Barn | 2 bedrooms | sleeps 6
Superbly converted barn set in a lovely garden with swimming pool and views to the hills. The interior has been designed and equipped to a high standard, combining antique and ethnic influences with modern comfort. The first floor comprises a spacious open plan living/dining room with beamed chestnut ceiling and equipped with TV/Sky and DVD/home cinema system. The sofa transforms easily into a comfortable double bed. To the rear, double doors open to the terrace with external dining and barbecue, and to the front a pretty roof terrace is ideal for an early evening aperitivo. The contemporary kitchen includes microwave and fridge freezer. A central staircase leads to the lower floor with two bedrooms. The master room has a king size double bed with en suite shower room and vanity area. The second bedroom has two single beds and an adjoining dressing room. The bathroom is equipped with a washing machine. Central heating is fitted for the cooler months. The barn is located in a hillside medieval village approximately 25 minutes from the autostrada exit at Aulla. The village has a small shop, bar and restaurant with other restaurants nearby serving traditional local recipes. The small towns of Licciana Nardi and Comano are situated about 10 mins drive away from the village and offer a good selection of amenities. This property offers an excellent base to relax and enjoy this beautiful countryside yet within easy reach of the coast.
|Size||Sleeps up to 6, 2 bedrooms|
|Nearest beach||Lerici (35-40 mins)|
|Nearest travel links||Nearest airport: Pisa ( 1 hour 15 ), Nearest railway: Aulla ( 20 mins)|
|Family friendly||Great for children of all ages, Suitable for people with restricted mobility|
|Notes||No pets allowed, Yes, smoking allowed|
Features and Facilities
|General||Central heating, TV, CD player|
|Standard||Kettle, Toaster, Iron, Hair dryer|
|Utilities||Clothes dryer, Cooker, Microwave, Fridge, Freezer, Washing machine|
|Rooms||2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms of which 1 Family bathrooms and 1 Shower rooms|
|Furniture||1 Sofa beds, Single beds (2), Double beds (1), Cots (1), Dining seats for 6, Lounge seats for 4|
|Outdoors||Balcony or terrace, Private garden, BBQ|
Swimming pool available late May until the end of September
The Tuscany region
The word Tuscany conjures images of olive groves and vineyards, fine food and wine, romantic farmhouses lined with cypress trees and of course the sun set over Florence. Tourists are drawn every year by these beautiful images they see in glossy magazines, travel guides and through film and TV. Many visitors can be forgiven for thinking that Chianti, Siena and Florence encompass all Tuscany has to offer, however this is not so, and although these areas are enchanting there is much more to discover. Lunigiana offers a truly unspoilt corner of Tuscany and an inspired destination for the Italian traveller. The most Northern tip which borders the colourful Gulf of the Poets. The nearby Versilia coast overflows with sea side charm and is within easy reach the impressive city of Lucca, rich with Italian architecture and culture. In order to really understand Tuscany it is essential to experience its many contrasts and only then will you discover its true spirit.
Lunigiana is a quiet corner of Tuscany where traditions are strong, hospitality generous and the pace of life relaxed. Defined by the Appenine mountain range to the east (often referred to as the ‘back bone of Italy’), the world famous Carrara marble Apuane mountains to the south and the Ligurian Riviera to the west. For city dwellers, an ideal place to relax and get away from the more widely travelled destinations and an escape from the rush of modern life. Often called the ‘land of the moon’ or ‘land of a hundred castles’. Wherever you look in Lunigiana, magical outlines of castles and fortified villages can be seen. Most of these were built by the Malaspina family to defend the strategic position of this ancient land. Today many have been restored to their former glory, while others remain romantic ruins. Relax, unwind and explore this breathtaking countryside. Scattered with enchanting hillside villages, lush green hillsides covered in olive groves, leading to the foothills of the mountains with hidden meadows in flower, chestnut woods and eventually shady pine forests. A meeting point for various types of plants of the Mediterranean and even alpine regions. Paths lead through narrow village streets with stone houses rendered beautiful with simplicity. For walkers this is a paradise offering some of the most dramatic landscape in Tuscany.
