Discovering towns

Below is a guide to various areas and towns of Italy sorted in alphabetical order.

This section continues to grow as we add more and more  to this brief guide so do send us your contributions and we will be happy to include them in the Italian Experience.

Aulla

Aulla is one the largest towns in Lunigiana; it has a good selection of shops, supermarkets, medical centre, public transport and links to the motorway. The historic town centre is the site of a marble fountain built in the year of Italian unity and the 16th century fortress called La Brunella is perched on a hill overlooking the town.  The fortress now houses the Museum of Natural History of Lunigiana. Enjoy the colourful market hosted in the town centre every Saturday morning.

Bagnone

Bagnone is a charming medieval town dominated by a castle and a cobbled piazza is ideal for watching the local town life go by while sipping a cappuccino in one of the many cafès. Cobbled lanes with interlinking archways and restaurants hidden under the stone vaults, shops offering local produce and the backdrop of the mountains make this a particularly pretty town in the area.

Comano

Comano is a town at the head of the Taverone valley with a backdrop of the breathtaking Apennine Mountains. There are many walking trails leading from Comano and the surrounding villages to the hills. The town which is surrounded by the farming community hosts an annual horse festival in the summer and offers a good selection of shops, restaurants and sport facilities. 

Cararra

Cararra is on the coastal plain at the foot of the jagged Apuan mountains famous for the pure white marble quarried above the town. Cararra hosts many art schools with world renowned sculpture exhibitions and concerts in the piazza in the summer months. Michelangelo personally chose the marble blocks for his masterpieces the David and the Pietà. Enjoy the sandy beaches with water sports at both Marina di Massa and Marina di Cararra.

Casola in Lunigiana

Casola in Lunigiana is a small town set on the hill above the Aulella river with the houses huddled around its central stone tower. Famous for its stone statues that date back to the Neolithic age and are thought to be gifts to the moon Goddess. There is a selection of shops and restaurants in the town, a chemist and in the neighbouring village a train station with direct trains to Lucca.  There are beautiful views to the Apuan mountains and cobbled lanes lead from the town to the river.

Cerreto Laghi

Cerreto Laghi is the largest of the ski resorts in the area with 16 km of piste, snowboard park and cross country skiing. There is also an ice skating rink, restaurants and cafes. In the summer, you can enjoy a range of activities including cycling, fishing and walking.

The Cinque Terre are five picturesque villages strung along the narrow coastline north of the Gulf of the Poets and La Spezia with pretty coves, beaches and are accessed on foot, boat or with the local train that shuttles between the villages. Anyone visiting the Cinque Terre should take a walk along the cliff paths which link one village to the next, stop in one of the bars or restaurants and try the anchovies marinated in olive oil and garlic, served with bread and delicate white wine made from the grapes that grow up the steep terraces above the villages. The Cinque Terre are a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Filattiera

Between Pontremoli and Bagnone this little comune of Filattiera is set around the hilltown dominated by a castle and cobbled piazza.  A summer festa held along the lanes offers local food, wine and music.

Fivizzano

Fivizzano is a medieval walled town with a central cobbled piazza and is often referred to as the Florence of Lunigiana. The bustling town hosts many cultural events over the summer with concerts in the piazza and reenactments of medieval parades. With its musical heritage the town also attracts international musicians during its annual folk music festival. There is a hospital, shops and restaurants in the town.

Fosdinovo

Fosdinovo is a walled town dominated by a Malaspina Castle dating back to the fourteenth century. The town is famous for its embroidery on precious linen and Pope Francis’s robe was embroidered by the ladies of Fosdinovo. The town is reached by a scenic road that meanders  through the olive groves above the town of Sarzana.

Gulf of the Poets

The Gulf of the Poets is an enclave with a group of three islands at its tip,  fishing villages with exceptional fish restaurants, as well as opportunities for sailing, canoeing, snorkelling or just  relaxing on one of the beaches hidden in craggy bays around Fiascherino or Tellaro.  The easiest way to get around the gulf is by boat which runs between Lerici, La Spezia and Portovenere or on to The Cinque Terre. The name Gulf of the Poets is from the literary connection as some of the world’s most famous poets including Shelley, Byron and D H Lawrence lived here at some time.

Licciana Nardi

Licciana Nardi is a town in the Taverone valley with 13th century pedestrian street flanked with local shops. Central in the town is the Piazza del Municipio which hosts the 16th century Malaspina castle and many festivals such as the Chestnut Festival in the autumn. The castle is linked to the baroque church by a covered bridge so that the nobles had direct access to prayer and dealings with the local priest. There are also a bank, schools, restaurants and medical facilities.  The nearby village of Monti has a castle on the hill above and offers a good selection of amenities.

Lunigiana

Lunigiana (pronounced Loonee-janna) is a magical part of Tuscany starting with its name the ‘Land of the Moon’.  The hills that encircle Lunigiana create an intimate and relaxed atmosphere whilst the blend of the mountains and sea are extremely inviting to those who enjoy the outdoors. The rolling landscape is liberally sprinkled with castles of Medici or Malaspina vintage but for lovers of the coast the sea is only half-an-hours’ drive away.

