'The area of the Colli di Luni and the municipalities of Castelnuovo Magra and Ortonville, are the main production areas which also include 12 other municipalities: Sarzana - Santo Stefano di Magra - Bolano - Calice al Cornoviglio - Beverley - Riccò del Golfo - Follo - La Spezia - Vezzano Ligure - Arcola - Lerici - Ameglia. There are production companies only in some of these places, namely Sarzana, Santo Stefano di Magra and Arcola (in the Val di Magra) and Bolano (in the Val di Vara).
Its long history encompasses the rich heritage of the Roman colony of Luni, thousands of years of trade, meetings and clashes. It is situated at an intersection for important trade routes and pilgrimage trails, such as the Via Francigena, the route described by Sigeric (info:www.viafrancigena.eu), which crossed the historic centre of Sarzana (from Porta Parma to Porta Romana). Today it is a charming, small town not far from the beaches of Marinella, Fiumaretta and Versilia. The historic buildings include the Firmafede Fortress, the Cathedral of St. Maria Assunta and the Fortress of Sarzanello. In the summer, Sarzana is full of tourists, attracted by the many cultural and gastronomic events held there, including Sconfinando, the Festival of the Mind, Sarzana a Tavola etc.. Sarzana is also famous for its antique shops and the events related to them which take place in August: the National Antiques Show and the characteristic Antique Road Show. In all seasons, however, you can still appreciate its artistic and historical heritage and the diversity of the local gastronomic tradition. You can go for gentle walks in the surrounding green hills or walk along the river Magra in the Montemarcello-Magra Park. (info: www.parcomagra.it).
Santo Stefano di Magra
The history of this town is tied to its geographical position; it stands at a crossroads of ancient merchants and pilgrim routes, the main Tyrrhenian road in those times (stretching from the Po Valley in the south to Sarzana, Luni and reaching Lucca through the Passo della Cisa). The village was a stopping place along the Via Francigena, the route described by Sigeric (info: www.viafrancigena.eu). Here, it crossed the path taken by pilgrims travelling to the ports of Lerici or Levanto to start the sea journey to Santiago de Compostela. To meet the needs of travellers, many activities were undertaken on the land, such as the cultivation of vines and olive trees and the subsequent construction of oil mills and windmills, as well as the opening of craft shops. The village is divided into two parts by the old main road (through which passed the main Cisa road) and is surrounded by huge walls built in the late-Renaissance period. The two doors on the Via Francigena are preserved along the ancient city walls. The church, from the Baroque period and dedicated to Santo Stefano, dominates the village and its landscape with its imposing size. It is possible to go for gentle walks in the surrounding hills, (a must is a visit to the village of Ponzano Superiore, with its splendid panoramic position) or along the Magra River in the Montemarcello-Magra Park. (info: www.parcomagra.it)
Originally a Roman fort (perhaps called Arcul), it was a strategic outpost in the war against the Ligurians. The hill village, with its characteristic compact structure and narrow alleys, is dominated by the 10th century Obertenghi Castle, of which only the high-sided tower remains. A short distance from the centre is the 15th century church sanctuary to Our Lady of the Angels. Also worth a visit is the hill village of Trebiano, a typical village with ancient origins, a medieval church dedicated to St. Michael and the remains of a 16th century tower of an ancient castle. There are magnificent views from here. The tourist area of Arcola is very varied. You can stroll through vineyards, forests and walk along hillsides planted with olive trees; you can take part in various sports activities, try the excellent local wines and appreciate the simple and healthy cuisine of peasant origin. It is possible to go hiking and visit the flat area along the river Magra, inside the Regional Montemarcello-Magra Park. (www.parcomagra.it info)
Situated between the Val di Vara and Val di Magra, the municipality is divided into three centres: Bolano, the main town that has kept its medieval structure, Montebello, located at the highest point and divided into three settlements (di Cima, Mezzo e Fondo) (Top, Middle and Bottom) and Ceparana, a modern town that has developed on the flat plain with structures for commercial and handcraft activities. Bolano has a varied natural environment: a very relaxing hilly area, with terraces planted with olive trees and vines and lush vegetation, and beautiful plains along the river, inside the Regional Montemarcello-Magra Park,(info www.parcomagra.it), where the willows, water-reeds and the presence of various species of waterfowl offer a romantic setting. Whether walking through the streets of the village, or along the road called “dietro le mura”, ("behind the walls"), or through the narrow alleys between the houses which lean one against another, you can immerse yourself in Bolano’s history.(www.altaviadeimontiliguri.it info)
Where is it?
In the Municipality of Val di Magra, situated to the far east of Liguria, on the border with Tuscany. Its municipal seat is near Casano.
Why go there?
The historic centre of Ortonovo is situated on a hill at the foot of the Apuan Alps, which dominate the lower valley of the Magra (a part of historical Lunigiana). It was under Florence rule before being placed under Genoa jurisdiction in 1454. At one time, it was protected by walls and a castle which are no longer present, however the remains of the imposing 33 metre "Guinigi tower" can still be seen. Before reaching the village you come across the 16th century Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mirteto. A short distance from Ortonovo, located on a hill with a splendid view, is the ancient village of Nicola which is still intact. In the area near Casano, downstream, you can find an ethnographic museum housed inside an old mill, with a collection of 300 artefacts of country folk. In the flat area near the village is one of the most important Italian archaeological sites, once the ancient Roman city of Luni, from which the historical region of Lunigiana takes its name. In its heyday the port of Luni was one of the most important ports of the Mediterranean, from where the prized white marble of the Apuan Alps was shipped to Rome. Ortonovo is one of four municipalities in the Province of La Spezia crossed by the Via Francigena, the route described by Sigeric (info www.viafrancigena.eu).