All the seasons of Lunigiana have their own special character. During spring the hillsides overflow with wild flowers, trees awaken in blossom and fields blaze with poppies. During summer the temperature rises offering a superb climate that remains comfortable where the cool air from the mountains and the warm fresh air from the sea meet. Towns and villages liven with the chatter from the piazza bars, whether it be elderly men playing cards, young people parading the latest Italian fashions or tourists enjoying an aperitivo. The season also hosts many medieval events where village streets are lit by candle light to enhance the atmosphere of live performances, street entertainers dress in costume and cantinas open selling local handicrafts. In the Autumn there is the important ritual of the chestnut harvest, together with the hunt for porcini - the most highly prized variety of Italian mushroom. Against the soft autumn light the hillsides turn from green to the most amazing colours of aubergine and amber. In Winter, whilst it would be difficult to sunbathe, the sun still shines and the skies are often blue despite the dip in temperature, and with the winter comes skiing. There are three locations for this: Prato Spila high above the Taverone valley, Zum-Zeri in the western part of the Lunigiana and the third centre at Cerreto. Whilst these areas could not be described as professional resorts they still offer an enjoyable days skiing for all levels of ability. Seasonal festivals are held in the villages throughout the year to celebrate the harvests, with simple recipes evolved through the centuries. Long tables are laid for locals and visitors to enjoy the local recipes made lovingly by the villagers. In reality every one helps out, a real traditional affair the sort of thing seen on advertisement for olive oil! The Lunigianese people offer a warm welcome to new faces whether it be in mere curiosity or in the joy that people choose to visit their valley. Each village has its own unique character and sounds. The bells of the cattle in the nearby meadows, the shout of the bread man arriving, the ladies catching up on the local gossip and of course the chime of the bell tower. People live in complete harmony where the simple things are important, content in the quiet knowledge that life is good here!
Influences from Liguria and Emilia Romagna combine with the traditions of Lunigiana and blend throughout the architecture, warm, generous hospitality and unique cuisine. The nearby ‘Gulf of the Poets’ sometimes referred to as the ‘Lunigianese Coast’ has attracted many writers, artists and film makers over the years. The quietly cosmopolitan coastline still retains its authenticity and charm. The lively and colourful waterfronts, picturesque fishing villages and hidden coves with turquoise waters are a delight to discover. Excellent road and rail links give easy access to many famous tourist centres. For those with a craving for the famous ham, Parma is approximately an hour north of the region or should you wish to visit Florence it can be reached within an hour and a half by car. If you prefer an escape from driving then the train service is a cost effective and efficient way to explore the region. The airports of Pisa and Genova are about an hours drive away with other more northern airports worthy of consideration, all emphasising the regions superb location. If you have a passion for Italy, and a desire to explore the less beaten tracks, then Lunigiana will not fail to impress. The only real way to appreciate all that Lunigiana has to offer is to see it with your own eyes. We are sure that after your visit , this will be a place you find difficult to forget.
Days out and places of interest
Internationally renowned for its marble quarries and still the most important source of marble in the world. Carrara’s almost white stone has been visited for centuries by famous sculptors from Michelangelo who carved the famous ’David’ from the precious stone, to the more recently acclaimed Henry Moore. Both of these great sculptors personally visited the site to select their blocks. This is one of the world’s oldest industrial sites still in continuous use today which has excavated here since Roman times decorating many reclaimed palaces, Italian medieval churches and homes of the rich and famous. The town itself offers little to the tourist operating mainly as a commercial centre, however of particular interest in Carrara itself are the marble ateliers. There are a number in the Piazza XXV 11 Aprile. Atelier Piccoli is full of marble craftsmen and sculptors passionately carving away at the incredible blocks to produce a marvellous range of marble statues and ornaments. Many of the workshops welcome visitors. Most travellers visit the fascinating caves nearby. You can either take a guided tour or drive up there yourself to experience the dramatic views down into the quarries where this precious stone has been quarried. Tours can be organised by the Carrara Tourist office. The spectacular quarry of Fantiscritti retains the bridges that were once the marble railroads and remains a good example of this seemingly lunar landscape. These magical mountains, seen from the coast of Versilia, and from many places within Lunigiana, dazzle in the sunshine at any time of the year. The light reflecting from the marble peaks is often mistaken during the summer for snow. The quarries of Colonnata and Fantiscritti are open for visitors weekday mornings with a range of souvenir shops.
