Real Estate in Lunigiana is an attractive option for those searching for a holiday home or permanent residence in Italy. Lunigiana, in north west Tuscany has a lot to offer. It is a location to be enjoyed all year round, it is easy to get to with flights to Pisa or Genova and property prices are competitive when compared to the better known areas of Tuscany. Large stone farm houses are still plentiful so bargains can be found.
Located in the northern most part of Tuscany extending from the magnificent Tuscan-Emilian Apennine Mountains to the Ligurian and Tuscan coastline. It is a land to explore and to experience, to the south of Lunigiana the rolling hills and lush green valleys give way to the awesome Apuane Alps. In winter the snow capped Apennine mountains provide excellent skiing while the warm currents and summer sun make the beaches of Versilia, Sarzanno and Viareggio ideal destinations to enjoy the very best that Italian seaside resorts can offer.
The first known settlings of the Val di Magra took place a thousand or so years before Christ. The standing carved stone stelae or statue-menhirs found in the area attest to the earlier culture; we call them the Ligui-Apuani but don't know much more than they raised cattle. You can see originals of these statues at the six room Piagnaro Museum in the Castello del Pianaro, Pontremoli. The name Lunigiana is thought to have come from the Roman settlement at Luni, which is now actually outside the boundaries of modern Lunigiana. You can visit the ruins there, which date from 177 B.C.
The Val di Magra fell under Byzantine rule in the early middle ages, when Luni was the base for the Byzantine fleet which had its main port in the Island of Sardinia. The Longobards came in 643, then from the tenth century, Luni hosted a bishop installed by Emperor Otto I.
From the 12th century power settled into three divisions, the north, dominated by the prosperous town of Pontremoli, the centre, dominated by the Malaspina family cantered in their castle at Oramala, and the south, ruled by the Genovese republic. In 1306 Dante Alighieri, after his exile from Florence, received refuge and protection in Lunigiana. Today the Lunigiana is a borderland between the north of Italy and the rest of Tuscany, olive trees and grapevines mingle with chestnut and beech trees. Pristine medieval villages, seldom visited, are waiting to be explored as are the 100 castles that dot the area.
Nature and the Environment
There are numerous regional parks and nature reserves to discover in the Lunigiana, here is a selection:
Val di Magra
Val di Magra (Magra Valley) has been described as the boundary between Liguria and Tuscany. However the valley and its inhabitants have their own unique identity and traditions. Over millions of years the Magra River has shaped this landscape, being a common feature in the various panoramas across the region. Following the course of the river one travels from the medieval village of Ameglia on the coast to the mountain town of Pontremoli, you pass from the luxurious sands of Tuscan beaches to the jagged peaks of the Alpi Apuane, en route travelling through a green and uncontaminated natural landscape. If you don't like swimming in the sea, you can in the Magra river, one of the cleanest of all Italian rivers.
The Natural Park of Montemarcello-Magra embraces the hills that divide the Golfo della Spezia from the Magra and the Vara river (Magra's main tributary) up to Ponte Santa Maria. Stretching from Punta Bianca, the evocative southern end of the Caprione promontory, to the green valley of the Vara river, the Park encompasses 3,660 hectares of land rich in history and nature, and it sprawls over 16 different municipalities:
Ameglia, Arcola, Beverino, Bolano, Borghetto Vara, Brugnato, Calice al Cornoviglio, Carro, Carrodano, Follo, Lerici, Rocchetta Vara, Santo Stafano Magra, Sarzana, Sesta Godano and Vezzano Ligure
The Alpi Apuane Park mountain range in north western Tuscany, expands for 60 km along the Tyrrhenian sea coast in the Versilia, Lunigiana and Garfagnana areas. The area is a huge ecosystem and the Alpi Apuane marble, a high quality limestone exported all over the world derives from here. The Apuane mountains consist of Monte Pisanino, surrounded by the sharp summits of Pizzo d’Uccello, Monte Grondilice and Monte Roccandagia to name but a few. The Apuane Alpi is a complex mountain range; with several series of very striking caverns with underground streams and amazing stalactites as well as stalagmites.
Parco San Rossore
This Park was established, between the District of Pisa and Lucca, with the aim of protecting natural, environmental and historical resources of this special part of the coast, by promoting scientific research and education. The Estate is about 23.000 hectares along 32 kilometres of beach in the Municipalities of Pisa, S Giuliano Terme, Vecchiano, Massarosa and Viareggio.
