Bagnone, 'the jewel of Lunigiana', is a quaint old arcaded market town with a river tumbling over rocks in the gorge below. Above, the ancient castle looks down over everything. There are several bars, restaurants and useful shops, including the oldest pharmacy in Europe - still trading!
The old quarter of the town dates back to the mediaeval times and was originally built along the Roman Way,
the old route connecting France to Rome. The Ethnographic museum
is well worth a visit, showing
how life was lived in Lunigiana until very recently, illustrating the various aspects of agricultural and pastoral
life. It is picturesquely set in the old mill of Villafranca next to the bridge in the centre of the town. Closed
Sundays and Mondays.
Some of the exhibits look just like what you may see in the street at certain times of the year. Nothing
changes very fast in Lunigiana! The remains of Malnido castle are still imposing and picturesque, the castle
unfortunately having been destroyed by the British in the war!.
Saint Francis' church has two outstanding terracottas by the Delia Robbia school and in the town you will find
antique shops selling all sorts of bric-a-brac, old furniture, prints and ancient books.
Filetto is the most original and interesting village in Lunigiana. Unlike all the other villages and small towns, it is a squarre walled town, having been originally a Roman 'castra'.
The the elegant loggia in the middle of the main street and the Marquis' palace and the Fatebenefratelli Convent are all of great interest.
Just outside the village lies one of the oldest chestnut woods in the region (a relic of a more extended forest).
This was where many of the mysterious carved stone images, now in Pontremoli museum, were found.
A big fair
takes place every year on the 25th of August, near the chapel and spreads all around in the forest. Every year in
summer, Filetto hosts the "Mediaeval Market". The narrow alleys and the secluded squares of the village become
full of merchants in mediaeval costumes, shops are opened selling all sorts of handicrafts and restaurants serve
traditional foods. In the main street there is also a Pottery Workshop, where courses of pottery, ceramic art and
decoration are held throughout the year.
The old village of Malgrate, with its mediaeval castle, stands on a hill overlooking the Bagnone valley, from which
one can have a magnificent view of this part of Lunigiana. The village and castle are of outstanding historical and
environmental interest. Today the two elements, village and castle are strictly connected to form a unique and
attractive setting. There is an excellent restaurant hidden behind the bar in the car park.
This village developed along the main street on a spur of solid rock with the church and the piazza at one end and
the castle at the other, where the archbishop of Canterbury stayed in the 10th century on his way to Rome.
Along the main street you will find doors, windows and other fine examples of mediaeval decoration. The castle
has an elegant courtyard with an attractive double staircase. Virgoletta was a stop on the Via Francigena – the
route from Canterbury to Rome.
OTHER HISTORICAL VILLAGES
Irola, Mocrone, Merizzo, Fornoli are smaller villages with an interesting history of their own. Near Fornoli,
there is the ancient church of Groppofosco where a big religious festival is
held every year on August 15th. Nearby are the remains of an old ‘hospital’ used by the pilgrims during the Middle Ages.
Through EQUI TERME
flows 120 litres of sulphurous water per second creating a thermal resort renowned since ancient times. Equi Terme spa has now been reopened and
offers many different treatments and a wonderful outdoor bathing pool. Several restaurants are to be found there.
Just out of Equi Terme, along a path, the mountain opens up into a cave called ' La Buca' - the mouth. It is a large cavern with a lake and stalactites where Paleolithic and neolithic remains have been found.
The new caves of Equi Terme are full of stalactites and stalagmites in a large variety of colours from dazzling white to basaltic black. The largest cave is over 80 metres high.
Driving or walking around Lunigiana you will discover its rich natural beauty and the character of one of the loveliest parts of Italy, set like a green jewel in a triangle between the glistening sea, the mighty Apennines and the soaring Apuan Alps.
Over the ages people and armies have passed through or settled in Lunigiana, each contributing to its complex defence system. Lunigiana is known as 'Land of the Hundred Castles'. Many are still standing others have been ruined by time. Many castles were built by the Marquis of Malaspina, though they stretch through times from the remains of Bronze age constructions to bastions of the 17* Century.
Many are privately owned (Bastia, Monti and Fivizzano). Some have become properties of the state (Comano Castle dominated by a cylindrical tower, Aulla and Pontremoli)
The Fortezza della Brunella (16th Century) above Aulla is worth a visit. It is set in a beautiful holm-oak park and has undergone intense restoration works. It was bought in 1903 by the British Consul who lived there with his family and later his children used it as a summer retreat. (see 'A Tuscan Childhood' by Kinta Beevor).
