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Stage 22. Cisa Pass to Pontremoli

  "From Passo della Cisa the route reaches Passo del Righetto where, after crossing the main road, it turns into a steep and demanding descent to Groppoli. A long climb, after passing through the villages of Groppodalosio, Casalina and Topelecca, leads to Passo della Crocetta. From there a trail continues to Arzenigo, in a short while reaching charming Pontremoli, built between two rivers and characterised by a large number of bridges.
Along this route there are no dangerous or risky traffic spots."



Distance Time Elevation in meters

Gain Loss Min Max
21.7     563 1,294    




Original map courtesy of "The Via Francigena Terre De Mezzo by Roberta Ferraris ISBM978-88-6189-491-4"

22.1 6.3 Km Passo del Righetto
22.2   Mule track to the left
22.3   Path to Torrente Civasola
22.4   Soon reach 14th century hump-backed bridge
22.5   A maesta


Pontremoli, Tuscany, viewed over the riverbed of the Magra River
(Courtesy of www.mytuscanytravel.com)



Pontremoli is one of the main villages of Lunigiana located at the bottom of Tosco Emiliano Apennines in the green and wild northern Tuscany. Out of the classic itineraries of mass tourism, it has a strategic position at the border between Tuscany, Liguria and Emilia Romagna. Pontremoli astonishes visitors for a mix of nature, history, and culinary tradition, different from the rest of the region. Even the dialect and the accent are different, closer to the Emilian and Ligurian accent than to the real Tuscan.

According to the Latin, the name of Pontremoli comes from the words “Pons Tremulus”. Pons refers to the ancient bridge that crossed the stream Verde (so-called because of the green color of its water). Then, Tremulus may refer to an old name of the poplar wood used to build the bridge, or to the fact that the bridge was a little trembling.

Pontremoli was one of the eighty stages of the Via Francigena, the ancient medieval route connecting Canterbury to Rome. Sigeric the Serious Archbishop of Canterbury, walked the route in 990 as a penitential pilgrimage to ask forgiveness for his sins, and to receive the palliumfrom the Pope.


Pontremoli Castle (Castello del Piagnaro)


The city of Pontremoli is found in the very tip of Tuscany, at the foot of the Appenines, strategically placed along the Francigena road. Cited as the 31st stop in the “itinery” of the archbishop Sigerico, it was a free city from the XII to the XIII century and was defined as the “key and door to Tuscany” by Feredico II.

Since 1975, the Piagnaro Castle has been host to the Museum of the Stele Staues of Lunigiana dedicated to Augusto Cesare Ambrosi. The Stele Statues are enigmatic stone sculptures dated between 4 and 1 thousand a.d. and represent the most important collection of sculpture from prehistoric Europe. The sandstone sculptures are characterized by their head in the shape of the italian policeman's hat and face in the form of a “U”. They demonstrate human figures, both male and female, accompanied by a complex exhibition of arms and ornaments typical of the Copper Age and Iron Age. The statues are classified in three typological groups (A, B and C) and are exhibited in darkened rooms, lit by spotlights which illumine the anatomical traits and details, creating a compelling atmosphere.

The Piagnaro Castle was built in the X Century to monitor the street systems and to protect the citizens of Pontremoli and is probably the first and original structure of the town . The name “Piagnaro” derives from “piagne”, being the sandstone slabs used to tile the roofs. The complex achitecture of the Castle is the result of numerous reconstructions and enlargements and is characterized by the imposing tower (from the XV Century). The tower, situated at the the highest point of the Castle, dominates the entire fortification and evidence of the antique draw-bridge elevated nine metres from the ground can still be seen.
In front of the tower emerges an imposing structure, which was used as barracks for the soldiers but is now converted into an hostel for pilgrims who travel along the Francigena road. The remaining parts of the Castle are characterized by defensive structures from the XVII and XVIII centuries, and were equipped with fire arms and artillery. There is a large courtyard encircled by strong walls with ajoining ramps and sentry boxes.

The Castle, from its elevated location, dominates the medieval part of the city. Developed between two rivers on a solitary line from Porta Parma and Porta Fiorentina, it was constructed to welcome merchants and pilgrims and was equipped with formidible defensive structures.




The Museum of Statue Stele Lunigianesi displayed in the Piagnaro Castle of Pontremoli offers the possibility of an evocative travel through time to discover ancient testimonies carved in the stones. The stele statues, recovered in the territory of historical Lunigiana, are still mysterious objects and the most recent statues date from the iron age, VIII-VI centuries B.C. The interpretations on their real meaning and function still remains a mystery. There are many unanswered questions but a visit to the museum offers the possibility of a solution: the statues in their immobility and silence, they have much to tell. The Piagnaro castle, that accommodates the museum, dominates the city of Pontremoli and has been since its origins ( around the 10th century) a nodal point in the defence system of the ancient walled village defined in the Middle Ages “key and door of Tuscany”. In fact the city is built at the feet of the castle following itself the ancient distance of Via Francigena, covered throughout centuries with pilgrims, merchants and armies. The strategic position of the castle makes it a fortification of fundamental importance for the protection of the walled village below and for the control of the roads and valleys that lead to the Appennine Passes. This fortification, destroyed and reconstructed many times through the centuries, introduces a very articulated structure and it developed from the imposing keep that dominates the higher and most ancient part, in order to arrive to the massive 16th and 17th bastions. The Piagnaro Castle, in the past centre of military governors, barracks and elementary school, accommodated from 1875 the Museum of the Lunigianesi Stele statues dedicated today to its founder Augusto Cesare Ambrosi.