontremoli is guarded by the Campanone, or Cacciaguerra tower, which was built when the “curtain” separated the two rival factions of the small town. If we look closely, we discover that it was built in 1322 at the behest of Castruccio Castracani degli Antelminelli, becoming the central part of a fortress called “Cacciaguerra”. Today, it’s the civic tower of Pontremoli.

The Augustinian convent of Santissima Annunziata, with its church, concludes the tour of the most famous buildings in the town. Located in the homonymous area just outside Pontremoli, the whole complex was built towards the end of the 15th century on the site of a Marian apparition to a shepherdess. It’s the most important 15th century heritage in the province of Massa Carrara and, like the Piagnaro, it oversees the route of the ancient Via Francigena. The Church, with a single nave inside, has got a stone staircase that leads to the apse and presbyter and shows late Gothic patterns mixed with Renaissance elements. Outside the Church, there is the access to the convent and the two typical Renaissance cloisters, which today are home to the State Archives and to the Fondazione Città del Libro (“City of Books Foundation”)

Surroundings

In the immediate proximity, after a short drive on well-maintained and well-signalled roads, there is a vast range of tourist destinations to suit every type of visitor: we are in the realm of Lunigiana, where an incredible environmental and anthropological diversity is combined with a thousand-year old history.

Immediately beyond the borders of Pontremoli, the Gordana river gives hikers a small corner of the American Wild West, dividing the Apennines into the real canyons of the Straits of Giaredo, where the five sources of crystalline water reflect the green and red colour of the jasper. Another destination of great interest, but this time from a historical point of view, is Pieve di Sorano, with its sober and essential architecture, which supervised (and still supervises) pilgrims and travellers in the Middle Ages. It was built on a place of worship which had been well known since Prehistory, as evidenced by a stele found here.  Moving further down, towards Liguria, there is Sarzana with its fortress and medieval churches, and the worldly life of La Spezia, the quintessential landing place and a romantic destination for night walks thanks to its Porto Mirabello.

You will also come across the ancient Luni, known today as Ortonovo; the vestiges of the ancient Roman centre and of the glorious Diocese can be visited on site. The sea is not far either, and if you want to be lulled by the sound of the undertow, you can choose between the evocative beaches of Lerici or the cliffs of Ameglia and Montemarcello. Otherwise, you can opt for the vast and cosy Tuscan expanses of Versilia, in Marina di Massa and Carrara. In Tuscany, Pisa and Livorno are also coveted destinations: it is less convenient to reach them but still feasible if you set your alarm clock early in the morning. Going north, past the slopes of Cisa, you will soon arrive in Parma. Here, you can explore fortresses and castles, such as Collecchio and Fontanellato or, without leaving the city, you can visit the wooden theatre of Pilotta, the Cathedral and the Baptistery. For melomaniacs, we recommend having a look at the scheduled events at the Teatro Regio and at the events organised in the Terre Verdiane. To conclude, lovers of wellness and spas can reach Equi Terme, between the A15 and the SS63, in less than an hour: the village is ready to revitalise you.

Monumental Lunigiana in the presence of the witnesses of time

ita flag icon

Explore the surroundings

Partner

proloco cadimare logo italiapervoi

 

Newsletter

 

 

Social

Italia per Voi s.r.l – Via Vittorio Veneto 255, 19124,
La Spezia (SP)
(+39) 333 8485291 – italiapervoi@gmail.com
© 2012/2022 – All Rights Reserved – Privacy & Cookie Policy – Credits – Autorizzazione TRIBUNALE LA SPEZIA nr. 1740/19 del 19.11.2019