In Pontremoli Castle (closed Mondays) is the Stele museum. These prehistoric stone statues have been found in large numbers in this part of Lunigiana. They stare out at you from the past in a most impressive manner.
There are Romanesque churches, called 'Pieve' at Crespiano, Monti, Sorano, Codiponte.. Also worth seeing is the beautiful church at Licciana (connected to the castle by a bridge), and the lovely Santuario della Madonna di Loreto between Licciana and Panicale.
Note that some footpaths may have become overgrown or re-routed. Walking maps can be obtained from the
map shop in Licciana-Nardi. You will find it in the village on the left hand side of the main road from Aulla to
Licciana. Although we hear that not all the walks turn out as set down!. Prepare to be flexible, always take water
with you and wear appropriate shoes.
VAL Dl TAVERONE
There are many possibilities for anyone who wants to go walking in and around the Taverone valley. The country
is a spider's web of paths and mule tracks. Every village has paths leading out to surrounding meadows and
woods or on to the next village.
We have selected a few of these walks.
• Baccana to Bastia: Through the countryside by way of the hill tops
• Maesta (Licciana/Tavernelle/Comano fork) to Varano. Short but practical for getting from or to
Varano without having to follow the road all the way round.
• Ripola to Apella. Glorious countryside.
• Tavernelle to Cattognano. Over an old humpback bridge and past the ruins of an old mill (start opposite
Capriolo Bar in Tavernelle). A pretty walk through the woods.
• Prota to Groppo San Pietro. A very pretty walk connecting two villages high in the mountains.
• Amola to Panicale. Take the track towards Molesana
These are but a few suggestions. There really are hundreds of little paths leading from the villages through woods
amidst spectacular scenery. Be adventurous and let us know your favourites. We ask you to respect the
countryside and refrain from picking fruit and vegetables from the land, as it is the villager's livelihood.
For the more adventurous there are some splendid mountain excursions, especially up to and on the
Tuscan/Emilian Apennine ridge. For these go by car to the Passo del Lagastrello or to Comporaghena (above
During the summer months and on a nice day you will only need light clothes and walking shoes or trainers, but it
would be sensible to carry a sweatshirt or jumper in case the wind gets up. It is also cooler at 1800 metres
altitude. Do take water with you and something to eat - not salty food!
is a small village above Comano. During the war many escaped British prisoners hid in the
mountains above Camporaghena. One day the German soldiers approached to capture the British. The parish
priest rang the church bells to warn the soldiers in hiding and they consequently made their escape. The priest
was shot dead in front of his church by the Germans. There is a plaque to his memory at the front of the church.
Camporaghena is divided into two parts: Top and bottom. When driving into Camporaghena there is a hairpin
bend - up is to the top part of the village and down the lane on the right hand side of the bend is the bottom part.
Camporaghena - Torsana:
From the top of Camporaghena follow the red and white marks to Torsana,
or from Torsana follow the signs to Passo del Cerreto.
Camporaghena - Sassalbo:
There are paths both from the top and bottom parts of Camporagheno marked
Camporaghena - Monte Marinella:
From the bottom of Camporaghena go straight through the village
and follow the red and white signs to Monte Marinella.
Camporaghena - Passo del Cerreto:
Take the path to Sassalbo from where you follow the sign to Passo del
Torsana is perched above Comano in the other valley. Torsana- Punta Buffanara: Red and white
painted marks indicate this path lading way up to one of the highest peaks of the Apennines (1878
metres) About 5.1/2 hours return not counting rests
Torsana- Passo del Cerreto:
The patch down to the right marked Passo del Cerreto leads to
Camporaghena and on to Cerreto through Sassalbo
is the old pass connecting Liguria and the North of Tuscany to Parma. If you drive to
Lagastrello either from Comano or Tavernelle, at the top you will pass the Lake Paduli on your right.
At the end of the lake there is a bridge on your right and at the other side of the bridge a map of the
marked Apennine walks reproduced by the Italian Alpine Club.
There are some beautiful drives in the Apennines. One we highly recommend starts at the Passo del Lagastrello which
you can reach either by following the road from Tavernelle or by the more picturesque but sinuous road from
Comano. This drive takes you right to the Apennines and is extremely picturesque.