The Versilia Coast
Forte dei Marmi
Derives its name from the old fortress that still remains in the main piazza and the pier that was once used for loading marble. This gem of Versilia became a highly fashionable resort in the 1970’s attracting many international and some ’would be’ celebrities and has in recent years undergone a facelift to become popular again as a chic destination. Grand old villas of the late 19th Century provide the perfect facade of this luxury town with important families of Italian industry and design owning villas here. For those seeking retail therapy Italian style the town will not fail to impress with some of the most famous brands in the world. Even if many of the shops sell some of the most expensive items money can buy, it has managed to retain a strangely relaxed and somewhat unpretentious atmosphere. Stylish boutiques and cafes line the streets, ideal for a drink while you ponder over a purchase. Maybe you will catch a glimpse of a famous face hidden behind the compulsory sunglasses. Before you reach for your credit cards, visit the weekly market on Wednesdays and during the summer on Sunday where often you can find some designer bargains. When you have had enough of shopping you can always escape to one of the beach clubs for some sun, sea and relaxation.
Is the oldest of the coastal towns on the Versilia. Its origins are Roman and in the middle ages it was an important sea landing. In the 19th century it was reputed to have built some of the best boats ever to sail on the Tyrrhenian Sea and the boatyards are very much alive still today. Viareggio reached its hey day at the turn of the century with a number of the original buildings remaining in the town. Along the palmed fringed boulevards Art Nouveau style of architecture can be seen in the grand hotels, villas and cafes built in the 1920s. The finest example is the Gran Caffe Margherita at the end of the Passeggiata Margherita, designed by the father of Italian Art Nouveau, Galileo Chini. Viareggio is known best for its extravagant carnival held in January and early February second only to the more famous festival of Venice. Today this is the most popular resort on the Versilia coast. During the summer months there is a lively atmosphere and any train bound here on a summers morning is likely to be full of people heading for an easily organised day at the beach. Forget tiny coves with hidden beaches where you can throw down a towel as Viareggio is commercialised with private stretches of beaches that charge for entry. All are equipped with towels, changing rooms and sun loungers for the convenience of the beach enthusiast. Many find the resort a bit too commercial however a few things are for certain, several miles long of excellent beach, clean and groomed sand and a relaxed beach atmosphere. Seafood restaurants are plentiful even if the prices are quite high but they are some of the best on the coast. If you don’t mind sitting in organised rows on the beach with everything at hand, then Viareggio provides an ideal resort.
Torre del Lago
A splendid avenue of lime trees, the Via dei Tigli, connects Viareggio with Torre del Lago, once the home of the opera composer Giacomo Puccini. He and his wife are buried in the grounds of their former home, now the Museo Villa Puccini, a small homage that features the piano on which the maestro composed many of his best known works. You can take a pleasant boat trip around the lagoon and wetlands of Lago Massaciuccoli, an important nature reserve for rare and migrant birds. The lake provides a pretty backdrop for open air performances of Puccini’s works, held during August in his memory. A stage is built on the lake near his house and provides an atmospheric setting to enjoy some of his famous creations. For opera enthusiasts it is advised to reserve tickets in advance as this is a popular attraction. The other face of Torre del Lago with more modern musical connections, offers a lively nightlife with a variety of trendy clubs, bars and restaurants situated along the lake side. A relaxed sea side town during the day, however by nightfall, a party atmosphere is guaranteed during the summer.
