Cotto Fivizzano

An unlikely church in a tiny mountain village and a trip to the enchanted forest

Cotto has been on our radar for a long while, mostly as a town on a sign we saw when visiting Fivizzano on Tuesday, market day. “Cotto”, you see, means “cooked” in Italy, as in prosciutto cotto, cooked ham we might call boiled ham. Thus, it was the butt of jokes as we were going home from the market. “Wanna go get cooked?”

Later, when lollygagging around the Internet, I came across a picture of Cotto. In the center of the tiny village there was a very tall church with a copper dome. This was the church of St. James the Apostle. It intrigued me.

So we headed there one spring day, bumping along the narrow little roads north out of Fivizzano. The 3.2 kilometers clicked away lazily.

And then, as we rounded a bend, there was the church, its dome piercing the blue sky above. One very sharp turn and the car was headed uphill, managing the steep white road to the village center and church like a champ. We’d reached Cotto, a town one might be tempted to call abandoned, save the 10 or so houses spread out over the village that reflected a cheerful demeanor and fresh coat of paint.

Many of Cotto’s roads had weeds and wildflowers in the middle of them that grew to mid-thigh, although the roads around the church were in good repair.

Yeah, that’s it from the road as you enter. But leave the car and head around to the other side, and you’ll be looking at this (which shows why I will not be applying for the job of bell-ringer anytime soon):

cotto church of saint james
Cotto church of Saint James

While I was taking this picture, at my back was an unnamed building which turns out to be the only place to stay in Cotto, La Vecchia Canonica. The grounds were very nice, and if you wanted a place to stay just north of the enchanted forest (yes, there is one just to the south; this whole area is a veritable fairyland of mountains and greenery). This might be the place to have a go at slow country living with fab views, a long, long way from tourist Italy.

In any case, the church is the focal point of this village, and it came about because of the degradation of the previous chapel and a very resourceful priest who was appointed in 1880, Don Giacomo Marinelli. Considering the area’s poverty, Don Giacomo got busy publishing his plea for funds to build a new church in Catholic magazines and appealing to folks who had fled to the Americas. The sum he accumulated allowed him to begin the work, which he entrusted to local engineer Carlo Tonelli, a man who had built the Equi Terme baths.

Well, that little visit didn’t take long, so let’s get in the car and head back towards Fivizzano and a gelato at the Bar Ricci.

As you point your car toward Fivizzano, at about the halfway point, you’ll come across a large, well-restored palazzo next to a stream like this:

cascate di fiacciano
Mill and bridge: Cascate di Fiacciano

There’s a little pull-off place on the right of the road, but no signs to tell you what the attraction is. If you like waterfalls, accessed by a little hike in the woods to prepare you for your gelato, this is the right place to be.

Go around the other side of the building (private property) and you’ll see the trail that heads into the woods. It’s dirt to start, then it begins to be paved with stones as you see below:

enchanted forest trail
Enchanted forest trail

The trail should get you to the Cascate di Fiacciano and further on into the Bosco fatato, the enchanted forest. Here’s a Google map link for the area.

More Stories About the Lunigiana Historic Territory in Tuscany

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Pasta Fagioli with Alcide

Aulla, a Town in the Lunigiana

The Caves of Equi Terme

A Gorge Adventure in the Lunigiana

Home Again: The Bar Rotondo

Cotto Fivizzano originally appeared on , updated: Jul 28, 2023 © .

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