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Castles: medieval fortresses in the heart of Lunigiana

Bastia Castle

Built in ancient times in a strategic position to control the road leading to Lagastrello pass. The current imposing structure (15th century) is a square design with round towers at the corners and a central tower. It's last famous lady of the manor, the beautiful Anna Malaspina, was sent on a diplomatic mission to France to win the heart of Louis XV. The castle is privately owned.

Lusuolo Castle - Mulazzo

A typical example of a Lunigianese village, stretched along a single road and characterised by houses with terraces. The nearly rectangular castle has a courtyard and massive tower that’s still intact. Due to its strategic importance guarding a narrowing of the valley, it was destroyed several times; the latest restoration dates back to the 17th century. Owned by the state, it will be used as a workshop for book restoration.

Verrucola Castle - Fivizzano

Verrucola Castle - Fivizzano The spectacularly sized Verrucola Castle is a treasured example of medieval architecture. Owned by Spinetta Malaspina the Great in the 14th century, it is divided into various units, topped with a square tower and has several rows of walls with access from the village below. In the 15th century, the church abutting the castle, with a beautiful loggia and sandstone arches, was built. The castle is privately owned.

Malgrate Castle - Villafranca in Lunigiana

Due to its ordered components and the small village that seems to integrate it, this fourteenth century castle is one of the most significant of the Val di Magra. It is dominated by a beautiful round tower, crowned with corbels, at the feet of which is the residential home; the entire structure is surrounded and protected by solid walls. The village, built over the 14th and 15th centuries, retains its ancient character.

Villa di Tresana

Perhaps originally part of an elementary fourteenth-century fortification, the parallelepiped-shaped castle was enhanced in 15th century with two diagonally placed cylindrical towers. In their foundations, you can still see the slits for firearms. From the middle of last century, it was used as a farm and has only recently been restored and furnished by the current owner.

Malaspina Castle in Fosdinovo

This solid, majestic structure, at the end of the village stretched along the ridge of a hill, characterises the entire landscape. In its imposing structure, you can see the various stages of construction: the first 14th century core, subsequent expansions for defensive needs and, finally, the 16th century shape, inspired by the new Renaissance concepts of prestige and representation. In excellent condition, it is privately owned and can be visited for a fee.

Aulla - The Brunella Fortress

The Brunella Fortress (perhaps named after the colour of the rock on which it is built) is a mighty quadrangular construction, a typical example of fortification designed for firearms. Built in the early 16th century, possibly according to a design by Giovanni dalle Bande Nere. It's surrounded by a very interesting botanical garden and houses the Museum of Natural History of Lunigiana.

Castiglione del Terziere - Bagnone

Featuring a solid, square tower, this castle was, by the 15th century, the main seat of the Florentine dominion in Val di Magra. It has been completely renovated and furnished by the current owner and conserves a precious archive and a library of great value. It can only be visited with the owner's permission.

Potremoli

Piagnaro Castle, at the top of the old village, is an integral part of the system of walls and towers (Castelnuovo, Cacciaguerra) built to defend the city. The oldest part is the semi-circular tower to the north (15th century); the middle part and the lower part, with a well, courtyard and chapel, were restored in the 17th and 18th centuries. In the halls of the castle is a museum of the Stele Statues of Lunigiana.

Monti Castle - Licciana Nardi

Built in the 8th century, it was later expanded and adapted to the needs of the times to become an elegant, stately residence. Of the old medieval structure, a large tower and two small corner towers remain. Due to its appearance, small size and traditional lines, it is one of the most romantic castles in Lunigiana. The castle is privately owned.

Churches: the artistic heritage of Lunigiana

The Romanesque churches of Lunigiana

The churches are the symbol of prayer, hope and spiritual life.

The church was the place where people gathered to look beyond the pains and hardships of daily life, where they gathered to celebrate annual holidays, the most important events of the community and those in the life of each individual. Today in the dim light of their interiors, the mysterious sculptures that adorn the capitals speak a language now lost in time, bearing symbols which for centuries have been eloquent signs of sin and spiritual salvation. Mermaids, monsters and decapitated heads are found in the capitals of Codiponte, where an ancient immersion baptismal font is reminiscent of the church prior to the Romanesque one. In the capitals of S. Paolo di Vendaso, extraordinary stone flowers alternate with complex, elaborate woven designs. In the church of Sorano, near Filattiera, the ancient "Via Francigena" has kept Tuscan Romanesque and Lombard Romanesque traces, fused together and exalted in the impressive, monumental apse.

In these images, overflowing with ancient horrors but also full of burning hope, we now recognise one of the moments of our spiritual evolution, and together, the sign of the artistic and cultural movements that, in the Middle Ages, travelled through the valleys and roads of Lunigiana.

Museums: summary of Lunigiana culture in Tuscany

Ethnographic Museum

The Ethnographic Museum offers a comprehensive overview of the popular culture of Lunigiana and highlights the most significant aspects of rural life that have remained unchanged for centuries and, only since the turn of the century, have undergone radical transformations and are heading towards rapid extinction. With the abandonment of the countryside due to migration and industrial development mainly along the coast, agriculture, forestry, pastoral practices and the activities related to them have come to assume a marginal role in the local economy. Work tools and equipment, objects of everyday life, home and personal use, and handicrafts, gathered together in the Museum in an exhibit divided into thirteen sections organised according to themes and productive cycles, bear witness to a culture that has disappeared and illustrate the basic activities of the economy, the uses, customs and traditions that have characterised the life of the rural communities of the Magra valley.

Natural History Museum

With the motto "to know is to protect" the museum, established in 1979, aims to contribute to the conservation, knowledge and appreciation of the natural environment of Lunigiana. The exhibit, laid out according to ecological criteria, describes and illustrates the most significant environmental aspects of Lunigiana such as the Mediterranean scrub, coppice, chestnut groves, beech trees, crops in the plains, hills, mountains, and the caves
IThe copious amount of material collected, divided by themes relating to the physical environment, such as the lakes and rivers, is complete with terrariums and aquariums with living animals. Outside, in the park surrounding the Brunella Fortress that houses the museum, the forest environment is exhibited, with a very interesting botanical garden.

Museum of the Stele Statues

The stele statues, erected in Lunigiana over a very long period from late prehistory to the Romanisation, are different types of monuments, some related to a schematisation or abstraction process, other leaning towards a realistic representation, and expressing a magical-religious conception of existence.
Similar works are found on the shores of the Caspian Sea, in Romania, Switzerland, Corsica, France, the Iberian Peninsula, Sardinia, the Camonica Valley, Puglia, Valtellina and Alto Adige: a very widespread area, in which male and female anthropomorphic statues coexist. The female idol is reminiscent of the Mediterranean Mother Goddess, the symbol of life and fertility; the male one, often characterised by the representation of weapons (axes and spears), a protective deity. The meaning, purpose, area of origin, as well as history of the stele statues are, even to this day, up for debate since they have always been discovered outside of archaeological sites.
The Piagnaro Museum collects all the stele statues of Lunigiana, originals or copies; the Menhir of Tramonti, a nearly pyramidal shaped stone found in the hills closing off the Gulf of La Spezia to the west, is present in a blown-up image at the top of the ladder, nearly reconnecting the anthropomorphic statues to the megalithic phenomenon itself.

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