Many tourists pass by Lucca on their way to Florence thinking that the city does not merit a visit. Those who do visit the city find a true tuscan gem. Lucca had been the capital of Tuscany and defended itself for over 400 years until Florence eventually won the title. A wealthy city formed from banking and the silk trade which today has made underwear an important industry. It is also fast becoming famous for olive oil and wine. Enclosed by its walls, the city reveals itself a little at a time. Only by walking the narrow streets of the historic centre can you discover the mystery and magic of a past rich in history, culture and architecture. Its ring of walls encloses dozens of tiny Romanesque churches, quiet paved streets, defensive towers, numerous museums and monuments. The city centre is closed to traffic, so the local people and tourists choose bicycles as a mode of transport, however the city is also a wonderful place to explore on foot. Medieval buildings line the peaceful streets, opening to reveal churches, tiny piazzas and many other reminders of the city’s long history.
After visiting the many attractions, visitors usually end up in the heart of the city, Via Fillungo. The city’s appealing main street is a pleasure to walk, a meeting place full of shops and cafes. At the end of the street you will find Piazza del Antiteatro, its oval shape reflects the origins of the Roman Amphitheatre that stood here until the 12th Century. Ransacked over the centuries, the stone from the theatre was used to build the city's churches and palaces. Slum housing covered the piazza until 1830 when it was ordered to be cleared by the ruler of the city at the time, Marie Louise. It was then that the original shape was revealed, a reminder of the city’s Roman heritage. Low archways still mark the place where the gladiators would have entered the arena. Today the piazza is a collection of charming ramshackle buildings, featuring many small boutique type shops and trendy cafes – a picturesque place to stop that never ceases to amaze and fascinate its visitors. No trip to Lucca is complete without walking at least part of the way round its impressive ramparts with tree lined promenades offering some fabulous views of the city. Lucca is one of the few Italian cities to have preserved intact its own enclosing walls. For the courteous people of Lucca the walls represent centuries of historic battles, fought to preserve their independence and identity. The city hosts a number of events during the summer. A large antiques market takes place in the streets around the Duomo every third weekend of the month. The annual summer music festival livens the main piazza during September with a host of renowned bands and artists. A city rich in history, hospitality and beauty combined with a sweet attitude to living, Lucca never fails to impress and to miss this opportunity would be a certain shame.
Undoubtedly the leaning tower is the main attraction of this tuscan city, however look beyond this tourist icon as the region has a lot to offer. Pisa is halved by the elegant 16th Century palaces along the banks of the Arno, the river that also runs through Florence. Behind this impressive façade are hidden a maze of narrow streets and alleys, home to a selection of good shops, cafes and restaurants. This makes for a relaxing day, whether it be a spot of shopping, a leisurely lunch or a visit to one of the museums.
The leaning tower draws tourists like a magnet, many of them pausing to appreciate the religious architecture, others in curiosity. Pisa’s foremost monuments gather together in the Campo dei Miracoli (The field of Miracles), a remarkable expanse of meadow in the city’s north western corner and represents the most important example of Pisan Romanesque style. Few medieval groupings are as beautiful and few so beautifully framed by their surroundings. They key component is the Campanile, better known as the Leaning Tower. Begun in 1173 the tower started to lean almost immediately as a result of the area’s sandy foundations. Many architects toiled over this engineering dilemma, all with little success until, in 2001 a solution was found. After more than a decade of being covered in scaffolding, the landmark is once again open to the public. The secret to enjoying the famous tower is to arrive in the early morning before the hoards of tourists and secondly as the temperatures can be quite intense during the summer months. The 17th June is a special event in Pisa when the Regata of San Ranieri, an old contest is held on the Arno river. Brilliantly decorated boats cover the river followed by a costumed procession. The competition is between the boats representing the city’s four districts. The evening before the contest, the districts are dramatically lit by little oil lamps, a stunning sight to be as the sun sets. The areas surrounding Pisa flourish with vineyards, olive groves and the famous sun flower fields, photos of which often are seen in travel guides. The beautiful hillsides scattered with many medieval villages create a countryside perfect for walking and present a relaxed atmosphere for the tourist. This is a beautiful city to visit, if only for a few hours, and is definitely worth fitting into your itinerary.
