Bagnone - Sigh a Dream of Love!

Come One Day to Bagnone
The Church of  San Niccolo and The Castle of Bagnone with its ancient tower. 

Come One Day to Bagnone
Where Eternally it is April
Where the Kind Warmth 
Gives the Heart a Thrill.
Beneath the Sky of Bagnone
With Sunsets of Rose
The Heart does Repose
And Evermore Sighs a Dream of Love.

In the late 1940's, an amateur theater group, 'Gli Scapigliati'*,  in the small Italian town of Bagnone may have lost perspective in singing the advantages of their community. However, when you walk with us around this Tuscan river town in Lunigiana, you will sympathize with the emotion behind the song, and, with any luck, you'll loose perspective as well.

A Walk Around the River
Bagnone - the name derives from Latin and means 'waters' - is all about its river, and so is our walk. We have divided our description into three sections. Bagnone Center explores the charming stone nucleus of town. Along the Banks proceeds down the right bank of the river, crosses to the left bank and slowly rises to the locality of La Piallastra opposite the center. Bagnone Castle climbs up to the castle, then back to the town center.  Look at our Overview Map of the walk, and the detailed Comune Map  A leisurely visit will take from two to three hours, and it covers 3 to 4 kilometers. It's an easy walk with just one steep part near the castle, and is suitable for children. There are four bridges across the river, so you can easily improvise a different itinerary to suit your needs. There are good picnic spots around La Piallastra on the left bank, and we have two nearby restaurant ideas. After the walk description are the sections  Getting ThereMiscellanyRestaurants,  and More Info.

Ponte Vecchio and the Old Mill Building

Bagnone Center

We are starting from the Ponte Nuovo. This bridge is just after the memorably narrow section of the main street through town, Via della Repubblica, as described in the Getting There section below.  From the bridge you can look down from a dizzying height and admire the clean and swift flow of the Bagnone River. On the downstream side, you can see the Ponte Vecchio (old bridge) arching over the river at an impressive height. On the left is the large Teatro Quartieri, finished in 1937, where Gli Scapigliati sang 'Vieni un giorno a Bagnone'. The low relief carvings on the facade are notable, depicting local crafts and costumes. On the right is a large bank building - originally a four story mill which was restored in 1935.

Ponte Vecchio and the Bagnone River

As you begin to walk into the center toward Piazza Roma, watch for a stairway on the left down to the Ponte Vecchio. This leads to the best view of old Bagnone - indeed it's where the town began. The Ponte Vecchio dates from the year 1200 and connects the flowery little quarter known - logically enough - as Pontevecchio to the town center. This bridge would have been the pride of Bagnone in the 13th century. Imagine no more rotting timbers! No more fear of floods! And how sophisticated the architecture - just a thin arch! Bravely constructed by building a massive wood support system to hold all the stonework until the arch was completely assembled, and then pulling it away. As magical as a touch screen.

This area was the site of Bagnone's first mill. The water power, the constricted valley, access to the sea and to the mountain passes leading to Emilia-Romagna, the heights for a castle above - all made for an advantageous town location. Bagnone was inhabited in the stone age and the bronze age, and the Romans were here, but the first written mention was in a document by the Emperor Otto I in 963, after the Lombard surge into Northern Italy. The Castle was constructed at least by 1124, and naturally it was controlled by the Malaspina. More on the Castle later. The street up through Pontevecchio connects to the path to the Castle and to a path along the left bank of the river which we describe below. If you follow the whole walk, you'll descend from the Castle back to this point.

Explore the rest of the town center between the Ponte Nuovo and Piazza Roma by walking back along the arcaded Via della Repubblica. Here there's a sense that you've travelled back through time to a simpler era. Indeed, in a way the town is suspended in time - Bagnone's population dropped from 6,280 in 1951 to 3,180 in 1971 to 2,022 in 2001.  On both the commercial buildings and the residential palazzi, the stonework is the overarching influence. The whole architectural character of the town is dominated by the color and texture of the stone.

Pietra Arenaria doorway.

This grey sandstone is called Pietra Arenaria and it is characteristic of Lunigiana. The famous stele which are a symbol of the area are made of this stone. It slowly became an industry because of its durability and the pleasing color - most sandstones are reddish or brown - and also for its uniformity, which makes it easier (relatively) to chisel. The stonesmiths here reached a high level of expertise over the centuries, and their work is evident not only in ornamental statues, but in major elements like columns, window lintels, stairs, door surrounds, and even letter slots. Both the Teatro Quartieri building and the restored old mill building you saw from the Ponte Nuovo used this stone in the 1930's.