Follow the signs: Rigoso, Monchio delle Corte, Passo del Tiocchiano, Corniglio, Bosco Lagdei, Lago Santo, Lagdei, I
Lagoni, Valditacca (one report was the road was poor here), Trefiumi, Rigoso, Passo del Lagastrello.
From Lag’dei, which is a wild life park surrounded by lovely pine woods, you can take the chair lift up and back to the
beautiful Lago Santo. After Lagdei turn right at the Cancelli Foresta Parma (the park exit) towards Lagoni, two
interconnecting lakes, Lake Santo and the Lagoni are both set in a particularly beautiful place.
The whole drive is approximately 70 Kms and takes about 3.1/2 hrs not counting stops and the chairlift.
There are some superb places to picnic or if preferred try a little Trattoria in one of the villages on the way.
SHORT SCENIC DRIVES
Licciana- Fivizzano: Take the road from Licciana signposted Fivizzano. Follow the road up going
straight on at fork signposted Fivizzano and then towards Agnino. This road is very winding and
passes the most magnificent scenery backed by the majestic peaks of the Apennines. This drive is
approximately half an hour and a picturesque way of getting to Fivizzano.
Licciana - Bagnone - Filetto:
From Licciana take road to Panicale. Pass Panicale and on to Villa di
Panicale, Lusana and Gabbiana. Keep on the same road, which eventually arrives in Bagnone. Bagnone, a
truly splendid town, is set on the river and a marvellous place to potter about. Take the old lane to the
Ponte Vecchio and view Bagnone from the other side with almost every window trailing with geraniums.
From Bagnone follow road over bridge through the old part of the village and out the other side. Filetto
is approximately 5 minutes drive further on. An intriguing village built in a square maze pattern and has a
marvellous house bridge crossing the main road.
LONG SCENIC DRIVE
Follow the Fivizzano road out of Aulla, but turn off up to Casola. Carry on, and on, with stupendous
views all the way through Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, Barga, Borgo al Mozzano, and down into Lucca.
You can also make a detour to Bagni di Lucca, where Byron and Shelley lived for a while. Not the
quickest way to Lucca, but one of the most scenic routes in Italy. You can return on the autostrada, if
There is also a train that does this journey – this way the driver sees the views as well! You can catch it
in Aulla, Gragnola or Monzone.
The West side of the Gulf of Spezia
From La Spezia take the scenic road to Portovenere. The first part of the road is unfortunately not so beautiful
as it over looks the docks and the military base.
The first village you come to is Le Grazie, which is set in a lovely natural harbour. Here, well worth a visit, is the
Convent of the Olivetari which has some lovely frescoes.
The next village on is Portovenere. It is an enchanting old town with tall beautiful pastel coloured houses lining
the sea front. It has a wealth of interesting lanes and alleyways. Along the front all the colourful fishing boats bob
in the sea and in the evening all the nets are laid out along the promenade. There are many pretty little boutiques
and stalls selling various artwork and clothes and many good fish restaurants. You can visit the castle and the old
church of San Lorenzo built in 1130. At the very top end of the village and surrounded on three sides by the sea
is the church of San Pietro built in 1277 on foundations dating from the 6Ih Century, offering magnificent coastal
You may want to take a boat to the islands of Palmaria and Tino, where you can visit the remains of a monastery.
There are guided boat trips around islands from Portovenere.
The East Side of the Gulf of La Spezia - SAN TERENZO
This charming multi-coloured fishing village was discovered in the 18th Century by Shelley and Byron. It is
dominated by the Castle on the East side and has a natural harbour with a good sandy beach along the front
backed by a colourful cluster of houses.
Shelley lived in the Villa Magni situated along the front. It is a low arched building, now a museum housing
preserved mementoes of his stay. Shelley was tragically killed, at the age of 26, when his boat capsized in the bay
during a storm. His friends burned his body on the beach.
In the mornings you can buy fish off the wooden carts as they are loaded off the fishing boats.
Further along the coast is Lerici, another picturesque coastal village dominated by its ancient castle. Lerici, once a Roman
Naval base, now boasts a chic selection of boutiques and restaurants. The village is a series of stone flagged alleys lined
with pastel coloured houses and has many interesting old shops. Take an evening stroll along the promenade or stop in
one of the many seaside bars to watch the world go by.
