Pontremoli is a great place to explore, with its castle that looms over the medieval town, its narrow streets, and its piazza divided by the clock tower. It comes complete with rivers and ancient bridges, baroque churches and fabulous food shops. If you are visiting with children, the following activities will help make it a fun experience.
Six activities for children in Pontremoli
The story of Pinocchio was, of course, written in 1883 by a Tuscan, Carlo Collodi, who was born in Florence. Pinocchio became famous as a result of Walt Disney’s animated movie made in 1940. Pontremoli celebrated Pinocchio’s fame with a statue in July 1960. Take the kids to see it in the gardens next to the Rose Theatre. There is also a tribute to Walt Disney in the form of a statue of Donald Duck, Pluto and Micky Mouse, or Topolino, as he is called in Italian a little out of town in the park at Via Porta Fiorentino
Find the church with Spitfire planes on its door
Thought to be the only church in the world with Spitfires on its doors, the Church of San Nicolò is in the old town in Via Garibaldi. Walk north from Piazza del Duomo in the direction of the hospital. The church is on the left with two large brass doors comprising panels of religious scenes. One of the panels depicts Bishop Sismondo and Spitfires flying over Pontremoli. Bishop Sismondo twice saved Pontremoli from being flattened during World War II – once by the Allies and once by the Germans. Read the full story.
Count the special painted benches in the old town
Pontremoli has long been associated with books and its specially painted benches are part of its literary culture. Passers by are encouraged to use them to take a rest or read a book. You’ll find them in the northern part of the old town in Via Garibaldi and on the road up to the castle, Via del Piagnaro. Get the kids to count them. You should find 12, although occasionally one might be missing because it is being repainted.
Discover why some of the statues in the Stele Statue Museum don’t have necks
The museum up at the castle has a collection of prehistoric stele statues from the region dating back to the iron age. The statues are classified into three groups according to their age. Download this brochure, in English, which explains it all. Basically, the very oldest statues have no necks. Over time, the stele evolved into statues with necks and the familiar half-moon shaped head. The most recent ones are more three-dimensional and have features on all sides, not just the front. The exhibition is small enough to keep the attention of most children, and its special lighting makes it easy to see features on the statues that are difficult to see in daylight.
Explore the castle and peer down on the roofs that gave the castle its name
Piagnaro Castle is an intriguing place to explore, and offers fantastic views over the old town and surrounding area. The castle dates back to the 10th Century and is strategically placed to protect Pontremoli and the strategic route to the north. The name Piagnaro comes from the word piagne, the word for the slate slabs used to tile the roofs of the old town, which it overlooks. In times gone by, these tiles were an important defense mechanism as they protected the buildings from flaming arrows.
Try eating Pontremoli’s famous amor pastry without making a mess
Stop at the lovely art deco Café degli Svizzeri in Piazza della Repubblica for refreshements and try Pontremoli’s famous amor pastry. It is said to be made from a secret recipe and consists of a creamy custard filling with a hint of lemon, between wafer biscuits. It is impossible to eat without the filling squeezing out, so you may as well let the kids use their hands. Challenge them to see how little mess they can make.
For more on Pontremoli, download the Pontremoli town brochure in English.
Photo of Pinocchio and Piagnaro Castle courtesy of Pontremoli comune. Photo of amor pastry courtesy of Café degli Svizzeri
Pontremoli for children appeared on Ciao Lunigiana on 2 July 2012. All rights reserved.