The neighborhood known as Villa Quartieri is reached by turning uphill (right) on Via Nicolo Quartieri. The area is named after the important family that established itself here in the 18th century and extends from the Church of Santa Maria to La Chiesa Prepositurale. The Church of Santa Maria was begun in 1392 to honor an appearance of the Virgin Mary. Restored by the Quartieri family after 1900 and again after the 1920 earthquake, it is elegant in the simplicity of architecture and the pietra arenaria stonework. The large Prepostiturale church dates from 1702 and has a memorable, imposing yellow facade overlooking the Piazza Marconi. Inside there's a large pipe organ, as well as a side altar which holds the Santa Croce, a cross said to have been worn by St. Francis at his death. Also look for the painting Madonna del Pianto from 1400 and a Madonna Addolorato carved from chestnut. The town peters out quickly after the large church, and the walk resumes by returning to the Via Repubblica.

The Via della Repubblica widens into the Piazza Roma, a large comfortable space where people congregate, enjoy the cafe, and the views of the Castle and the river. During most of Bagnone's history a large weekly market was held here, fulfilling the town's role as the commercial center of a large rural area. There are several monuments, one to Ferdinando Quartieri, a Senator and Engineer who facilitated the Teatro named after him and was a great benefactor to the town. The Monumento ai Caduti (Monument to the Fallen) is fashioned after the Winged Victory of Samothrace and honors the many war dead from this small town.

Piazza Roma to Piallastra shortcut sign.

(An alternative to our route: From Piazza Roma, use the stairs down to cross the river and reach La Piallastra more directly. This will shorten the walk by about 2 km., but you'll miss the rural portion of the itinerary).

Along the Banks
We begin the next section of walk by leaving the Piazza Roma along the main road, here called Via del Mercato. On the right is the Church of San Rocco from 1593, alongside the Porta alla Dogana. Walk less than a kilometer straight along the sidewalked road which is pleasantly downhill. Alongside are houses and a few gardens as well as an little canal full of flowing water. The water seems bound and determined to fulfill its destiny as a provider of industrial power, but we were unable to find out the particulars. We did enjoy how the local rondine (swallows) have adapted to the little canal. The birds will fly along just above the water's surface scooping insects, and skillfully and narrowly avoid the crossbraces. As the sidewalk continues down more steeply than the canal, the water is soon carried by an aqueduct, and you must find other entertainment.

Bagnone River and Castle.

Turn to La Piallastra

When you reach an intersection, you and the aqueduct turn left. The road signs indicate this road goes toward Monti, Amola, and Virgoletta. You cross the river where there's a nice view from the bridge and leave the aqueduct behind. Walk about 300 meters around a curve until you reach a minor intersection with a dirt road. There should be a sign to 'Tenuta Piallastra', and you turn sharply left.

The Roman road to Bagnone / Medieval road to the Castle.
Believe it or not, this was the Roman road to the Bagnone area, and it was the Medieval road to the Castle. Continue for about a kilometer until you reach La Piallastra. It's gently uphill, a pleasant country walk. Ahead of you is the Castle, steadfastly providing motivation.

La Piallastra is a small building complex, now largely abandoned, begun in the 15th century. Later it became an aristocratic rural villa for the Querni family of Bagnone. There are heraldic and symbolic sculptures on the main building, and the outlines of a formal garden area are evident. Mill buildings are still existing (one recently restored) and from the bridge leading to the Piazza Roma you can see evidence of a millrace (canal) or two. The stream bed in this area is also interesting as the rock shows evidence of glacial and human sculpting.

Bagnone Castle
The way to the Castle from La Piallastra is marked, and you begin by walking away from the river, and then turning left, rising uphill. The grass may be long and dewy, but the path will improve after you reach an intersecting path going between Pontevecchio and Bagnone Castle. Turn uphill, and soon you'll reach the first semi-circle of houses below the Castle.

The houses are well preserved and evoke the Middle Ages convincingly. Climbing the stairs through the little lanes you reach a small piazza in front of the Church of San Niccolo a/k/a La Chiesa del Castello. This Church was built around 1000 and has a small rectangular shape. In 1452 the church was enlarged by Pietro Noceti (Noxeti), Secretary to Pope Niccolo V, and in 1462 the campanile was added. The portico in pietra arenaria was added after World War II.  Inside there's a wooden pulpit from 1300.

The Castle is no longer really a castle in the military sense. Of the original Malaspina castle there remains only the crenellated tower dating from about 700. The main section was transformed into a villa by the Malaspinas' successors - the Counts Ruschi-Noceti - starting in the 1500's but carried out primarily in the early 1800's. The imposing portico was added around 1900. This family took over in 1526 when Bagnone was part of the Fiorentine Republic upon the initiative of Pier Francesco Noceti . The Castle is not visitable, unless perhaps you befriend a youthful Ruschi Noceti on social media.