Lunigiana is special and has been likened to a magical kingdom. It is not only the breath-taking scenery with its abundance of medieval castles but you simply feel a huge sense of wellbeing radiating from the sunshine, glorious countryside, delicious food and wine, kind friendly locals and most importantly, from the sense of tradition and community amongst people here that is rarely seen in modern day life.

The golden sandy beaches around Lerici and the pebble coves of the Cinque Terre are ideal for swimming and sailing in the summer while the snow clad mountains offer skiing in the local resorts during the winter months and are each a short drive away. The area is criss-crossed with marked footpaths for walks to the hills and mountains. The airports of Pisa, Parma and Genova are all within an hours’ drive.

Lucca

Lucca is a walled historical city that endears itself to everyone who visits. Hidden behind imposing Renaissance walls the cobbled streets, elegant piazzas and shady promenades make it a perfect destination to explore on foot or riding the bicycles offered for rent in many points throughout the city. Lucca has many boutiques, historic cafes and restaurants. The nearby Torre del Lago hosts a summer Puccini festival.

Mulazzo

Mulazzo is a comune well known for its connections with Dante.  It is said that he was exiled here and here he wrote the purgatory of the famous  ‘Divine Comedy’.  There are several hill villages set amongst the chestnut groves and streams and rivers that criss-cross the lush green landscape.

Parma

The elegant town of Parma is home to the Verdi festival, excellent gourmet restaurants and of course parmesan cheese and ham. Parma is the perfect picture of an elegant provincial city. Beautifully preserved monuments adorn the tree lined avenues flanked with fashionable shops and sumptuous displays in the delicious delis.

Podenzana

Podenza is a series of villages strung along the hill above the town of Aulla and stretching to the other side down towards Ceparana.  Podenzana is famous for  panigacci and there are numerous restaurants offering this speciality. A crisp thick pancake cooked in terracotta dishes over the embers of the fire and served in baskets with cream cheese and a tray of assorted meats from Parma ham to salami and pancetta – sandwich them together, eat with your fingers sipping the local red wine. Delicious. 

Pontremoli

The ancient town of Pontremoli has been built between two rivers as an expansion of the central castle. Wherever you look you will find elegant  palazzos with internal courtyards overlooking the river. The cobbled lanes leading up to the castle are flanked with stone houses and interlinking arches. The twin arched roman bridges are the gateway on either side of the town.  Pontremoli has a good selection of shops and restaurants, a theatre, hospital  and the famous Castello which houses a museum. The central Piazza della Repubblica has traditional cafès where you can mingle with writers as the town hosts the most important book prize. Don’t miss the imposing white marble Cathederal and colourful street market on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Tresana

Tresana is a group of villages above the little town of Barbarasco.  Barbarasco set on the banks of the river Magra offers a selection of shops and restaurants, schools, chemist and one of the best cheese shops in the area. Good walking trails and a host of farm restaurants.

Val di Vara

The Vara valley area is renowned for its green status with many organic farms, shops and restaurants and is accessed off the A12 motorway running along the coast between the French Riviera and Pisa. The main towns are Varese Ligure, Sesta Godano and Brugnato.  Varese Ligure has been voted as one of the most beautiful villages of Italy and has a cobbled central piazza and colourful medieval round town centre. Shops, restaurants and weekly market in the town. Sesta Godano offers easy shopping along the main street and has been  awarded certification for its quality of environmental management.  Brugnato set on the banks of the river Vara has a pretty town centre and was also awarded the recognition as one of the prettiest Italian towns. There is rafting down the river and many marked footpaths lead up into the mountains. You will also only be a stone’s throw away from the Cinque Terre - five picturesque villages strung along the narrow coastline with pretty coves and beaches and boat trips between the villages. Living here you have easy access to both Genova and Pisa airports. The cultural centres of Tuscany are also all within easy reach.

Versilia

Versilia is the stretch of golden sandy coast from the tip of Liguria to Viareggio. Viareggio is the southernmost Italian Riviera resort on Italy's Mediterranean coast and the largest beach town in Tuscany. Liberty style buildings housing fashionable shops, cafes, and seafood restaurants line its promenade. Viareggio is famous for the yearly Carnivale di Viareggio dating back to 1873 with large papier-mâché floats which parade along the promenade known as "Passeggiata a mare". The carnival takes place in the in the weeks preceding lent. In nearby Forte dei Marmi you can shop with the rich and famous in the up market designer shops in the avenues around the pretty central piazza with bars serving refreshing campari’s. 

Villafranca

You will find the town of Villafranca on the main road between Aulla and Pontremoli. Take time to discover the old centre which is hidden behind the main road where you will find some lovely restaurants and local amenities including banks, supermarkets and a weekly market. A kilometer away you can visit the delightful town of Filetto.  Meander your way through the entire town where you will find every street is linked to a stone passage or bridge. Filetto is best enjoyed in the month of August when it opens its doors and hosts its annual medieval festival where all the villagers are dressed up and reenacting a bygone age.