A large and varied region of Italy, many observers regard Tuscany as the area which is quintissentially ‘Italian’ and offering the ‘best’ of Italy. Certainly for anyone visiting Italy for the first time Tuscany is the ideal starting point. The ‘lingua Toscana’ is the purest dialect in the country, the countryside is gentle with rolling hills and natural beauty (often seemingly untouched since the Middle Ages) and of course, Tuscany was the birthplace of the Renaissance. The Tuscan people are more reserved than the people in the South but nonetheless they are friendly and open and fiercely proud of being ‘Tuscan’. They live comfortably and happily amid the history and natural beauty of their surroundings with hearty food from the land including a host of wild game as well as fish stew from the Mare Tirreno not to mention the excellent red wines – the very best being from Chianti in the centre of Tuscany between Siena and Florence.
Everywhere there is beauty, history and culture and every fantasy from your days as an armchair traveller will be satisfied. The steep hills of the eastern and central part of Tuscany, latticed by olive orchards and vineyards, are if anything more beautiful than in the photo books. The coast and countryside of the Maremma near Porto Ercole and Monte Argentario is stunningly beautiful and unspoilt and everywhere there is history, from the Etruscan stronghold of Fiesole to the Roman colony of Volterra to the Renaissance splendour of Florence.
Lunigiana is the region to the extreme north of the Tuscany, situated between Liguria and Emilia Romagna along the course of the river Magra and its affluents and to the north of Lucca and Pisa. With its hills, steep valleys, green meadows and high mountains, it is surrounded by the Appennines and the Apuan Alps. Lunigiana is a small homogenous region, relatively undiscovered by visitors with hot summers and cold winters.
Lunigiana is an historical region of Tuscany and Liguria. It owns its name to the city of Luni, an ancient Etruscan city, and then Roman colony since 2 BC. Here, the Liguri people settled and they left as their legacy ‘le statue stele’. In the fifth century Lunigiana was robbed by the Vandals, and then by the Longobards of Rotari.
At the end of the first millenium, the earl-bishops of Luni and the Malaspina family fought for domination of Lunigiana. The dispute was finally resolved in favour of the Malaspina who then started their rule of the region. The successive fragmentations of several feuds, due to the peculiar division of the Malaspina (every male descendant inherited a part of the feuds) led to a quick decline in favour of The Republic of Florence, and also from time to time, Lucca, Genova and Parma.
In 1797, Napoleon included Lunigiana in the Cisalpina Republic, and in 1802 Lunigiana was made part of the Italian Republic that included Austrian Lombardy, Valtellina, part of the State of the Church and Modena. After the Congress of Vienna in 1814, the ancient Lunigiana Region was divided amongst the Rulers of Sardinia and the Dukes of Modena and Parma. Most of historical Lunigiana is consequently within modern day Tuscany although it is very mcuh an area with its own character, history and culture.
Fivizzano is situated in the widest valley of Lunigiana extending from the Appenines to the Apuan Alps. The numerous valleys, with the tributaries of Rosaro, Mommio and Lucido all meet the course of the Aulella River. The landscape here is beautiful with fabulous views everywhere. Considered the Florence of Lunigiana, Fivizzano has always been an important centre and the many castles, churches and noble palaces are evidence of this. Fivizzano gave itself to the Medici family in the XV century and remained in their possession until the arrival of the Lorena. The walls of Fivizzano were erected by order of Cosimo de’ Medici in 1540, while the baroque font of the main square was constructed during the rule of Cosimo III in 1683. Beyond the walls, is the village of the Verrucola where the castle of the Verrucola lies, erected by Spinetta Malaspina the Great. Fivizzano was the birthplace of Jacopo of Fivizzano, one of the first printers.
Every summer in July, the “Disfida degli arceri di terra e di corte” fill with people from the medieval villages. Nearby, one can visit the Romanesque church of Saint Paul of Vendaso, the village of Soliera with the sanctuary of the Madonna of the Necks, the villages of Gragnola with the castle and Vinca, famous for its bread. In addition there is the Botanical Garden of the Frignoli, the village of Sassalbo and the delightful villages of Casole, Bagnone and Fosdinovo.