As you enjoy the view, imagine 'Gli Scapigliati' singing 'Dal Castello che vedi / dalla torre merlata / potrai dare un'occhiata / alla bella vallata che si apre laggiù'  (From the Castle you see / with its crenellated tower / you can give a glance / at the beautiful valley that opens down there).

To reach the starting point of our walk, proceed back down the path you climbed, and at the path intersection keep on toward Pontevecchio.

Travel Tip_____________________________________________________________________
Renting A Car in Italy. If you drive in urban areas at home, you can drive in Italy. Car rental prices are important, but don't rent based solely on low price and stick to well known companies. We have two articles to help you:  Link: Independent Car Rental Reviews for Italy and Link:Car Rental Tips for Italy - Pick It Up Right 
In them, we recommend the car hire broker Auto Europe where you can compare companies, reserve with a low price guarantee, purchase no deductible insurance, cancel easily, and have 24/7 customer service before and after the car hire. If you will rent a car and want to do us a favor, please use this link: Auto Europe.

Getting There
Exit the A15 La Spezia-Parma autostrada at either Aulla or Pontremoli. From Aulla follow the SS62 up the valley to Villafranca and turn right on the SP28 to Bagnone. The road passes through the little walled town of Filetto and then reaches Bagnone. From the Pontremoli exit, travel toward Pontremoli to cross the river and then follow the SS62 down the valley and turn left on the SP30 toward Mocrone and Malgrate which then reaches the SP28 to Bagnone.

As you enter Bagnone keep going straight through the Porta Dogana, past the Piazza Roma, and pass through the quite narrow center of town. The road widens at a bridge after which you should park. We start the walk on the bridge, the Ponte Nuovo.

Cipolla di Treschietto Each May brings several weekend sagras in and around Bagnone, selling and celebrating the famous onions of Treschietto, a frazione (hamlet) of Bagnone. This is a good excuse to visit the town at the perfect time of year, and taste a local product with a genuinely long history. However, be advised that the festas are low key affairs with limited attendance, and some say the onions are differentiated more by price than taste.

The Meteorite of Bagnone The largest intact meteorite ever found in Italy was located here in 1905. This cosmic coincidence is described on the indispensable

Locanda La Lina entrance, Bagnone
Locanda La Lina, 'Liberty style' decor in a 'borghese' palazzo. Good traditional food and a pleasing ambience. We loved it. Piazza Marconi, 1, Bagnone. Near La Chiesa Prepositurale in the town center. Closed Monday and Holidays  0585-785087.

Gavarini Ristorante Good food, good value, and good Italian watching. Seriously narrow entry street, arrive walking. Via Benedicente  50, Mocrone.  Closed Wed.  0187-495504 or 493115

Alla Piazza di Sopra In Filetto, this new restaurant is committed to using the freshest ingredients to create local specialties. Read Our Review. Piazza Immacolata, 11. Filetto di Villafranca in Lunigiana (MS) 0187-493796 or (cell) 349-8783364.

More Info
Bagnonemia is a large idiosyncratic website entirely devoted to Bagnone. Written in Italian it is one individual's labor of love, and we are thankful to 'Rugggio' for numerous details in our story. Click on the section 'Gurguglione' for a partial index.

Terre di Lunigiana This resource has content on tourism in Lunigiana in six languages, as well as information on many other aspects of the area. While the most detailed aspects tend to be in Italian, major portions are available in the other languages.

TDL Event Calendar (IT), A website that tracks all manner of local events.

Comune Bagnone (IT)  Town government website.

Ameglia Montemarcello San Terenzo Panegacci Pontremoli Filattiera Copyright 2011 Mike Mazzaschi, Martha Bates All Rights Reserved. Aulla Fivizzano Castelnuovo Magra This article appeared on and has not been authorized elsewhere. Cinque Terre Lerici Liguria Arcola Caniparola Massa Luni Testaroli Filetto Comano Mulazzo Zeri Sarzana Alpi Apuane Serra La Spezia

* 'Gli Scapigliati' literally means 'the disheveled ones' and is equivalent in English to 'The Bohemians'. The name recalls an Italian artistic movement in the 19th Century. The theater scene in Bagnone is extensively described at Bagnonemia Teatro. Our translation is from a transcription thereon. The Italian lyrics are, of course, much smoother. Two verses are:

Vieni un giorno a Bagnone,
dove eterno é l'aprile,
quel tepore gentile
ti da un fremito al cuore.
Sotto il ciel di Bagnone
dai tramonti di rosa,
dove il cuore riposa
ed ognora sospira in un sogno d'amor.

Tu vedrai i nostri monti
ammantati di verde
ed il torrente che lieve
nella valle si perde.
Dal Castello che vedi,
dalla torre merlata,
potrai dare un'occhiata
alla bella vallata che si apre laggiù.

Written by Martha