Castelnuovo, the capital of the Garfagnana
Castelnuovo di Garfagnana is a town in the province of Lucca located at the confluence of the Serchio river and the Turrite Secca torrent at an altitude of 270 meters above sea level. Located about 45 kilometers from Lucca, Castelnuovo is the administrative capital of the Comunità Montana della Garfagnana which brings together 16 municipalities located in the upper Serchio valley. The area in which Castelnuovo is located is highly appreciated for its environmental quality, the presence of several historic first-rate hamlets and the possibility of carrying out many outdoor activities especially in summer when the Garfagnana offers a cool refuge to those who run away from the heat of the cities.
History of Castelnuovo
Although the area where the city stands has been inhabited since the time of the Etruscans and Romans, the first certain news of Castelnuovo dates back to the year 740, during the Lombard period. News continues to be scarce for most of the Middle Ages, at least until the fourteenth century when Castelnuovo was part of the territories of Lucca which at that time was governed by Castruccio Castracani.
In the fifteenth century, to escape the advance of Florence, the city surrendered to the Este lords of Ferrara. Under the rule of the Este family, Castelnuovo reached its maximum splendor even though it was involved in some wars with the Florentines and the Pope during the first half of the sixteenth century. Having regained control of the center, Duke Alfonso I d’Este sent the poet Ludovico Ariosto as commissioner of the Garfagnana while Alfonso II built the Fortezza di Mont’Alfonso, which was added to the fortress that already existed in the center. With the exception of two short periods in which the city was controlled by Napoleon and the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, Castelnuovo remained under the control of the Este family until the unification of Italy.
Things to do in Castelnuovo di Garfagnana
Castelnuovo in Garfagnana is a beautiful medieval hamlet surrounded by greenery, ideal for a relaxing holiday. Here there are some very interesting things to see, as well as in the surroundings, and during the year several events are organized that liven up this pretty center of the Garfagnana.
The Rocca Ariostesca is considered a real symbol of Castelnuovo Garfagnana. Located on the central Piazza Umberto I, the fortress is named after having hosted the poet Ludovico Ariosto during the period in which he was governor of the Garfagnana on behalf of the Este (1522-1525). On the place where the fortress stands there was a fortification already in the tenth century, while the oldest nucleus of the current structure dates back to two centuries later. Between the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries the fortress underwent several works, especially at the time of Castruccio Castracani when its structures, as well as the city walls, were enlarged and potential. The central tower on which the clock is located was also built in that period. The access arch to the city center and the terrace overlooking the square were built in the seventeenth century.
The fortress, which in the past hosted the city government, today is the seat of the Museo Archeologico del Territorio della Garfagnana which documents the history of the Upper Serchio Valley from the Bronze Age to the Etruscan-Roman era.
Entitled to Saints Peter and Paul, the Cathedral of Castelnuovo Garfagnana was built in the sixteenth century in place of a previous Romanesque church. The church is in Renaissance style with a beautiful facade, sober and elegant, characterized by pilasters and arches that divide the space in the lower part and a large classical-inspired pediment in the upper one.
The interior, with three naves, was enriched in the Baroque age with new altars and more lavish decorations. During the Second World War, the structure was seriously damaged (there were collapses in the roof and walls) and the restoration that followed brought to light the ancient classic forms.
In the Cathedral are preserved some works of great value such as the Altarpiece of San Giuseppe, terracotta from the workshop of Andrea della Robbia, a wooden crucifix of the fifteenth century known as the “Black Christ” and a canvas Madonna and Child with Saints (16th century).
The Teatro Alfieri is located outside the walls that enclose the historic center and to reach it you will have to cross the river; but don’t worry, it’s actually a 5 minute walk from the Duomo. The theater was built in 1860 and with its 510 seats it is the second largest theater in the province of Lucca. Inaugurated with Bellini’s La Straniera melodrama, the Alfieri mainly hosted operas until the beginning of the twentieth century, a century in which over time it was adapted into a cinema until its closure in 1990. Restored in the 2000s, the theater reopened returning to offer an important prose program. The interior consists of a large audience, three orders of 17 boxes and the gallery; the decorations were made by the painter Davide Franchi.
Fortezza di Mont’Alfonso
The Fortezza di Mont’Alfonso is located on a hill just outside the city of Castelnuovo. The castle was built between 1579 and 1586 at the behest of Alfonso II d’Este who entrusted the design to the engineer Marco Antonio Pasi. The fortress represented both an important defensive stronghold of the Duchy of Ferrara and a refuge for the inhabitants of the city. The complex is spread over a large surface and is equipped with a defensive wall more than a kilometer long, with seven bulwarks, which develops asymmetrically following the course of the land. Excellent panoramic point on the surrounding mountains, the fortress can also be reached on foot from the center by following a path kwon as “Sentiero dell’Ariosto”.
Events in Castelnuovo di Garfagnana
During the year there is no shortage of events and manifestations to enrich the already remarkable tourist offer of Castelnuovo and Garfagnana. Among the main events are the Settimana del Commercio in August, the September fair with various cultural, musical, gastronomic and folkloric initiatives, the Festival della Magia e dell’Illusionismo and the Festival of the International Academy of Music of New York to which international level artists participate.
Things to do in the surroundings of Castelnuovo di Garfagnana
Castelnuovo di Garfagnana is the ideal starting point to discover this beautiful area of Tuscany. In the area there are many options for nature and trekking lovers. From here you can quickly reach the Riserva Naturale Statale Orecchiella as well as the beautiful Apuan Alps and Lago di Vagli, where the Vagli Park with its famous angel flight is located. As for the villages in the area I recommend you take a look at the articles on Castiglione di Garfagnana, Barga and Bagni di Lucca, the right place to do outdoor sports including rafting, canyoning and more.