Located on the border with Tuscany, Sarzana is a town that preserves the original medieval structure, guarded by the imposing fortress of Sarzanello. Elegant, rich in history and works of art, Sarzana is a lively cultural center with historic shops, vintage and antiques parlors, art studios. Ideal center of the Val di Magra and Lunigiana, since the times of the ancient Luni, it is configured as a crossroads of important communication routes. The sea is easy to reach: with Viale XXV Aprile you can get to Marinella, Fiumaretta and Bocca di Magra, a wide sandy coast with bathing establishments, restaurants, diving and free beaches. While you are immersed in the water of the shallow water, you can admire the very close Apuan Alps that peek out on the coast.
Sarzana is mentioned for the first time in an imperial document of 963, which recognized the possession of the Sarzanae castrum to the bishop of Luni. Around the year 1000, the development of Sarzana is due to the abundance of what was the flourishing Portus Lunae or Luna. Roman colony founded in 177 BC at the mouth of the Magra river after the conquest of Rome on the Apuan Ligurians, Luni became an important port-call of goods and Carrara marble and a center of religious power. However, incursions, epidemics and above all the progressive silting up of the port, determined the abundance of the colony: the population and the bishopric headquarters were transferred to Sarzana. This is why the town is considered the historical heir of Luni and the capital of Lunigiana. The medieval history of Sarzana is gathered in the Pelavicino Code which narrates the vicissitudes of bishops and emperors, Guelphs and Ghibellines. In the early 1300s Dante Alighieri was commissioned to sign the peace between the Malaspina lords and the bishop-count of Luni. The original acts make Sarzana the only certain place in the entire Dante biography of his exile.
The main attraction of the historic center is the fortress Firmafede or Cittadella, built in 1249 with the city walls, destroyed and then rebuilt by Lorenzo de' Medici with the best Florentine military architects of the time. Surrounded by a powerful defense wall system, a wide and deep moat is accessed through a stone bridge that leads to the main door, which opens onto a very large inner courtyard. After being also used as a prison, today the fortress is home to cultural events and exhibitions and also houses the Fortress Museum, an interactive itinerary that illustrates the history and fortresses of Sarzana and Lunigiana. Nearby are the Diocesan Museum, the Impavidi Theater, Porta Romana and Villa Carpena on the Torrione Testaforte.
From the citadel, going up the beautiful Via Mazzini, you come across historic buildings such as the Casa Torre Buonaparte, once owned by the Buonaparte family who had moved to Sarzana around 1245, Palazzo Magni-Griffi of 1783, a significant example of eighteenth-century classicism, Palazzo Neri, where Napoleon's niece Charlotte Napoléone Bonaparte died, Palazzo Picedi-Benettini-Gropallo, with a base decorated with splendid wrought-iron grilles, Palazzo Tusini. In via Mazzini there is also the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, built on the foundations of the original parish church dedicated to St. Basil and mentioned in a deed dated 1148. The baroque interior preserves the oldest Italian painted cross, work of Maestro Guglielmo, dated to 1138 and considered a fundamental work of Romanesque painting, and the famous relic of the blood of Jesus Christ, collected during the crucifixion. The relic, brought to Luni in 742, was later transferred here. A curiosity: the façade has a black shaft, a sword hilt and not a sundial as many think. More than a mystery, it is a medieval convention to establish an important historical event, in this case the peace that took place between the Republic of Florence (Guelphs) and the Visconti of Milan (Ghibellines).
Also in via Mazzini there is the Pieve di Sant'Andrea, the oldest building in the city, dating back to the 10th century. It has undergone numerous restorations, but today it is possible to observe directly the medieval face of the ancient nucleus and presents a 16th century portal in white Carrara marble surmounted by the "sidus", symbol of the Elders of the municipality of Sarzana. From this church you reach with a few steps the fulcrum of the historic center, Matteotti Square overlooked by Palazzo Fontana which exhibits numerous works, Palazzo Parentucelli with the portico of ancient medieval columns, the City Hall, in typical Genoese architecture and a courtyard that preserves several fragments of ancient columns from the Roman colony of Luni, the original Monument to the fallen of the First World War by Carlo Fontana. Matteotti Square, which was once called Piazza della Calcandola, is the place where on the morning of 6 October 1306, Dante Alighieri received the power of attorney from Franceschino Malaspina, marquis of Mulazzo, for peace with the bishop-count of Luni.
The fortress of Sarzanello is the symbol of Sarzana. It is a military fortification that rises on the hill to control the city and the Val di Magra, mentioned for the first time in a diploma by Emperor Ottone I. The castrum consists of a triangular-shaped castle with three bastions and an embankment triangular fortified, connected by a flying bridge. The fortress of Sarzanello, which hosts cultural activities, can be reached via two carriage roads: the "panoramic", which starts in Viale Mazzini to climb the hill with magnificent views over the valley, the other starting from the Bradia district. Finally, there is a pedestrian walkway (Montata di Sarzanello) which starts from Via San Francesco and offers a suggestive view.
How to reach Sarzana:
Parking: piazza Ricchetti from the church of San Francesco, via Falcinello, parking lot Porta Parma, viale della Pace, via Gori, via del Murello and the railway station.
Tourist Information Office: piazza San Giorgio, Tel.0187 620419