Since the Palaeolithic, Lunigiana located at the northernmost of Tuscany has been linking territory between the Padana Plain, the summer pastures in the mountains and the Tuscan Maremme; the herds of ungulates and their predators (man included) or, later, the first prehistoric breeders have crossed and characterized our territory.
The presence of several and easy mountain passes, has always given to this territory a remarkable military and economic importance; but the need of re-evangelization after the barbaric invasions, the organization of the parish-churches system and the consolidation of the great pilgrimage trails, made Lunigiana the primary and unavoidable crossroads for the Middle-age’s devotional trails.It’s here, along the roads and the pathways of these valleys (with the blooming of commerce favoured by pilgrims, the construction of merchant villages and castles) that begins the road which will lead us to the Renaissance and the modern age.We wish to show you the everyday life of these places, in a trip (spatial and temporal) through that age’s places, structures, uses and costumes, making you discover beautiful and unexpected realities.
From Parish to Parish
Parishes of Urceola and Sorano, St. Caprasio of Aulla, Parishes od Codiponte and Vendaso (FD)The Parish (from the Latin word plebs which means folks), that is, the mass of scattered people that have no name. The uniting and identifying symbol, political and religious protection that often, unfairly, refers only to the simple religious building which testifies it. The pilgrims and wayfarers searched for them (the parishes), at the end of an exhausting day of walk, at the most important road crossings and there they found comfort and rest.Where it was not possible to built a new Parish, rose up sanctuaries and monasteries which preserved important relics in order to supply another kind of comfort, re-enforcing the will to emulate the martyr Saints along the way to Rome or to St. Jago (St. James). Here then the Parishes of Urceola, Popetto and Sorano along Magra river’s valley, the ones of Vendaso, Offiano, and Codiponte in the Aulella’s river valley and St. Caprasio’s Abbey in the place where the two great valleys meet each other.The disenchanted and frenetic world of today seems to have no power in these places, where architectonical structures and the capital or façade ornaments return to an immediate simplicity which induces suggestion and recalls to the most secret and purest spirituality. Archaic symbols, mix of different religiosities realized by simple craftsmen, far from great town dogmas and stylistic elements.To know and understand the world and the people who created the modern age is a trip at the discovery of themselves, of the personal need of spirituality and communal life, far from imposed conditioning.
Meet our Guide at 9,00 at Pontremoli’s motorway exit in order to visit, soon, one of the first 4 parishes testified by the Bishop of Luni, Urceola. Then we move to Sorano, to understand the permanence of holy places of different people and cultures. Morning ends with the visit at St. Caprasio in Aulla: not well known Saint, lived in the 5th century A.C. whose story and relics could inspire more than one novel.After the necessary lunch pause, we proceed by motor coach towards Codiponte, where we will visit the SS. Cornelio and Cipriano very old parish ( 8th century A.C.), outpost of Christianity in Lunigiana along the Roman Via Regia, adornedby mysterious medieval sculptures, it take us back with the fantasy at 2nd millennium’s dawn. If our hunger of archaicspirituality was not yet satisfied, let’s conclude the guided visit with St. Paul of Vendaso parish.
The Santiago de Compostela trail- Codiponte, Gragnola, Fivizzano (FD)
“There are many roads but only one is the road to salvation”. It exists, that is, a unity of the of the pilgrimage culture and civilization, articulated in major pilgrimages.A world and a civilization in which St. James’ name did not mean only the destination of a pilgrimage, but a way to live and imagine it, as the confraternities, the hospitals and the accommodation structures remind to us, they were erected under his name (like the monks of St. James Order who ran the St. James hospital of Altopascio) as protector par excellence of the pilgrims and with strong political connotations (his iconography represents him like Soldier of Jesus, patron of the recapture, defender of the Faith or even like killer of the Moors).From Pistoia and Lucca pilgrims crossed Tea Pass in order to reach the Ligurian coasts and proceed towards Galizia (western Spain) stimulating the construction of villages, bridges, sanctuaries and parishes still today evidences of the ancient routes.
Meet our Guide at 9,00 at Aulla’s motorway exit and depart towards Codiponte.The parish of SS. Cornelius and Cyprians – very old parish (8th cent. A.C.) outpost of the Christianity in Lunigiana along the Via Regia, decorated by mysterious medieval sculptures – and the village (erected thanks to the bridge) take us back with the fantasy to 2nd millennium’s dawn.Around 12,00 we move to Gragnola and visit the village, developed in the 12th century as cereals and grain market and overlooked by the imposing Eagle’s castle.After a necessary and surprising lunch break, we proceed by motor coach until Fivizzano in order to visit the 15th century Augustinian convent and St Antony’s church, in search of Tau knights.
The Francigena trail in Lunigiana- SS. Annunziata, Filattiera, S. Caprasio, Sarzana (FD)
The road has got its own rules, the road is the true travelling companion, the road is Homo viator (wayfarer) life, is the practical sign of the existential itinerary, place of mystery, symbol of the unknown, attractive and terrible at the same time.But the road is not just the instrument,, the road itself is the destination of the “Crazy of God”.The Francigena trail, the road par excellence which vivified and made sacred all the places that crossed, passed through la narrow valley that from the Cisa Pass reacheParishes, abbeys and monasteries were erected to host wayfarers, miraculous apparitions of Mary stimulated the construction of sanctuaries and villages, commerce and translation of the relics favoured new devotions and cults, and everyone walked because walking is redemption and destination: the labyrinth of life wraps and makes itself easy only passing along it.Follow us along the itinerary of Canterbury Archbishop, of Icelandic abbot Niklaus, of Philip Augustus of France and of all the other anonym travellers who made possible the modern age.
