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 Pisa Lucca Luni

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.

statue stele lunigiana
Stele Statue of Lunigiana

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.

Luni Roman Amphitheatre
The Roman Amphitheatre of Luni

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.

map and Itinerary of Via Francigena in Tuscany
middle age knight show in lunigiana

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.

Coat of arms of the House of Malaspina (Spino Fiorito)
Coat of Arms of the House of Malaspina Family – Spino Fiorito
Spino Secco Malaspina Coat of Arm
Coat of Arms of the House of Malaspina Family – Spino Secco

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.

Dante Alighieri, Purgatory, Canto VIII, 115-18

dante alighieri
purgatory dante alighieri divine comedy snake valdimagra lunigiana

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 refined
s leo.

.. 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.

If you come to visit Lunigiana, I suggest you to try the testaroli of Lunigiana with pesto sauce, or you can prepare by yourself at home with the recipe I provided in the article.

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