A Breathtaking Glimpse Into a Medieval City
We left early in the morning on Saturday, Easter Eve. Driving on the Autostrada is fine, but then it is necessary to take some secondary roads. The road conditions are ok. And the scenery is wonderful no matter where you drive in Italy. I stopped for lunch at a little family owned ristorante. No one speaks English here, but I do know some Italian so “tutto era buono”, “everything was good.”
She gets the key, and grabs another umbrella, since it is still raining, and we walk across the street to the building that will be home for the night. I found out later that the building had collapsed over the years and was rebuilt using original material from the old structure.
We unpack, and are amazed at the room. Concrete base for the bed, windows overlooking the piazza, a bathroom with stone sinks and shower, and a window that penetrates the wall that has to be at least 12” thick with a piece of glass on the outside edge. The door is obviously original, and the keys are the largest room keys I have ever seen. I tell my wife to make herself comfortable and I head out to shoot some photos.
I go to the room, get my wife, and tell her of my find. Her clothing is still wet, so basically she wears her pajamas to dinner. We open the door to the restaurant and find they are not open yet, they are still setting up for the night. We ask if we can wait, and they are agreeable. We sit and enjoy the view of this old restaurant, and I notice photos of Rick Steves on the walls of the place. He obviously had dinner here too when he visited this town. We at pasta, what else, some sausage, and drank lots of wine. If you have not been to Italy, the wine is plentiful. By the glass or by the bottle is very inexpensive. And all local. Salute.
Diner is over and we make our way back to the room. By now it is dark outside. We have a small light in our room. I turn on the light and I decide to use a hair dryer to help dry out my shoes, which by now are soaked. Not long after turning it on, I trip a breaker and all the power is now off. I have to call the owner who begins to give me instructions on where the breaker box is and that I should go and reset the breaker. What a way to start the night. I do find the panel and reset the breaker. I then go back to my room and settle in for the night.
Next thing I know, church bells are ringing. I remember that the church is just across the piazza and it is Easter Morning. The bells are ringing to signify the resurrection of Christ. I also notice that the sun is finally out. I then try to use the coffee maker in our room which for some reason, either I can’ figure out or does not work. So I tell my wife, I am going out to shoot more photos in daylight, and I will find us some coffee. Little did I know, finding coffee was not going to be easy.
After walking the same streets as the night before, I find a shop keeper setting up for the day, and ask if I can get a cup of coffee. He tells me he is not a coffee shop but come back in 10-15 min and he will see what he can do. I walk through town a bit more, taking more photos, and then go back. He is ready to make me coffee and has the girl that works for him brew it for us in her coffee maker.
I bring the coffee to my wife and then we finish packing. We then begin the long trip down the ramp to the parking lot. At least the sun is shining this time, and the view of the valley is amazing. There are even people out heading up the ramp to go to Sunday services at the church. We find the car, put our bags in, and take one last look at this historical town. This was not a 5 star hotel stay, but I will never forget the experience here in Civita Di Bognoregio.
There were problems with the room, but that makes for wonderful memories. Now it’s off to Pompeii and then the Amalfi Coast.
From "My Travel in Tuscany"
Even though along the coast summer seems to still be here, with some people resting in the sun and swimming in the sea, the fall came a couple of weeks ago. If you are still uncertain of where you should be traveling during this period of the year, choosing to plan the autumn holidays in Tuscany is definitely a good idea.
There are various good reasons to choose Tuscany in autumn, even if only for a short break or a romantic escape. Together with the spring, the fall is probably the best period to visit this land loved for its relaxing atmosphere, peaceful places, culture and history.
6 good reasons to plan your Autumn Holidays in Tuscany...
In October, the weather is still mild with warm and sunny days where you only need shorts and flip-flops to walk around. In November a bit of rain should fall, but it won’t stop your will to travel. Depending on the forecasts, you can choose to explore areas with less chance of rain, as Maremma or Crete Senesi. For an overview of the climate of the region read also our post about the weather in Tuscany.
