Lunigiana is superlative castle-land. Wedged between two once warring powers, the republic of Genoa and the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and infested by brigands, this region’s nobles found refuge in building fortresses and citadels. Yesterday we decided to visit one of the best of them: the castle at Fosdinovo.
Our journey took us through the greater part of that coastal area, the Versilia where we stopped for a break at Carrara. Derived from the ancient Sanskrit word for stone, Kar, Carrara has been the centre of Italy’s marble industry for centuries. Even the pavement cobbles are marble, splendid but a risk when it’s raining as they are so slippery, and the town is surrounded by yards full of the heavy white stuff ready for transhipment abroad, perhaps to adorn a Russian magnate’s villa or a Sheik’s palace.
We took a walk into the old part of the town which is surprisingly attractive. At the start of the picturesque Via Santa Maria we spotted Repetti’s house. In case you didn’t know, Emanuele Repetti was a nineteenth century Historian and Naturalist. In 1833 he published his Dizionario geografico fisico storico Della Toscana, which is a key source for anyone who attempts a guide book today, being a fascinating gazetteer of places of interest in the region. The same rare mediaeval house provides lodging for the great poet and literary founder of the renaissance, Petrarch.
The Piazza del Duomo discloses a magnificent cathedral, now shining marble-white after recent cleaning. The building was closed but its exterior was ornate enough, with a gorgeous rose window crowning a façade built in the Luccan Romanesque style and some fine carvings.
In the same square is the statue called “Il Gigante” and sculpted by Bandinelli (the same one who did the giant called “Il Biancone” in the Piazza della Signoria in Florence). Here too is the house Michelangelo stayed in while he was looking for suitable marble blocks in the nearby mountains to fashion into his eternal masterpieces. (For further information about the artist and a walk I took among the quarries he frequented see my post at http://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/06/28/taking-the-michaelangelo/).
High up on another building in this square is this charming statue depicting Modesty. Was this a warning against the area becoming a red light district I wonder?
Still in the square we spotted this strange spike high up on the corner of a residential building.
There is a saying in these parts: “it’s like being hung on Negroni’s spike”, referring to the original use of this item which was to append sentences issued to refractory citizens for crimes they might have committed, from bankruptcy to murder. Fortunately, we did not notice any bits of paper stuck on this spike so presume that Carrara’s citizens, at least for today, were fully law-abiding and no-one’s name was open to shame on Negroni’s (the owner of the house) spike.
There is plenty more to see at Carrara including the Marble museum and, of course, the marble quarries themselves, but we wanted to press on to Fosdinovo castle. We shall certainly be back, however, for Carrara is quicker to get to than at first thought. Despite the fact that one either has to battle one’s way via circuitous mountain roads through the Apuans to get to this proud little city or motorway round the southern end of the range via Lucca, the journey takes less than two hours from Bagni di Lucca.