The Tuscan portion of this area straddling the Tuscan-Ligurian
border is the upper and middle stretches of the Valle del Magra, which
includes the towns of Sarzana and Luni, from which the zone
derives its name.
The Lunigiana has always been an area of contact and exchange between
Celtic, Ligurian, and northern Tuscan populations. During the medieval
period, it was split up into many segments as a result of local feudal
fiefdoms and the annexing of territory by the big neighbouring powers
of the time. One of the results of this was the building of innumerable
castles and walled villages to mark out the territory of a particular
power, while the large number of Romanesque country parish churches
(pievi) is an indication of a capillary network of religious institutions
closely related to the nearby Via Francigena.
Luni was once a Roman colony (it dates from 177 BC) and the remains
of an amphitheatre can still be seen here today. There was also a port
(long since incorporated into the land) from which marble quarried in
the Apuans was exported.
The ruins of the Roman amphiteatre of Luni
Fosdinovo lies on a hill and for centuries was dominated by the
Malaspina. It has one of the best-preserved castles in Italy.
Aulla has always been an important road intersection; here there
La Brunella, Fort erected in the 1500s, it has the Seat of the
Natural History Museum of Lunigiana which efficiently illustrates the
various ambiences of the territory.
At Fivizzano, ruled first by the Malaspina and then by the Medici,
there is the Piazza Medicea, with a large fountain.
Finally, there is the historically significant town of Pontremoli,
through which the river Magra flows. There is a castle here housing the
Museo Civico Archeologico, which has on display the important statue-steles
of the Lunigiana, the meaning of which is still a mystery. Since 1952,
Pontremoli has also hosted the Premio Bancarella, an internationally-known
The name Apuan Alps was first adopted by Boccaccio to indicate
the mountainous chain extending from the Appennines to the countryside
around Lucca. They rise near the Tyrrheanian sea and run almost parallel
with the coastline, crossing the provinces of Massa-Carrara and Lucca.
The Apuans are substantially different from the Appennines because although
they are no more than two thousand metres in height, they don't have the
rounded outlines of the Appennines but the typical features of the Alps,
with a jagged profile, steep slopes, and sharp crests. There are various
kinds and qualities of marble in these Alps, including statuary, arabesque,
bardiglio, and purple marble.
The Parco Naturale delle Apuane was established in 1985, and in
it there are the remains of ancient marble quarries, which can
be seen above all in the basins of the Torano, Miseglia, and Colonnata-Bedizzano
rivers. Another place worth mentioning is Azzano on the slopes
of Monte Cavallo, where Michelangelo stayed between 1518 and 1520.
One of the traditional gastronomic specialities of the area is
to be found in the ancient Roman settlement of Colonnata, a pleasant village
famous for an exceptional pig lard produced using a very particular
method. It is "matured" for six months in special marble tanks,
after having been covered with various spices. When it's finally ready,
it's wonderful on hot bread. Another gastronomic speciality of the area
is Cecina, which is made from chickpea flour mixed with water and
oil, and cooked in the oven in copper dishes.
Illustration by Olga Bruno