Flights, hotel rates and the cost for a room or apartment are cheaper. Taking advantage of some packages and deals, you will be able to organize your autumn holidays in Tuscany without spending a fortune, a big savings compared to the high season.
Autumn is the period of the fall foliage, and the forests of Tuscany are every bit as good as the ones in New England in the United States or in Japan. The colour of leaves turns to different shades of yellow, orange, red and brown, giving the forests a special, magic and relaxing atmosphere where the only sound you can hear is the creaking of the dry foliage under your feet. I am sure your “perfect place” is somewhere out there, between the Mugello and the Casentino areas, up to the mountains of Abetone or Monte Amiata, into the chestnut tree forests of Castagneto Carducci in the Etruscan Coast or of Lunigiana.
Being out of the peak season you can enjoy both the art cities (Florence, Pisa, Siena and Lucca) and the main villages (San Gimignano, Pienza, Montalcino and Montepulciano) without the crowds you find during the summer.
You can even get out the cities and the more "touristy" spots and head for the Tuscan Riviera. It offers you wide empty sandy beaches to walk, medieval villages overlooking the sea to explore as Populonia in the Gulf of Baratti (where you can even visit the interesting archaeological park of Baratti and Populonia) or Porto Ercole and Porto Santo Stefano in the Argentario Promontory.
Taste the fruits of the season
The indisputable ruler of the autumn holidays in Tuscany is the food. Fall is the season of truffles, mushrooms, chestnuts, olive oil, and wine. The Sagre, the traditional festivals where you can taste the fruits of our land and the exquisite recipes made with them, spring up throughout the region.
The villages of San Miniato (in the province of Pisa) and of San Giovanni d’Asso (near Siena) celebrate the white truffle every November with festivals and trade fairs. But, the best places to pick and taste chestnuts are in the areas of Mugello, Garfagnana, Casentino, Lunigiana, and Monte Amiata. In the past, chestnut was one of the main ingredients of the kitchen, especially during periods of famine. Thanks to our grandparents, who passed down to us recipes of delicious dishes made with chestnuts, we still keep alive their memories and their traditions. Do not miss tasting roasted chestnuts or traditional food made with chestnut flour as Castagnaccio (try to make it following the recipe of my Grandma), crepes (called Necci) with ricotta cheese, or the Torta di Marroni of Mugello.
November is also the time of olive oil harvest and the time to celebrate the “Vino Novello”, the first wine produced with the fruits of the grape harvest of September.
Finally, I add another suggestion to the list of reasons why you should plan an autumn holiday in Tuscany: wellness and hot springs. In case of bad weather or chilly temperature you can even think to pamper yourself with a plunge into one of the hot springs of the region. Here is our blog post where put together all the free hot springs of Tuscany.
Do you still need reasons to convince you to spend your autumn holidays in Tuscany? Let me know If you need any other information or suggestions... just send me a story idea anytime through Facebook!
Nicola lives and breathes the travel life. From Cecina, a small coastal town in the centre of Tuscany, along the Etruscan Coast, Nicola works for luxury hotels and, when he's not working, he travels himself.
Nicola spent most of his years in Cecina, on the Tyrrhenian coast, surrounded by the sea, the wine region of Bolgheri and beautiful hills with many little hamlets. As a child there was little opportunity to travel a lot, except for weekends and holidays spent at the families country house in the chestnut wood of the tiny village of Sassetta.
Once gown, Nicola started to travel with friends, or by himself, and he fell in love with travel; discovering new cultures, new ways of life and meeting new people from all over the world.
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Where is Lunigiana situated?
Lunigiana (in Latin Lunensis Ager) is the historical region between northern Tuscany, western Emilia Romagna and eastern Liguria. It is one of my favourite territories of Tuscany. This mountainous region is crossed by the Magra river and covers an area that runs from the Tosco-Emiliano Appennines to the Mediterranean Sea.