The Orecchiella Park stretches to the north to Monte Prado and Monte Vecchio which mark the Appennine border between Tuscany and Emilia Romagna. The Beech forests provide an amazing landscape that is common along this part of Appennine range. Large grassland and rocky faces with precipices on narrow gorges (typical habitat for birds of prey) are also present. The Park includes a huge upland as well, lying west of Pania di Corfino and between the Corte and Corfino river valleys. Beech, chestnut and oak woods are spread all over the park and, in the undergrowth, blueberries abound. The huge grasslands are rich in juniper, broom and the wild rose. The animal species that live in this park are: birds of pray, squirrels, wild boars, deer and many others.
There are other nature reserves which join the region to the Emilia Romagna, probably the most notable is Parco Gigante, in the heart of the Apeninnes.
Towns to Visit in the Lunigiana
Pontremoli was founded 2,000 years ago in the Roman Era, as military and strategic outpost along the way to the Northern Italy, to control the Cisa Pass on Apennine Mountains. The road the pass was named "Via Francigena" (it means that leads to France), and was one of the the main Pilgrim's routes to Rome. The town conserves its medieval look, some Gates, towers and the panoramic Castle of Piagnaro, built on the hill dominating the town and the still used medieval bridges. Due to the low altitude and its proximity to the sea, winter is mild and summer is not too hot: the nights are always fresh.
Characteristic hamlet with castle which remains partly in ruins. The village dates from Roman times and is noted for the number of passageways with vaulted stone roofs that circumnavigate the castle. Bibola has wonderful panoramas of the Alpi Apuane to one side and the Apennines to the other.
Filattiera has been known since Roman times, where it was an important junction between Luni, Lucca, and northern Italy. It was the centre of fortifications that protected the important port of Luni from Longobard attacks. At the entrance to Filattiera is the 14th century Malspina castle can be admired.
The Marble Quarries of Carrara
The scenic mountain road from Castelnouvo di Garfagnana winds it way up into the Alpi Apuane. Past places such as the old medieval centre of Isola Sant and Arni, to the Passo Vestito. For a beautiful descent down the mountains and past huge quarries, and villages to Massa. Then onto Carrara and up into the mountains again for a closer look at marble production and a quarry tour. There are huge caverns to be seen, there is a museum on marble production too. We see sculptors at work, and have the chance to purchase some marble artifacts.
Bagnone is one of the prettiest villages in the centre of Lunigiana. Topped by a fortress with the typical round tower of Lunigiana, the castle began to lose its defensive function when Bagnone became part of the Florentine republic in 1471. During the renaissance the city expanded with many fine palaces, churches and squares. From the lower town, take the bridge and follow the path up to the castle, it's a wonderful walk. Afterwards you can stop in the village below to have a bite to eat while enjoying the view.
Villafranca, a small town in the middle of the Magra Valley, mentioned in Dante’s Divine Comedy it is less than half an hour by car to the marvellous Golfo della Spezia where you can admire the Cinque Terre with charming fishing villages (Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso). At the nearby Byzantine town of Filetto, built to the square plan of a Roman Castrum, the first and second Sundays of August are devoted to medieval cultural events featuring banquets where the locals appear in traditional costume.
The castle is the centre piece of this small town, and along with Aulla, are pretty much the only two places where you can eat the traditional panigacci, traditional flat breads.
Most of the town of Aulla was bombed during the second world war, but the Brunella fortress looks down upon the town. It is now the seat of the Lunigiana Natural History Museum.
For almost four hundred years Fivizzano was titled the "corner of Florence" as a symbol of Florence's domination of the region. Fivizzano was an epicentre ofthe Resistance in the Lunigiana, it remains one of the more interesting of Lunigiana cities. The Verucola castle is nearby.
Fosdinovo has a well-preserved fairytale castle, mentioned as early as 1084, which rises majestically above the village below.
Interesting hamlet and gateway to the Apuanian Alps Regional Park. Also worth visiting are the Prehistoric grottos and the famous thermal spa.