Comano is immersed in breathtaking scenery and is therefore an important base for walking with many marked routes taking in flowing rivers, springs, pastures and mountain tracks. With a newly completed arena Comano hosts an annual horse festival held in September. Nearby is the Castello of Comano, a ruined tower surrounded by a tiny farming community. The people of Comano are proud and very welcoming to visitors. A place very much unaffected by time where ducks and chickens wander the streets to the steps of the tower. The territory of Comano is included in the Tuscan Emilian national park with the aim of protecting the richness of the environment. Comano’s treasure is represented by its forest and woods of chestnut trees renowned throughout the region. Chestnuts have been an important addition to recipes for hundreds of years, many that haven’t changed to this day. The nearby village of Crespiano has one of the best local restaurants in the area, award winning for its traditional local food and the prices are incredibly reasonable.
Fivizzano, an aristocratic town in the east of Lunigiana that experienced a wealth of prosperity under the Medici family of Florence. After the domain of the Malaspina it became part of the Florentine Republic. Fivizzano is a bustling and attractive market town full of elegant Renaissance palaces and with a distinct air of pride in itself. The young people of Fivvizano are prominent in the movement to revive their folk traditions and they participate in colourful flag waving performances, dancing and mock duels. They travel all over Tuscany giving demonstrations. A notable mention is the Piazza Medicea, an elegant piazza with a central fountain. The principal cafè offers some of the best pastries available for those with a sweet tooth. The town also has a musical heritage attracting international performers during its annual folk music festival. The nearby enchanting castle of Verrucula, is a completely fortified settlement on the banks of the river which has been superbly restored. Little red roofed houses and narrow medieval streets cluster around the fortified square keep. Geraniums spill from window boxes and gardens are full of courgettes, beans and tomatoes planted right down to the river’s edge. The castle is thought to date back to the 11th century together with its peaceful church with arched loggia and can be visited at certain periods during the year. Travelling further up the valley, Cerreto offers a range of activities including biking, walking and fishing also operating as a small yet popular ski resort during the winter with a range of shops, bars and hotels.
Casola and Equi Terme
Equi Terme is an ancient hamlet set at the foot of the Apuane Alps. Cross over Equi and you will arrive at the ancient route that leads to the marble quarries. This popular spa town has a slight scent of sulphur and its restorative waters are claimed to have healing powers. Do not expect a luxury resort as after all it is set in the heart of a medieval village but treatments are offered in the spa. If you follow the path through the old village tucked into the mountain gorge you will reach a bridge, a waterfall and the high roofed caves called Buca del Cane, where remains of Palaeolithic men and dogs were found. Guided tours of the caves are available at certain times of the year. Nearby Vinca is renowned for its famous bread. Further down the valley you find Casola, a medieval village that experienced its greatest commercial prosperity during the middle ages. Many of the famous stelle statues were found in this area dating back to the Neolithic and Iron age. Today it represents a sleepy traditional country town with a definite relaxed approach to life. The quaint historic centre is very popular with tourists wanting to relax and simply enjoy the wonderful scenery. Many guided walks are organised from Casola.
Fosdinovo Travelling along the winding road from Sarzana to Aulla through the hills, this is the first fortified village you will stumble across. It is a wonderful village set inside ancient walls where you can take in both the sea and mountain air.. Little piazzas are shaded by huge chestnut trees lining the steep twisting streets. The German army had a command position here during world war 2, exploiting its superb strategic position. The 360 degree panorama has to be seen to be fully appreciated with views of the Apuane Alps, the marble quarries and out to sea with views as far as Corsica. An evening visit is a delight as often breathtaking sunsets can be seen. The Malaspina castle, dating from the fourteenth to seventeenth century, stands proud as one of the best preserved castles in the region. It was constructed by the Malaspina family between 13 and 14th centuries with a complicated network of corridors and loggias. Beautifully frescoed walls and ceilings and antique furniture have been restored. It is sometimes used for cultural events and is one of the few castles open to the public on a regular basis. Legends about ghosts and particular historic events draw tourists from all over the world. If you visit any castle during your stay this would be the one to see. The village is delightful with some good restaurants and is without a doubt one of the most representative settlements of the Lunigiana region.