Lunigiana today belongs in part to Tuscany and in part to Liguria. In the past Lunigiana was extended till the Versilia coastline and till the Serchio River Valley, not far from the town of Lucca.
The name Lunigiana probably comes from the devotion to the myth of the Moon (Lunae in Latin) of the ancient inhabitants of Luni, an important city at the time of Roman Empire, founded in 177 BC. That’s why Lunigiana is also considered the valley of the Moon.
History of Lunigiana
Lunigiana has a long history back to the Prehistoric Era, and the proofs of it are the famous Statue Stele. These anthropomorphic stone statues date back to the 4th– 1th millennium BC, but their function is not revealed yet.
Ligurian-Apuan were inhabitants of Lunigiana, but with the arrival of Romans in 2nd Century BC, this strong people who often defeated the Romans troops, were deported away.
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire on 460 AD, Lunigiana has been the center of the contest between the Byzantines and Longobards, and then Franks.
The Diocese of Luni owned all the historic territory during the Middle Ages, including Versilia and La Spezia harbor (not far from Cinque Terre). This is the time in which the Via Francigena, (the combination of roads that linked Canterbury to Rome, along 1.600 Km/994 miles), gained of importance as pilgrimage route, and as military connection between Northern Europe and Mediterranean Sea.
The Obertenghi, dynasty of Longobards origin, around the year 1000, established their noble family in Lunigiana. And then, the Malaspina Family, their descendants, controlled this territory for almost two centuries.
As often happens in a family, relations between relatives were not easy, especially if hereditaries are longing the power. The Malaspina Family split their properties in two distinct branches, the Spino Fiorito (Blooming Thorn) and the Spino Secco (Dry Thorn). Thanks to the Malaspina competitiveness, in both sides of the Magra River Valley many villages have been fortified and many castles built. Lots of them are still existing. The only independent city was Pontremoli, which was an important trade center.
After decades of fights, in 1306 on Castelnuovo Magra, an armistice have been signed, between Malaspina and the earl-bishop of Luni. The legend says that, as solicitor of the Malaspina, the nowadays famous poet Dante Alighieri exiled from Florence since the beginning of fourteenth century, signed the treaty.
After the decline of the Malaspina family, Lunigiana became the center of the interest of the main powerful cities, as Florence, Genova and Milan.
In 1797 Napoleon abolished the feudal system, but the actual administrative division went just with the Unification of Italy. Nowadays of the historical Lunigiana does not exist anymore, and the territory has been divided in two different region Tuscany and Liguria.
If you are planning to spend few days of your next Italian holiday in Florence, you will definitely have to visit the historical centre, listed in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, as thirteen million visitors do every year. Moreover, you can even think to include in your itinerary some day trips to take from Florence.
Thanks to its central position, you can easily reach many destinations, famous or unusual, by train or by car, and discover all the beauties of Tuscany. Here is my personal list with 10 “day trips to take from Florence ."
Take a bus and climb the hill overlooking Florence to reach the town of Fiesole, one the favourite places of many foreigners since the end of 1700s. Of Etruscan origins, Fiesole was an important city of the Roman Age. Today we can still admire the well-preserved Roman Amphitheatre and the ruins of the Necropolis, of a Thermal bath and other imperial palaces. Another interesting attraction is the Medici Villa, built during the fifth teen century, but we can only the gardens (free entry) reserving in advance.
In less than one hour you can reach the valley of Mugello, rich in beautiful landscapes, nature and opportunities of hiking and biking along a system of tracks in sync with its surroundings. Two of the fourteen Medici Villas included in the UNESCO World Heritage List are in Mugello, known worldwide even for hosting every year the MotoGP motorcycle racing with stars as Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo. Moreover, being Italy famous for fashion and clothes, if you like shopping, in Barberino del Mugello there is a big outlet where you make great deals. (READ MORE)
Next up... Chianti, Siena, Pisa and more!