Pontremoli is a beautiful medieval village wedged between Magra and Verde rivers. It's a major stop along the Via Francigena in the northern part of the Lunigiana in Northern Tuscany and is one of the larger towns of the Lunigiana. Famous for its Stele Statue Museum housed in the Castello del Piagnaro, Pontremoli is still largely undiscovered by tourists.
Pontremoli is delightfully flat to walk around in, although you'll have to hike up the hill to visit the Castello del Piagnaro.
The Stele statues date from the copper age to Roman times, and you can see the stylistic changes over time by following along in the museum. The statues are probably meant, like the statues of Easter Island, to be stuck in the earth, as they are comprised of only a body and head, although many of the heads have been broken off, either in antiquity or due to hasty excavation.
Learn more about: My Neighbor's Stele Statue in Pontremoli.
The train station is marked by the blue marker east of the center. Walk north until you can cross the highway and enter town, then head north if your destination is the museum.
The old, historic center of Pontremoli is between the rivers, and is much more densely packed than shown on this map.
Castello del Piagnaro is a short walk uphill from the center of town. The restored castle is usually open from 9:00 to noon and 3:00 to 6:00. In winter it's closed on Mondays and afternoon hours are 2:00-5:00. Piagnaro Castle gets its name from the slate slabs, piagne, common in the area. From the castle, there's a great view of the town and the surrounding hills, as you can see in the picture below.
Inside the castle is an interesting museum of stele, sandstone sculptures that are the most important artifacts of prehistoric times, dating from the copper age to Roman times. Below the castle is the pretty oratorio of Sant'Ilario, built in 1893.
The Cathedral and Campanile: The Duomo is in the center of the old town. Construction on the Duomo started in 1636. Its Baroque interior is decorated with rich stuccoes. The tower near the Duomo was the central tower of the walls, built in 1332 by Castruccio Castracani to divide the huge central square in two to accomodate rival factions, the Guelphs and Ghibellines. In the 16th century it was turned into a bell and clock tower. Today Piazza del Duomo is in front of the Duomo and Piazza della Republica is on the other side of the campanile. In this area are shops and several cafes and restaurants. There's also a small tourist information office near the Duomo.
Market Days: An outdoor market is held on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Food and a few clothing stalls are in the two main squares of the historic center. There are also stalls selling flowers, clothes, and other items around Piazza Italia, in the newer part of town.
To see the location of Pontremoli on a map of the Via Francigena pilgrimage route, the route from Canturbury to Rome, see our Via Francigena Map.
For as nice a destination as it is, Pontremoli has a distinct lack of hotels. Luckily, Bed and Breakfasts and Agriturismi have popped up to take up the slack. Search for: Lodging in Pontremoli. For vacation rentals, see Lunigiana Rentals: Pontremoli.
A good treatment of food is given by Ciao Lunigiana: Pontremoli for Slow Foodies. We like in Osteria Oca Bianca at Via Camillo Benso Conte di Cavour, 17 for traditional foods and snacks. The lunch at Osteria San Francesco e il lupo (Saint Francis and the Wolf) [FaceBook page] is a steal for 11 euro, excellent house wine, water and coffee included.
Being a major market town in this corner of the Lunigiana, Pontremoli has no shortage of bakeries and food shops.