Villa Collemandina
Villages and valleys to discover at the foot of Pania di Corfino

The territory of Villa Collemandina lies at the foot of the Pania di Corfino massif, which, with its rocky appearance, characterizes the Apennine side of the Garfagnana Valle del Serchio. It is surrounded by a panorama of beech and coniferous forests that give way at high altitude to the summit grasslands of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennine National Park. 

Historical background

Inhabited since ancient times by populations of Apuan Ligurians, it was conquered by the Romans in 180 B.C. Before the year one thousand, at the height of feudalism, this area became the property of the powerful Lombard family of the Rolandinghi (or Orlandinghi), who established a curia in Villa called Colimundinga after the name of their progenitor. 
In 1265, the Nobles of Villa joined their fiefdom to the free municipality of Castiglione di Garfagnana (stronghold of the Republic of Lucca) over which they exerted considerable political influence. In 1430 Villa Collemandina became a dependency of the House of Este under whose control it remained until the Unification of Italy, except for brief periods under Napoleon and the principality of Elisa Bonaparte. Between 1803 and 1806, the Municipality of Villa Collemandina was formed from the suppression of the pre-existing "comunelli". 

What to see in Villa Collemandina

There are seven hamlets that make up the scattered municipality of Villa Collemandina, each with its own history and peculiarities. Let's start from the main town: in the hamlet of Villa Collemandina you can visit the parish church that dates back to the 12th - 12th century. The beautiful fifteenth-century cloister with a trapezoidal plan is surrounded by sixteen arches supported by slender serena stone  columns with finely carved capitals. This is the only structure that survived the tremendous earthquake of 1920 that destroyed the rest of the town, which was later rebuilt. 

Corfino is located at the foot of the Pania of the same name in the vicinity of the Orecchiella Park, characterized by the narrow cart roads that perch toward Prato all'Aia, at the top of the village, the crossroads of the ancient roads that climbed up to the mountain pasture of Campaiana. The view across the valley is superb and the gaze sweeps from the Apuan Alps to the Apennines. In addition to the parish church, dedicated to St. Lorenzo, of religious importance is the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Perpetuo Soccorso, which houses a 16th-century panel of the Virgin with Child. 

Below Corfino, along the provincial road which crosses the Attilio Vergai Bridge over the gorge of the Corfino stream, are Canigiano, with its narrow streets, brick houses and the parish church of St. Leonard the hermit built in 1837, and Magnano, lying in the flattest and most fertile part of the municipal territory. 

In Pianacci one can visit the 19th-century chiesa della Madonna di Caravaggio (Church of Our Lady of Caravaggio) and below the village the Villa Collemandina reservoir. The lake is currently empty due to extraordinary maintenance work on the dam, but the stream is still a pleasant oasis for picnics and recreational fishing. 

In the direction of Passo delle Radici are two villages almost opposite, Massa Sassorosso known for being linked to the roots of Astor Piazolla. Assunta, the mother of the great Argentine tango composer, was the daughter of two emigrants who had left right here for the city of Mar del Plata. Sassorosso for the prized red marble (saxo rubeo) that is quarried here and gives a characteristic chromatic shade to the landscape and buildings of the village. 

Mountain and nature lovers can enjoy splendid walks through the Orecchiella Park, discovering beech, chestnut and fir forests, still populated by wild animals such as the Apennine wolf, the deer, the mouflon and the golden eagle. Inside the park it is possible to visit the "Maria Ansaldi" Botanical Garden, which collects, protects and preserves the native flora of the Upper Apennines of Lucca and the Apuan Alps. A total of about 400 plant species are found here, offering a spectacle of different blooms from spring to summer. 


Confirming the agricultural and pastoral tradition of these lands of the Garfagnana and Media Valle del Serchio, the Hay Festival is held every year at the end of July in the mountain pastures of Pruno, Sulcina, Salera and Campaiana, while in Corfino on Ferragosto (August 15) the food and wine itinerary A Step into the Past reintroduces traditional dishes of peasant cuisine. 
Other events that cannot be missed are the Premio di Pittura Estemporanea (Extemporaneous Painting Prize), also in Corfino, and the Sagra della Trota (Trout Festival) in Villa Collemandina.