Castelnuovo di Garfagnana is a bustling town with road and rail links to Lucca, Pisa, Florence and the Versilia coast by Viareggio. National parks of the Apuan Alps and Appenines are an easy drive away and open up a whole host of walks, nature and sports for your enjoyment.
The small village of Castelnuovo can be traced back to as early as 740AD but within a century, the village had become an important town with defensive walls and castles. Its location enabled it to establish itself as a transit point for traders and visitors travelling to the northern areas of Italy. Over the centuries, the defensive walls and castles were enlarged and improved. In 1924, Castelnuovo became part of the Province of Lucca.
Even today, the defensive walls play an important role in everyday life in Castelnuovo di Garfagnana. The town walls contain the oldest parts of the town along with winding roads and small artisan shops. The more modern offices, residences, bars, restaurants and train station are outside of the walls.
Many local residents commute to work in Lucca, Pisa or Florence whilst a growing number are able to make a comfortable living from tourism or from the sale of artisan gifts and paintings.
The Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul:
Located within the ancient town walls, the origins of the Cathedral date back to the 10th Century although todays building is based on the 16th Century modernisation. Much restoration was needed following damage sustained during the Second World War, however, the damage actually allowed restorers to see the original classical structure below and enabled them to follow the original buildings lines. Within the Cathedral are many important pieces of Italian art, which include a wooden Crucifix popularly known as ‘the Black Christ’.
Monte Alfonso Fortress:
Built by Duke Alfonso II at the end of the 16th Century, it was designed to offer the residents of the nearby town of Castelnuovo di Garfagnana a safe refuge should the town come under attack or siege.
Whilst much of the fortress has fallen into ruin, a pathway has been developed around the fortress hill so you can walk the route that the defensive walls once took. The walk is approximately 1 hour on a reasonably flat surface and offers outstanding views of Castelnuovo di Garfagnana and the Serchio Valley.
Feast day of St Peter
St Peter is the patron saint of Castelnuovo di Garfagnana and the feast day on 29th June is celebrated by all the locals – many shops may close during the festivities.
Castelnuovo di Garfagnana really gets into the spirit of Carnival time during February and you can watch the many floats parade through the town.
The September Fair recreates the ancient importance Castelnuovo di Garfagnana held as a trading route between North and South. For 8 days, agricultural fayre is promoted for sale with a favourite being the local Garfagnino cheese. The tourist office has created a few new ideas to accompany the ancient traditions, one of which has proved very popular with the locals – Bingo in the main square!
Market Day within the ancient walls of Castelnuovo di Garfagnana is every Thursday. The origins of the Thursday market can be traced back to the 15th Century under the rule of the Este family who passed a law stating that no arrests were allowed to be made on a Thursday in case they interfered with the running of the market. In centuries past, there was even an Army recruitment market stall to ensure the battalions were at their full strength.
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