Marble comes from here and you can visit many of the workshops and marble mills in Carrara. Marble has been quarried here since the second century B.C. You can hire a guide to visit the quarries. If you're around Carrara (actually the town of Resceto) at the beginning of August, you might want to visit La Lizzatura, the marble quarrying festival. When asked what the cheapest material one can use for a kitchen worktop in the Lunigiana, the answer is "marble, of course!"
Fairs and Festivals
In Bagnone, every Sunday in October you can enjoy chestnut and mushroom festivals and wash everything down with local wine. There is also a Christmas Market, the Mostra Mercato di Natale in the second week of December. Filetto, in the second two weeks of August, has a Medieval Market. You banquet in medieval style, the old artisan shops are reopened and the entire village goes back in time and history. The festivities feature performances and dances that involve all the inhabitants, who are dressed for the occasion with typical medieval costumes. Pietrasanta has a Mercato d'antiquariato, antiques market on the first Sunday of every month. Pontremoli hosts a famous Fiera del Libro, book fair in July and August. Marina di Carrara hosts "L'arte nella strada" at the end of July. Villafranca hosts the Mostra Mercato Medievale (Medieval Market) in August. Massa puts on the Giornate Numismatiche e Filateliche massesi, a coin and stamp show in the middle of October. Fivizzano hosts the Fiera di San Martino e del vino nuovo, honouring San Martino and the new wine around the middle of November.
Markets and Shopping
Shopping in Italy can be a varied and rewarding experience especially given the Italian reputation for stylish high-quality goods. Not all shopping pleasure is confined to the big stores and chic boutiques of course, there is plenty of pleasure to be had, and bargains to be sought in the local antique and speciality markets.
Here are a few that you might like to try;
Lucca The third Sunday of every month, and the previous Saturday, in Piazza San Giusto and Piazza Antelminelli. (On the last Saturday and Sunday of the month, in the same squares and streets there is an arts and crafts market).
Barga 2nd Sunday of month.
Camaiore 2nd Sunday of month.
Pietrasanta 1st Sunday of month
Viareggio Last Sunday of month
Serravalle Pistoiese Last Sunday of month
Weekly local markets are a wonderful source of local produce and provide the perfect opportunity to experience Italian life and practice the language.
Lucca - Wednesday and Saturday a.m.
Bagni di Lucca - Wednesday and Saturday a.m.
Barga - Saturday a.m.
Camaiore - Friday a.m.
Capannori - Friday a.m.
Castelnuovo Garfagnana - Thursday a.m.
Fornaci di Barga - Friday a.m.
Forte dei Marmi - Wednesday a.m.
Massarosa - Tuesday a.m.
Pietrasanta - Thursday a.m.
Torre Del Lago - Friday a.m.
Viareggio - Thursday a.m.
Food and Wine
Lunigiana is the triangle marking the border between Tuscany. Liguria and Emilia and has always been crossed by pilgrims, traders and merchants. The result is noticeable in the architecture, language and food of the region.
From the three regions, Lunigiana has taken the best of each such as pesto from Genova (a sauce made from pine nuts, garlic, fresh basil and cheese) Testaroli are the pride of Lunigiana cuisine. You will not find them anywhere else in Italy. They are made from a batter of wheat flour, water and salt which is cooked in large cast iron pans with lids. They form a sort of pancake which is then boiled and cut up into small strips and is usually served with Pesto Panigacci is another speciality of Lunigiana. Like Testaroli they are made of a batter but one which is cooked in red hot clay dishes over an open fire. Panigacci are then served as hot crispy pancakes which you then spread with soft Stracchino cheese and fill with mixed cold meats such as Parma ham, salami etc. The village of Podenzana is famous throughout Italy as the home of Panigacci.
For pasta there are the famous Tortelli or Tortelloni which are similar to ravioli but stuffed with ricotta (fresh goats cheese) and spinach and served with parmesan cheese, fresh sage and melted butter. You will see many stalls in the local fairs and indeed in many of the local grocery shops a plump beige/brown mushroom in wicker baskets lined with chestnut leaves.
The inhabitants of Lunigiana look forward to the beginning of the season when these funghi (mushrooms) begin to grow. They are a great delicacy and expensive to buy. You will find them frequently served in restaurants with pasta in a sauce or often with cream in a sauce with meat. They are in fact the boletus edulis, Porcini in Italian. You can buy them fresh or dried.
