The Lunigiana is a stretch of Tuscany with a DNA all its own, where you can find a blend of the scents and waters of the sea and the fragrances and colours of the Apennines. Here, in the area that takes its name from the luna, or moon, the sacred and the profane recall a bygone past. Malaspina castles, Romanesque parish churches and Renaissance palaces guide you as you trace the course of history and explore the lively and dynamic Lunigiana, where the star of the show is the taste of the best local dishes from the Valle del Magra, like testaroli and focaccette, known as panigacci around these parts.
The essence of the Lunigiana can be seen in its most primitive element: stone. The stele statues, capitals of the Romanesque parish churches, crenelated castle walls, modest walls of the rural towns, the mysterious faciòn and objects of everyday use and work are just some of the symbols of the Valle della Luna. And all of them depend on her, sandstone, a poor stone compared to what can be found in the nearby Apuan Alps, but which didn’t disfigure the environment or need to be extracted. Here, the rock was wounded only by simple and ancient tools, guided by patient hands with the skill to create graceful figures, like those decorating the splendid capitals of the parish churches of SS. Cipriano e Cornelio in Codiponte, S. Paolo in Vendaso and S. Stefano di Sorano in Filattiera, where even the “sacred” stone lives side-by-side with the “profane” stone of the stele statues. These Pagan idols made by the Ligurian-Apuani, up to a metre and a half tall, are archaic representations of human figures that, based on the weapons they are holding, amulets they are wearing and the evolution of the somatic lines, can be dated to a period between the Copper Age and the late Iron Age. More than 50 of these anthropomorphic figures are housed in the Piagnaro Castle, in the celebrated “Museum of the Lungiana Stele Statues”. And it’s precisely in Pontremoli where we begin our journey.