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Discovering the castles of Lunigiana

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The castles of Lunigiana: a journey into the Middle Ages among ancient fortresses and evocative manors

Lunigiana, for centuries a real gateway between Tuscany and northern Italy thanks to the Via Francigena, is a fascinating treasure chest of history where mighty castles and ancient fortresses stand majestically, watching over the steps of visitors. This land, in addition to being steeped in history, owes its wealth of castles to the powerful Malaspina dynasty, which governed these lands from the 11th to the 18th century. Their decision not to follow the custom of the greaterascato, which limited the inheritance to the firstborn, led, over the centuries, to the fragmentation of the territory into numerous small fiefdoms, each with its own castle. This singular tradition has given Lunigiana a priceless architectural heritage.

Which castles to see in Lunigiana

If you are passionate about medieval history and are fascinated by the legends of the past, you cannot help but immerse yourself in the mighty walls of the Lunigiana castles. Here is a list of some gems to visit:

  • Castello del Piagnaro in Pontremoli
  • Castello di Lusuolo in Mulazzo
  • Castello di Monti in Licciana Nardi
  • Castello di Bastia in Licciana Nardi
  • Fortezza della Brunella in Aulla
  • Castello Malaspina in Fosdinovo

Piagnaro Castle in Pontremoli

The Piagnaro Castle in Pontremoli is an imposing military fortress that dominates the picturesque historic village from the top of a hill. Its history has its roots in the Middle Ages, the foundation should date back to the 10th century, and it was the subject of numerous conflicts between noble families who appreciated its strategic position. Today, thanks to important restorations, the castle is in excellent condition and is certainly one of the main attractions to visit in Pontremoli, as well as a very valid panoramic point of view over the city and the surrounding valley.

In addition to its indisputable architectural beauty, you should visit the Piagnaro Castle also because it is the home of the Museo delle Statue Stele Lunigianesi. This very interesting museum deals with the prehistoric artistic phenomenon of the so-called stele statues which dates back to a period between the 4th and 1st millennium BC.

Castello del Piagnaro in Pontremoli
Castello del Piagnaro in Pontremoli (Photo by Sailko / CC BY)

Lusuolo Castle in Mulazzo

The Lusuolo Castle in Mulazzo, originally owned by the Malaspina dello Spino Secco, fell into the hands of the Genoese Campofregoso family in 1450. This family partially demolished it and it was subsequently handed over to the Grand Dukes of Tuscany, who enlarged the residence at the beginning of 17th century. Today, within its walls, you can explore the Museo dell’Emigrazione della Gente di Toscana, dedicated to valorising the phenomenon of Tuscan emigration in the world.

Monti Castle in Licciana Nardi

The Monti Castle in Licciana Nardi offers a panoramic terrace that extends from the Apennines to the Apuan Alps. Over the centuries, it has been a point of reference for the Malaspina of the Spino Secco of the Taverone Valley. In the sixteenth century, Marquis Moroello Malaspina transformed it into a noble stately home, providing it with wonderful vaulted ceilings and monumental fireplaces. Today, this castle has been carefully restored by the Malaspina family and is the only one in Lunigiana, other than Fosdinovo, remaining in the hands of the descendants of its first feudal lords.

Bastia Castle in Licciana Nardi

The Bastia Castle in Licciana Nardi is one of the most significant examples of Lunigiana fortification. Located on a hill overlooking the Taverone Valley, this castle has hosted various illustrious personalities over the centuries, including Angelica Malaspina, famous wife of Giulio De’ Medici, Annetta Malaspina, praised by the poets of Arcadia, and Giovanni dalle Bande Nere, the famous Florentine captain of fortune. Born in the medieval era, in the sixteenth century the castle was reinforced at the corners with four powerful cylindrical towers, to cope with the advancement of military technologies.

Castello di Bastia
Castello di Bastia (Photo by Davide Papalini / CC BY)

Brunella Fortress in Aulla

The Brunella Fortress in Aulla is a Renaissance military fortification shrouded in mystery, located in a dominant position on a high rocky spur. This imposing structure controlled the main road arteries and the Apennine passes. Among his illustrious clients of the time was the name of Giovanni dalle Bande Nere. In the twentieth century, the fortress was renovated by the English Waterfield family and used as a luxurious residence. Today it is the seat of the Museo di Storia Naturale della Lunigiana.

Fortezza della Brunella
Fortezza della Brunella (Photo by Valerio Orlandini / CC BY)

Malaspina Castle of Fosdinovo

The Malaspina Castle of Fosdinovo dominates the entire plain of the Magra river, ancient Luni and the Apennine passes. During the Middle Ages, it was an important crossing point for merchants and pilgrims along the Via Francigena, offering them refuge and refreshment in its rooms. Today, this imposing castle is one of the best examples of medieval military architecture in Lunigiana due to its excellent conservation conditions and is still shrouded in ancient stories and legends.

Malaspina Castle in Fosdinovo
Malaspina Castle (Photo by Davide Papalini / CC BY)
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