This day itinerary explores some of Lunigiana’s loveliest towns, offers stunning scenery, as well as the opportunity to sample some of the area’s best food. There is Licciana Nardi with its interesting small shops, a stop in Apella for a special lunch experience, vistas across Lunigiana that will take your breath away, the beautiful town of Bagnone with its thundering gorge and castle, and the village of Castiglione del Terziere, dominated by a medieval fortress.
The tour starts and ends in the old historical centre of Licciana Nardi, which can be reached by taking the Aulla exit on the A15 autostrada, and then following the SS62 and the SS665 in the direction of Licciana Nardi and Passo del Lagastrello. The round trip is approximately 38 kilometres, sometimes on windy and narrowish roads in the mountains.
The town dates back to the 13th century, when its role was to guard the route to the Passo del Lagastrello. The castle, which now looks more like a mansion, towers over the main square. Look for the bridge that was used by its inhabitants to reach the church without having to encounter the locals. The castle is now a private residence, and not open to the public. Some of the ancient fortified walls of the town can still be seen.
Today, the main street of Licciana Nardi is filled with small shops, all with colourful painted signs. In particular look out for the Brunilde, which is part of the initiative, i Laboratori del Parco, run by the Parco Nazionale Appennino Tosco Emiliano, that supports the production by local artisans of handicrafts using local materials, such as wool and leather. Another great find is the butcher’s shop, which is so much more than a butcher’s shop. Besides locally-sourced meat of all kinds, it is also brimming over with local wine, salumi, honey, cheese and more. [Note: Avoid Mondays, when shops close for all or part of the day, particularly at quiet times of the year].
From Licciana Nardi continue towards Lagastrello on the SS665. You ascend into the mountains for about seven kilometres. At one point, you will see the SP75 on your right that goes to Comano. Don’t take take that road. Continue up the SS665 until you reach Tavernelle.
The heart of Tavernelle is the ancient Via del Sale, the salt road, that is said to have been lined with the taverns after which the town is named. Stop off and explore it if you have time.
Drive through Tavernelle and turn left towards Taponecco and Apella on the SP22b. Follow the signs for Agriturismo Montagne Verde, identifiable by its tower and less than one kilometre from the village of Apella. The distance from Tavernelle to Apella is less than four kilometres, but the road is windy so will take longer than you expect.
The Agriturismo Montagne Verde offers some of the best food on offer in Lunigiana and is the perfect place to stop for lunch. It recently won the prestigious Menu a Km Zero restaurant award and the ingredients used in the restaurant come from the farm or are sourced locally. The chef has a flair for the unusual, and his dishes often surprise with innovative ingredient combinations, all delicious.
It is always best to make a reservation, particularly if you are planning to visit on weekends, or to warn them of your arrival at quiet times of the year. Telephone 0187/421203 – 392/9963407 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Montagne Verde is home to one of the visitor centres for the Parco Nazionale dell’Appennino Tosco Emiliano, so take the opportunity to visit it while you are there.
From Apella, continue towards Bagnone passing through Collesino. This section is just over 12 kilometres but, again parts of it are very windy and care is needed. The drive is unforgettable and the route offers some spectacular views over Lunigiana.
Bagnone is a town of dreams. Its medieval porticoes, the jumble of green-shuttered stone buildings accentuated by geranium-filled flower boxes, the river crashing through the gorge, the remains of old mills and a 14th century castle tend to shift one back in time. For some of the best views of Bagnone, look for the stairs off the Via della Repubblica, and discover the 13th century stone bridge that points the way up to the privately-owned castle.
Don’t forget to search Bagnone’s porticoes for the carving of the stone lily. Local legend says it will bring you luck if you rub it (although you need to be quite tall to reach it). It is rumoured that this is what helped a local resident win one of Europe’s richest jackpots (147 million euros) in 2009, after buying his winning ticket in a bar in Piazza Roma.
Head back towards the castle. You are looking for the SP21b in the direction of Castiglione and Licciana Nardi. After about three kilometres turn right towards Località Castiglione and about half a kilometre further on, arrive at the foot of the village and park.
Castiglione del Terziere
The village of Castiglione is located on a hill, and is dominated by the castle, which dates back to the 6th or 7th century AD. In the Middle Ages it is said to have played host to Dante Alighieri, Niccolò Piccinino and Francesco Sforza. The castle was privately renovated in 1969, and is now the home of the Niccolò V Centre of Humanistic Studies, a school of music, an archive, and a library. It is not open to the public, unless you make an appointment in advance with the owner, Mr. Loris Jacopo Bononi. Telephone 0187-429100 / 0187-429227.
The original church of Castiglione was abandoned in 1783 because it was declared unsafe. Today, the Monument to the Fallen stands on the site of the church, although you can still see parts of the foundations, a couple of old fonts and an alter, as well as gravestones. The new church was completed in1787.
Head back the short distance to the SP21b, turn right and continue in the direction of Licciana Nardi, and after about 11.5 kilometres driving through pleasant countryside and past small villages, you’ll once more find yourself in Licciana Nardi.
A day tour itinerary in Lunigiana: Licciana Nardi – Apella – Bagnone – Castiglione del Terziere – Licciana Nardi appeared on Ciao Lunigiana on 24 July 2012. All rights reserved.
Photo of Apella courtesy of Agriturismo Montagne Verde