Licciana Nardi In this region you can admire castles, parish churches, tower houses, hamlets and fortified control walls of the Malaspina family, all dating back to the same period. The old street is rich in decorated portals, picturesque facades decorated with window boxes overflowing with colour. An 11th Century fortified town with much of the ancient town wall still visible and narrow passageways running through immensely thick walls in to the village. In the Piazza del Municipo the imposing 16th Century castle dominates the square and is joined to the graceful baroque church by a small bridge spanning the entrance to the village. A autumn festival noteworthy of a mention is the chestnut fair held during October. The main street is decorated with chestnut branches, mock medieval shops fronts, old cantinas that open as rustic watering holes and the main piazzas feature large open fires for roasting this important ingredient. The local residents dress up in costume for the event to enhance the atmosphere. You may also see the odd donkey strolling through the village. Towering over Licciana Nardi is Bastia, a good base for walking, with high meadows and wonderful views out to the Ligurian coast. Bastia is built around the castle of which is now privately owned. Monti is another village near Licciana Nardi, again a fortified village with a charming castle. The castle has been well restored and today is used as a summer residence by a surviving member of the Malaspina family. Below the old village, the new part of the town is developing and although not particularly historic, offers a good selection of local amenities. The Comune of Licciana Nardi encompasses many medieval hillside hamlets, protected as historic centres and most of which are very much alive today. Tavernelle from the road may seem quite bland on the surface however it is necessary to stop and walk into the old centre to understand the charm of this settlement. Once an important trade route leading from Parma, Tavernelle was a popular stopping point, bustling with Locande and guest houses. Taponecco and Varano are picturesque examples of ’borgo’ villages with narrow cobbled lanes and stone houses connected by arches and passageways. Villagers are very welcoming of new faces and go about their daily routine as if nothing has changed for centuries. Mostly these are farming communities however in recent years they have attracted buyers from Milan and other parts of Europe looking for a unique and unspoilt place to spend their holidays. Many houses have been restored to strict regulations to preserve the heritage of these villages.
Pontremoli is the northern gateway of Lunigiana. An ancient town, Pontremoli developed with the expansion of its central castle. The buildings are positioned in such a way that they seem to defend the historical centre. A town of slate and terracotta roofed houses, palaces, towers and many attractive stone bridges. Wherever you look in Pontremoli there is a multitude of balconies either overlooking the two rivers of the town or one of the narrow streets and piazzas. The town first appears in history books in 990 and has passed through turbulent times during the struggles of the middle ages. The old walls of the town called ‘Cacciaguerra’ were built by Castruccio Castracani of Lucca in 1322 to separate two rival groups. Thankfully in present times the people of Pontremoli live in harmony with each other. One of the most remarkable buildings in the town is the Castello which dates back from the tenth century and is situated on the top of a hill above the Cisa main road. Recently restored, the castle now houses the Museo Archeologico with its unique collection of menhirs, prehistoric and bronze age stone monuments. The statues were discovered in the surrounding regions of Lunigiana, some chiselled in human form as warriors dating from 1500b.c. and are said to hold magical powers. The borough hosts numerous monuments such as the Cathedral of S. Maria del Popolo (seventeenth century) with its baroque interior, the bell tower Campanone, the Church of S. Colombano, the Church of S. Pietro with its Labyrinth of the Pilgrim sculpture and the Church of SS. Annunziata, built in 1471. The Caveau del Teatro in the centre faces the baroque work-of-art of the Church of Nostra Donna and of the Teatro della Rosa, one of the first theatres in Italy recently restored and full of rich baroque interiors. The town is particularly famous today as a centre for the book trade fair awarding the Bancarella literary prize held once a year on the third Sunday of July. The town hosts a selection of bars, restaurants and shops. Around the Piazza della Repubblica and the cathedral are several sixteenth and seventeenth century palazzi where the local life in Pontremoli centres. This bustling heart of the town is home to a host of newspaper vendors, weekly markets, cafès, ice cream parlours and is a favourite meeting place for locals. Mulazzo is about a 15 minute drive from Pontremoli. This hamlet of Byzantine origins was once the headquarters of the important Malaspina family which had territories to the west of the river Magra. Their arms are emblazoned over a fine arched doorway which guards the steps up to the town. Fragments of the original walls are left in the upper part of the town where the narrow streets widen into charming little squares which are overlooked by cleverly crafted loggias. "The Tower of Dante" so named as Dante Alighieri was once hosted here by the Malaspina family.
