Italy - Tuscany - Castelnuovo di Garfagnana -

Castelnuovo di Garfagnana 1

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CASTELNUOVO DI GARFAGNANA is situated at an altitude of 277 metres above sea level, and is the principal town of the Garfagnana area, a territory that is made up of the northern part of the valley of the Serchio River which runs between the the Apuan Alps and the Appenines. The town lies forty kilometres from both Lucca and the Versilia coast.

The ancient and attractive outlying villages of Palleroso, Monterotondo, Antisciana, Perpoli, Gragnanella, Cerretoli, Colle and Rontano are readily accessible for walkers by means of designated woodland paths.

Construction of the Rocca (left and below) started in the 9th century - probably as a single tower house - and later (in the 12th century) with significant additions, incorporated into the walls of the town. It was the governor's palace until the 16th century when it became the home of Ludivico Ariosto. ...

The Rocca later became the headquarters of the local government and commissioners and was extensively modified to suit its new function. The building, like of the rest of city, suffered serious damage during WW 2 but has since been restored with some modifications to the original structure.

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The place name derives from "Castelnuovo", referring to a new castle built after a previous one had been destroyed, and "Garfagnana", the Latin name of a local identity, "Carfanius", to which the suffix "-ana" was added to indicate that he had possession of the district.

The locality is quoted for the first time in an official document dating back to the 8th century with the name of "Castro Novo" (new fortified settlement).

Dating from the 13th century Castelnuovo di Garfagnana developed as a market town, thanks to its close position to rivers along which important trading activities took place. The town originally formed part of the 'Lordly Dominion of the Counts della Verrucola Gherardenga'. Included in the Lucca Vicariate of Castiglione di Garfagnana – as stated in a Lucca statute of 1308 – Castelnuovo developed under the Estensi, who affirmed their power over it in 1429 and later re-established it after the brief Lordships of Francesco della Rovere (1512) and the Medici (1521).

The village of Castelnuovo di Garfagnana became increasingly important as the first local bishop's seat and which led to the building of imposing religious buildings including the Duomo (Cathedral). As the seat of the Commissariat and Ducal Governors, the most celebrated being Ludovico Ariosoto (a statesman, soldier and poet, who described the local district as a “land of wolves and thieves”!), Caselnuovo became the most important political and administrative centre in the Garfagnana. In 1579 its defenses were strengthened by the construction of the Monte Alfonso fortress built by the Estensi Duke, Alfonso II.

Apart from the Napoleonic period (which saw the creation of the department of the Alpi Apuane and transfer of power to the Duchy of Lucca until 1814) the administation of the towns of the Garfagnana, including Castelnuovo, remained separate from the rest of Tuscany until the unification of Italy, when they were incorporated into the province of Massa which continued until 1923.

In the winter of 1944-45 in WWII Castelnuovo lay just behind the “Gothic Line” and during the bombardment from the opposing allied forces lost several important and historical buildings.

The local economy is mainly based on the production of cereals and on various chemical and textile industries.

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We take a stroll through the streets of Castelnuovo........  (left and below)


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A local bar and 'bistro'   (left)


The cathedral dates from the Renaissance and is dedicated to St Peter  (below and left below)


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The church of San Micele contains a 14th century Madonna by Giuliano di Simone da Lucca   (left and below)


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A hungry group of tourists awaits at the Rocca for
directions to the lunch venue !......  (below)

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The visit to Castelnuovo di Garfagnana continues on the next page.
Please click on the 'Next' button (lower right)


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