Exploring Lunigiana, the land of Statue Stele

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This is a Guest post by Jerome & Angela O’Brien

Lunigiana is set between Tuscany, Liguria and Emilia Romagna, but has a unique character all of its own. It is the Land of 100 castles, and of the Statue Stele, and derives its name from the ancient Roman port of Luni, just outside modern day Sarzana, whose ruins survive to this day. Luni’s amphitheatre is well worth a visit, as are the other artefacts now being restored and preserved in and around the museum.

Remains of Luni’s Roman town square
Remains of Luni’s Roman town square – photo by Jerome O’Brien

When we first visited 15 years ago, we were told that staying in Lunigiana would be like going back 50 years in time. It’s not much different now. Some of the castles have aged a little more, but many have been or are in the process of being brought back to life. Castello d’Aquila, the Eagles’ Castle, at Gragnola, Fivizzano is a prime example of what one lady’s determination and perseverance can do to bring back to life a building which has seen hundreds of years of violent history, but which now supports a charming hotel and wedding venue.

luni castello dell aquila
A moody Castello dell’Aquila – photo by Jerome O’Brien

More in the Malaspina style are the castles of Verrucola, Fivizzano and Fosdinovo. The Malaspina family, a minor branch of the Medici family, ruled Lunigiana for centuries and built a series of castles to defend themselves from any challengers. Cutting a long story short, they had usurped the place of the prince bishops of Luni who had ruled the area since the collapse of the Roman Empire.

The Statue Stele pre-dated both by a couple of thousand years. These are human-shaped stone statues that have been unearthed in the area and are now housed in the Museum of the Statue Stele in Castello del Pignaro at Pontremoli.

Lunigiana has now become a destination for cruisers calling at La Spezia. This has the double benefit of taking some pressure off the beautiful, but sometimes hard-pressed Cinque Terre, the 5 villages that provide Lunigiana’s honorary seaside, along, of course, with Portovenere, Lerici and the Versilia, of which more anon…

yacthing portovenere
Yachting in the blue waters of Portovenere – photo by Jerome O’Brien

About the Authors

Jerome & Angela O’Brien fell in love with the Lunigiana area 15 years ago while on holiday there. They founded their family business, LuniHolidays, where you can find houses for rent and for sale, and tips about travel in Lunigiana.

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