Villafranca Bagnone and Filetto
Villafranca acts primarily as a convenient town on the main valley road to Pontremoli. Although initially as you drive through it seems to lack elegance, most of the old centre is hidden behind the main road. It is has some notable restaurants and local amenities including banks and supermarkets and hosts a weekly street market. The nearby medieval village of Filetto, is a delightful , totally symmetrical, square walled village with a tower a each corner. Almost every street is linked by overhead stone passages or bridges. Originally a defensive structure, it is now quite cosy with cats snoozing in corners and village women sitting on the steps sewing and catching up on the village gossip. Filetto has two piazzas overlooked by the palaces. Gathered at the centre of a wide lowland and a dense forest of chestnut trees, the centre of this small settlement represents a precious jewel of Byzantine architecture, historically recorded as a military garrison with angular towers, structures still clearly identifiable today in this village. The Ariberti palace overlooking the church square seems to return to its ancient splendour in the month of August when it opens its large doors to play host to exhibitions and antiques organized when Filetto hosts its annual medieval festival. This colourful and traditional festival includes processions in costume accompanied by drums and trumpets, displays of archery, traditional flag throwing and open air theatre. All the streets are decorated and appear untouched by time. Long banqueting tables are laid to enjoy ancient and traditional recipes. Bagnone is a large attractive village of Renaissance palaces, wide streets and cool shady arcades with many little bars, cafès and restaurants. A honeycomb of village houses, arches and passageways leads down to tiny gardens and the picturesque river bank and waterfalls below the lively squares of Bagnone. The town has a rich past under the rule of the Malaspina family, then passed to the Florentines and became a Ligurian republic in 1796. The various influences of these diverse rulers can be seen throughout Bagnone. The 15th Century heart of Bagnone, the Castello di Bagnone, is clustered on a hillside above the village with a cylindrical tower and a fine 15th century bell tower. From Bagnone it is easy to reach Castiglione di Terziere. The castle of this historic village is now restored to new life with respectful architectural and great attention to detail by the humanist Loris Jacopo Bonomi who is ready to welcome visitors with warm hospitality. The castle holds an extraordinary library dedicated to the history of the Florentines and Lunigiana as well as Italian literature and dominates the village with ancient stone houses spread out below.
Aulla, the southern gateway to Lunigiana, is dominated by the fortress of Brunella, which today is home to the Natural History Museum. It was originally built in the 15th century as a defensive rather than a residential castle with walls 3 meters thick, narrow windows and vaulted ceilings It was restored earlier this century by Montagu Brown, the British consul in Genova. It is accessible up a steep driveway off the main Via Nazionale from Aulla and is surrounded by botanical gardens and a large park of horn oaks and purple heather. Due to its strategic position Aulla suffered from heavy bombing during the war and therefore, in comparison with many historic centres, is not the prettiest town however is far from being ugly. Today it is thriving as an economic centre with a host of facilities and services and of course excellent road and train links and connections that have been fought over for centuries. Just above Aulla on the other side of the river you will come across the area of Podenzana with its impressive castle where mountain and sea air meet. The region is particularly worth visiting for its ‘panigacci’, a regional recipe unique to Podenzana and a dish that has been unexploited to the international market and so is unique to this area. Panigacci consist of pancakes, usually made from chestnut flour, cooked over an open wood fire and served with creamy cheese and home cured meats, a particular favourite being ‘proscuitto di Parma’ - the famous Parma ham.
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Darren Chester (Property Manager Tuscan Hideaways)
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