Lunigiana, in Latin Lunensis Ager,is the historical region between northern Tuscany, western Emilia Romagna, and eastern Liguria. It is one of my favorite territories of Tuscany. This mountainous region is crossed by the Magra river and covers an area that runs from the Tosco-Emiliano Apennines to the Mediterranean Sea.

Lunigiana today belongs in part to Tuscany and in part to Liguria. In the past, Lunigiana was extended to the Versilia coastline and to 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 times of Roman Empire, founded in 177 BC. That’s why Lunigiana is also considered the valley of the Moon.

Tabula Peutingeriana Lunigiana

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.

The Statue Stele Museum in Pontremoli
Stele Statue of Lunigiana

The Ligurian-Apuans were the inhabitants of Lunigiana until the arrival of Romans in the 2nd Century BC. These strong people who often defeated the Romans’ troops finally were deported away.

Luni Roman Amphitheatre
The Roman Amphitheatre of Luni

Since the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 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 gained importance as a pilgrimage route, and as a military connection between Northern Europe and the Mediterranean Sea. The Via Francigena was a road that linked Canterbury to Rome, passing across France, Suisse, and Italy, along 1.600 Km/994 miles.

The Obertenghi, a dynasty of Longobards origin, around the year 1000, established their noble family in Lunigiana. And then, the Malaspina Family, and 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 its properties into two distinct branches, the Spino Fiorito (Blooming Thorn) and the Spino Secco (Dry Thorn). Thanks to the Malaspina competitiveness, on 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 a solicitor of the Malaspina, the nowadays famous poet Dante Alighieri exiled from Florence since the beginning of the 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 the historical Lunigiana does not exist anymore, and the territory has been divided into two different regions Tuscany and Liguria.

Dante Alighieri, Purgatory, Canto VIII, 115-18

dante alighieri

. se novella vera

di Val di Magra, o di parte vicina,

sai, dillo a me, che già grande là era.

Chiamato fui Corrado Malaspina;

non son l’Antico, ma di lui discesi.

Of Valdimagra and the neighbor part

Thou know’st, tell me, who once was mighty there

They call’d me Conrad Malaspina; not

That old one, but from him I sprang. The love

I bore my people is now here refineds leo.

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