Val di Magra
The Val di Magra is a beautiful valley set between green hills, mountains and the sea. The geographic area of the Val di Magra includes the Magra River basin and its affluents.
Part of this area is included in the territory of Lunigiana, once the Diocese of Luni. The Magra River, together with the hilltop castles which follow its course, form a rich and homogeneous landscape.
Sarzana is set in the fertile Magra River Valley, of which it is the most important town. It has an interesting artistic heritage, as well as cultural and tourist events, which make it a lively and fascinating town to visit all year round.
Art Exhibitions, Food and Wine Festivals
There are many food and wine festivals, as well as antique fairs and art exhibitions in this area. Sarzana is famous for its many antique shops and workshops where local artisans restore furniture. The “Mostra Nazionale dell’Antiquariato”, a national antique exhibition, it is held in August. The Fortezza Firmafede, also called the Citadella, hosts this important exhibition. The “Soffitta nella Strada”, takes place at the same time. It is an antique open air market. It fills the town streets with hundreds of stands containing antiques, as well as the work of artists and artisans.
The local wine and food festivals include many Ligurian specialties, such as: “pesto” (a sauce made from crushed basil, garlic, pine nuts, cheese and olive oil); “farinata di ceci” (chick pea pancake); “torta di riso” (a rice pie); “torta di faro” (a pie made with a special variety of grain); excellent olive oil, Vermentino wine and other DOC wines from the hills of Luni.
The “Fiera delle Nocciole”, the hazelnut fair, is another event which shouldn’t be missed. It takes place on the Sunday before Palm Sunday. During the fair, Sarzana becomes a colourful bazaar, with good of all kinds on sale.
Traces of the Past
The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta is located in the centre of Sarzana in via Mazzini. It was built on the ruins of the parish church of San Basilio. The collection of paintings and artefacts found inside the cathedral constitute a veritable lesson in art history. Some of the works which can be found in the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta are: sculptures and paintings by Domenico Fiasella, also called “Il Sarzana”; a terracotta work by Della Robbia and a crucifix by Mastro Guglielmo. The crucifix is perhaps the most important work in the cathedral. It is painted in Romanic style and is said to be the oldest crucifix, painted on wood, existing in the world.
The Sant’Andrea Church is also located in Via Mazzini. During the restoration of the church, an ancient oven used for the fusion of metal was found..
The Fortezza of Castruccio Castracani guards Sarzana from a hilltop. The Fortress has an unusual triangular shape. According to a local legend, a ghost haunts the fortress on full moon nights.
Things to see in the Val di Magra
Ancient monuments, famous museums and interesting cultural events can be found in every town in this area. Among these towns are the strongholds and historical centres of Arcola, Trebiano and Vezzano Ligure. In Castelnuovo Magra, the remains of a Malaspina castle can be found. A painting attributed to Brueghel, “Salita al Calvario”, is located in the parish church.
Ortonovo, another hilltop town, has an interesting medieval centre, with an elliptic town plan.
Luni, an ancient Roman city, is located near Ortonovo. Roman ruins, an interesting archaeological museum, the remains of an amphitheatre and the “Basilica”, can all be admired in Luni.
The first town we encounter ascending the Magra River is Ameglia. Ameglia was a strategic medieval hilltop village, built on the delta of the Magra. Today it is a quiet town with an interesting historical centre.
Marinella is a local seaside village. All the activities and facilities associated with a resort of this type: sandy beaches, bathing establishments, easy footpaths, as well as, hotels and restaurants, can be found here. It offers a pleasant stay for everyone.
The territory of the Montemarcello-Magra Park includes: lakes, rivers, mountains and of course the ever present sea. It is possible to practice many outdoor sports, such as: hiking along the footpaths; boating; sailing; fishing or just relaxing in the open air.