The cheeses, such as pecorino, are served in most of the restaurants or sold in the grocers. Pecorino Toscana is particularly good. Other good cheeses are gorgonzola with or without Mascarpone, Stracchino (creamy cheese) and fresh Parmigiano.
A great part of Lunigiana is covered by chestnut woods and chestnuts at one time constituted the local peoples livelihood before and during the war. There are many local dishes where the main ingredient is chestnut flour but the most popular is probably Pattona - a chestnut batter cooked in clay dishes and served with ricotta and salami. Many of the festivals held in the region will serve dishes based on chestnuts.
Although Lunigiana is not famous for its wines, most restaurants make their own from grapes they collect from the South of Tuscany. Wine here is of course really very reasonable to buy.
The area of Lunigiana is surrounded by well-known vineyards. To the south is Chianti, which produces the most famous wines of Italy; other Tuscan wines worth a try include Vernaccia, Aleatica, Brunello di Montalcino and Nobile di Montepulciano. The Cinque Terre produce pleasant dessert wines such as Sciacchetra.
Walking in Tuscany and especially walking in the Lunigiana area of Tuscany, combines the best of all possible worlds. Pure air, stunning scenery, fine weather and, at the end of the day, robust local food and wine to feed the body and satisfy the soul.
There are literally hundreds of miles of footpaths and hiking trails in the area ranging from arduous high level walks to sedate paths between villages. Most of the tracks are well maintained and are clearly marked with distinctive red and white stripes painted on walls and rocks. To combine walking and a visit to some of the most beautiful and spectacular coastal scenery in Italy take a trip to the Cinque Terre. Here you can mix walking the cliff paths with short train rides between the villages to create your own itinerary.
More serious walkers may want to try the Parco Alpi Apuane where Mt. Pisanino rises to 1,945 metres or perhaps a drive along the Taverone Valley and a lovely walk over the Lagastrello Pass.
The resorts that are local to Lunigiana:
In winter we suggest ski fans to make an excursion to Passo dei due Santi near the ski station of Zum Zeri. There are six kilometres of slopes, the longest being just under a kilometre and vary from easy to difficult. Horse riding is also on offer at the resort. In terms of altitude it is quite low (1,600 m) in comparison to other resorts such as Abetone, so it is advisable to wait for a heavy snow fall before enjoying a days skiing. The best months for skiing are January and February.
The resort is about 20 kilometres away from Pontremoli towards Valli dello Zerasco
Golf in Tuscany is one of life's joys. The mild climate, the naturally varied ground and spectacular landscape combine to create a golfing experience that is always a pleasure and often challenging. In Tuscany you can play in all seasons and the clubs are regularly open all year. The choice of venue is varied, from the wonderful country club in Punta Ala to the supreme course of Ugolino, located at the gates of Florence on the Chianti hills. Many courses are in or near tourist resorts some, but not all, are located near the sea.
You will notice that many courses also have swimming pools and tennis courts and make a wonderful venue for a family day out.
Please see our guide to Golf in Tuscany
Many beaches in Italy are privately owned and you have to pay to use them. However, there are also many public beaches, which are free of charge. Some beaches have sports facilities such as water skiing and dinghy sailing, others may be a simple rocky cove. As a general guide the beaches from Marinella di Sarzana southwards to Viareggio are sandy, those further north through the Golfo della Spezia and on through the Cinque Terre, tend to be rocky. Levanto is a small seaside resort with a wide curving beach with both public and pay-to-use areas offering a variety of water sports. This is one of the rare spots in Italy for surfing thanks to the long waves that ripple in the gulf. Immediately to the south of Levanto are the famous five fishing villages of the Cinque Terre which are (from the north) Monterosso, Vernazza, Riomaggiore, Corniglia and Manarola. The northernmost of the villages, (Monterosso) has the best long beach with both private and public sections.
Lunigiana is easily accessed by road, rail, or air. Three major airports at Pisa, Genova and Parma serve the area and all are within easy driving distance on good motorways. The nearest airport is Pisa. By road take the A12 north towards Genova, then take the A15 towards Parma exit at Aulla, journey time is approximately 1hr from Pisa Airport.
Contact us for an initial call, or send us your requirements, so we can suggest the perfect Italian home for you in northern Tuscany.