Chapter #1

A scattered municipality

We’re in the lower Lunigiana and Podenzana, a historic village formed around 1000. It’s now a scattered municipality on the right of the river Magra but embracing a vast territory on both sides. On the one hand, there’s the Tuscan side in the valley of the river and opposite Aulla, on the other hand, we’re in Liguria in the Val di Vara. The combined result is scattered houses, a castle and two distinct territories that make up Podenzana.

Chapter #2

The disputed castle

Castles and fortifications are often contested, but the experience of the historic family who dominated the Lunigiana and were the owners at Malaspina, is unique. Probably built before the year 1000 (written testimony dates as early as 884) the castle was long disputed between the bishop of Luni and Malaspina. In 1201, they formed an agreement that the one defeated must demolish the castle. It actually returned to their possession years later and was demolished and rebuilt several times.

What we see today was entirely rebuilt in the 1950s and is now private property.

Chapter #3

Snow in August

The snow fell suddenly and caught the lumberjack unawares just as he was about to cut down a chestnut tree. He was a massive man, some say dark, perhaps Muslim. Others even portray him as a blasphemer. While he was just about to strike the axe, he heard a voice. There was no one around, the chestnut was in the middle of a wood, far from the houses. The lumberjack tried to pretend nothing had happened but the female voice echoed again. Here, the legend takes different forms. Some say the Madonna immediately appeared and asked to build a church in that place, others say she simply asked him not to cut down the tree. The sanctuary, called Madonna della Neve, ended up being built. It continues to be visited by pilgrims and inside, it also preserves the tree. In the 5th of August every year, the apparition of the Madonna della Neve is marked with a ceremony.

Photo by: Francesco Sgroi