Legend has it that the narrow, tortuous paths, or vicoli, that lead the way up to the Castle of Piagnaro in the town of Pontremoli are haunted by a wolf-like creature known by locals as the lupo mannaro. Locals say that the only way to avoid the attack of a lupo mannaro is to stare at it straight in the eyes or climb three stairs. Carrying a rooster around also helps, since this feathery friend announces the arrival of daylight, something that the lupo just can't deal with.
Stories such as these intrigue residents and visitors alike in the historical region of Lunigiana, located in the midst of the Tuscan Apennines. Lunigiana derives its name from Luni, a once-powerful Roman port colony (now located in the region of Liguria) that rose at the delta of the river Magra and held considerable influence, thanks to its strategic location. At the height of its medieval glory, Lunigiana encompassed the entire Magra and Vara valleys, the Gulf of La Spezia, Cinque Terre and the Riviera of the Apuan Alps. Nowadays, the area known as Lunigiana is considerably smaller, comprising only 14 municipalities in the Magra Valley.
A tour of Lunigiana makes a perfect long weekend trip for those who enjoy the untouched rugged nature of the Apennines, the area's local food and folklore, and the well-preserved medieval constructions along the Magra.