During the middle ages it was the site of many disputes arising between Pisa and Geneva who fought over their rights
to the sea. Lerici is halfway between these two cities so the village itself was also contended over. In 1200 Pisa won
and built the castle and, clustered around it, a walled village on the site of the now picturesque port of Lerici. In 1265
Lerici was lost to Genoa who extended the castle, which is Lerici's most important monument
Lerici is still a fishing village and you can watch the fishermen at work along the quay. In the mornings you can buy
fish off the wooden carts as they are loaded off the fishing boats.
You can no longer drive into Lerici in season. You park in one of the two large car parks that you will be directed
into, and walk from there.
FIASCHERINO AND TELLARO
D.H.Lawrence sailed across to his house here on a fishing boat, complete with his trunk of books and a piano!
Further down the coast are the villages or Tellaro and Fiascherino. where D. H. Lawrence once lived.
Tellaro is the last village of the Gulf of the Poets and is situated on a little rocky peninsula. In the middle is a lovely
square surrounded by colourful, green shuttered houses which were part of the old walled village.
Down from the square is a little landing place protected by a breakwater showering beads of spray over the houses.
This scene has been painted by many local artists.
THE CINQUE TERRE
These enchanting old fishing villages were and still are the homes of those who fish and work the land and the vines. Some of the houses along the Cinque Terre are still only accessible by boat. You can taste their wines and perhaps some acciughe (anchovies) in the true Cinque Terre style.
The Cinque Terre are five villages strung along the coast behind La Spezia now linked by train. Riomaggiore, Manarola,
Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso. These enchanting old fishing villages were and still are the homes of those who fish
and work the land and the vines.
The Cinque Terre produce wine for which they are renowned since ancient times such as the 'Biancho Nero',
'Sciacchetra', Red and white dry wine from Levanto, Bonassola and Framura further north. Steep terraced vineyards
look like stairs plunging down to the coves and little beaches where you can swim.
The area is dotted with churches and sanctuaries of a bygone era. The churches are in the villages and the sanctuaries
are in breathtaking position on the hills. The villages themselves face the sea either at the bottom of the hills
(Riomaggiore, Manarola. Vernazza and Monterosso) or like Corniglia at the very top. The villages are made up of tiny
lanes leading to the village squares, ports and coves. The structure and setting of the villages have a rustic beauty
difficult to beat. Some of the houses along the Cinque Terre are still only accessible by boat and the road only goes as
far as Manarola and from then on it is in a bad state of order. Here you can taste their wines and perhaps some
acciughe (anchovies) in the true Cinque Terre style.
From Corniglia you can enjoy an incomparable vista of the Cinque Terre. Corniglia and Monterosso have long beaches,
while in the other villages you can swim off the rocks.
How to get there:
By car: From La Spezia take road sign posted to the Cinque terre to Riomaggiore and then you can walk along the
famous Strada dell Amore to the next village Manarola (15-20 Minutes) and then on to the next villages. The Strada dell
Amore is cut out of the rock leading along the cliff edge and has spectacular views.
By train: The trains run about every hour from La Spezia to each of the five villages.
You may want to stop and take a dip in one of the many coves along the way or taste the Cinque Terre wine
(Sciacchetra) or perhaps just climb up to the terraced vineyards above and have a look at the marvellous sea views.
The walk from Riomaggiore to Monterosso is about 20 Kms. It can be very hot along the coast so do take plenty of
water with you to quench your thirst if you intend to do the whole walk.
Along the Versilia Coast, stretching from Marinella di Sarzana to Viaraggio there are many beaches, some private
requiring a daily entrance fee and some public and so free of charge. Prices along this stretch of coast may vary
enormously depending on the area and equipment. Some of the beaches are equipped with sport including water
skiing, wind surfing and paragliding.
Or you may prefer the coves at Fiascherino. Behind Lerici castle there is a small creek or, on the other side of
Lerici, there is a lido, and further along (at Venere Azzurra) there is a public beach with optional rental of deck
chairs and/or parasols. Water sports available peak season.
On the other side of La Spezia lie the lovely Cinque Terre. The very last of these villages, Monterosso boasts a
long sandy beach. There are both public and private sections.
N.B. If taking your car to the coast please ensure that it is left in an official car parking spot. White car space lines
signify free parking whilst blue indicate a tariff has to be paid. These tariffs vary from resort to resort and will
either be staffed by traffic wardens or by a pay and display system. Several free parking Zones have time limits and
require that you display your arrival time on the front dashboard (disco Zona 1 Ora) Parking in any other areas
could mean the towing away of your car and a heavy fine