Meet our Guide at 9,30 at Pontremoli’s motorway exit and reach the near SS. Annunziata complex: inside it admire, incredulous, the imposing chapel (made by Sansovino to preserve the miraculous fresco) and the splendid sacristy. Visit Augustinian convent’s double cloister and depart towards Filattiera.The ruined St. gorge castle still preserves the territory’s oldest tablet: the Leodga’s epigraph (7th century A.C.) which reminds us the efforts made for the re-evangelization of the territori in the high middle age, while the St. James of Altopascio hospital testifies the will and the commitment to protect pilgrims along their walk.At 11,45 we reach Sarzana to allow ourselves a drink a enjoy a good meal.In the afternoon we discover the workshops and the merchant’s palaces and, inside the unexpected cathedral we admire the paintings of Fiasella and Solimena, Master William’s painted cross and Riccomanni’s altars.
Byzantine and Jews - Filetto, Bagnone, Villafranca, Sorano (FD)
The warfare which opposed Longobards and Byzantines at the beginning of the middle age went to an end in these territories: the breaching of the defensive line will be the first step of the barbarian civilization and the prelude to the feudal age. New fortified settlements rose in order to control an incredibly strategic territory but sadly lacking of agricultural resources.During 13th century Franceschino Malaspina decided to found a vllage whose trades and settlement of shops were free of taxes; this determinate the fortune of the villages along the Bagnone river valley and of the merchants who, settling themselves there, built up around the already existing castles flourishing markets: Bagnone, Malgrate, Filetto.Holy places of the Ligurians and Byzantine’s lands, salt and spices trails, immersed in uncontaminated thousand-years forests, everything enriched by a real and untouched gastronomic culture: a dive into the historical past and into the quite.
At 9,00 meet our Guide at Pontremoli’s motorway exit and depart towards Filetto, very old and suggestive Byzantine village. Then proceed to Bagnone to understand the evolution of the double village (Ghibelline and market) before have lunch with local speciaties.In the afternoon we reach Villafranca, where we visit the Ethnographic Museum before transfer at the Sorano parish church.
Vara valley round villages – Brugnato, Varese Ligure (FD)
Vara valley takes name from the river that passes through it and since the prehistory local populations have cleverly exploited the strategic location of these territories, fixed course for commerce across Lunigiana, Padana Plain and the Mediterranean sea.During the Byzantine domination (6th century A.C..) and, so on through the Longobards and Franks ones, rose and developed along the main routes castles, fortified villages and convents. The research in combining housing and defensive needs of the local populations took at the construction of interesting urban structures unusual in a rural territory: the round villages.Maybe capital of Ligurians Briniati in pre-roman age, around the half of the 7th century Bugnato had been chosen by St. Colombano monks, coming from Bobbio (northern Italy), in order to found a monastery which, became very powerful during the centuries thanks to the protection of Carolingian emperors. Nearby SS. Peter Lawrence and Colombano cathedral had been built the abbey and the Bishop’s palace (11th cent.), around which developed the village itself with the typical tenaille shape that still toady characterizes it.The first news about Varese Ligure, date back to the Byzantine period: the Grexino village (means of the Greeks) was part of the fortifications created in order to stop the access to the Longobards at the coasts.For better exploiting its strategic position along the routes which link the Tigullio’s Gulf to Lunigiana and to the Padana Plain, by the end of 13th century Fieschi family promoted a remarkable enlargement of the urban structure founding the round village.The inhabited area is defended at north by the noble palace, later transformed into a castle, and contains in the inside the buildings built between 13th and 15th century, between ‘600 and ‘700 took place a further expansion ended with the construction of St. John the Baptist church.
At 9,00 meet our Guide at Brugnato’s motorway exit (A 12) in order to discover and compare two similar urban kinds.but developed during the centuries with different reasons: Brugnato rural village and forced stage of the pilgrims, and Varese Ligure Ghibellin market- village.In Brugnato we visit St. Bernard oratory, the village and the cathedral. There is the possibility to visit the Bishop’s palace, seat of the Diocesan Museum which illustrate its own double function: private residence and representation building.At 11,00 we proceed towards Varese Ligure and along the way, we allow ourselves a stop in order to visit Vara Valley organic dairy. The lunch will permit to experience some of local specialities linked to local organic cultures and farming. In the afternoon we visit Grexino village linked to the rest of the inhabited by the homonym bridge, the round village and St. John the Baptist church, one of Ligurian baroque most beautiful examples..
The Taverne valley – Comano, Tavernelle e Crespiano (FD)
Lunigiana is characterized by a big number of small valleys, nowadays almost forgotten, in the past witnesses and protagonists of the great historical Italian and European events.The Taverone valley (left side-stream of Magra river) little frequented by the big tourist flows, permits to tell how a trip happened eight centuries ago.Whatever was the aim of the trip (war, prayer or money), villages parish-churches and castles that we will meet are still evidences of it and still today are telling you about people who lived, rested or have been killed there, painting a magnificent fresco of Lunigiana in the moment of its maximum splendour.
At 9,30 meet our Guide at Aulla’s motorway exit in order to journey towards Taverone valley with the villages of Panicale, Ponte Bosio and Varano. A stop by Venelia parish (11th cent.) and here we are at Tavernelle, built in the 1300 along the “salt route”. We reach Comano for lunch break and a suggestive visit to the village. In the afternoon we descend again until Crespiano, to