Suppose you look at Sarzana above and look at it with the La Spezia coast in the background. In that case, you will see the diversity of shores and landscapes, one sandy, linear, and flat, the other jagged, high, and rocky. The view of the white Apuan Alps in the distance, where Carrara marble is extracted, is a unique setting for the entire landscape.
The natural and political border has always marked the city’s history, the scene of many battles for the domination of this prominent town, a crossroads of many commercial and pilgrimage routes, such as the Roman Aurelia and the Via Francigena.
The birth and development of Sarzana are probably linked to the decline of the Roman port of Luni, which around the year 1000, was rapidly depopulated following the changed geographical conditions and the formation of ponds and marshes, carriers of malaria. For these reasons, the people of Luni moved to the hills and to the new settlement of Sarzanae, which quickly expanded into a populous and lively city
In 1204 the Episcopal See was definitively transferred from Luni to Sarzana. With their temporal power, the Bishops guaranteed a certain independence to the city, which was never wholly subjected to the dominion of the various invading rulers who took turns there.
Sarzana is remembered in more recent history for the fervent anti-fascism of its inhabitants, who distinguished themselves both before and during the war for their proud resistance. Sarzana marked the beginning of the Gothic Line, which starting on 8 September 1943, cut Italy in two between the Nazi-fascist invaders and the Americans, who went back up Italy, freeing it. In 1945 the story of Exodus also passed through here.
Sarzana, what to see between art, culture and good food
Sarzana offers the possibility of an enjoyable walk in its lively historical center, suitable for all tastes. One is undoubtedly struck by the rich and precious architecture of its noble palaces and churches. On the main Via Mazzini, the courts that belonged to prominent local families alternate (including the Bonapartes), the Romanesque parish church of Sant’Andrea from the 10th century, and the imposing white facade of the cathedral. The church comprises different stylistic layers, between Romanesque, Renaissance, and Baroque. On its front, it bears a riveting historical testimony. The same street and those around are still fascinating, even for those who want to do some shopping. The center of Sarzana has many small boutiques that are still quite characteristic in their offer. And in its streets, a large antique market takes place every August, with lots of vintage and antique items. Antiques are undoubtedly one of the specialties of Sarzana. Cafés, typical restaurants, and focaccia shops also populate the center’s streets, lively even in the evening. What to taste in Sarzana? The “stupid cake” and the Spongata, the typical dessert of the local pastry shops.
The Sarzana, Firmafede and Sarzanello fortresses
Sarzana is dominated by two imposing fortresses that cannot be overlooked. Both testify to the town’s essentially strategic and military value, engaged throughout its history in defending itself. Lucca, Florence and Genoa have fought each other for centuries for control of Sarzana, and the fate of the two structures has always followed that of the city.
Deviating briefly from the central road, you reach the Firmafede fortress, the Cittadella. Today the great fortress and its moat are home to cultural events and exhibitions. Still, it was initially a Pisan fortification built in the 13th century and enlarged by Lorenzo the Magnificent to win, as he did, the famous “Battle of Serazzana” of 1492 against the Genoese. Perfect testimony of the Florentine military architectural style of the end of the 15th century. The Genoese returned, and many times, the fate of the army structure followed the city’s future disputed between the powerful.
On the high ground of Sarzanello, however, the Fortress bears witness to the need to defend themselves by the first founders of Sarzana, fleeing the plain of Luni. It is often called the Fortress of Castruccio Castrocani to commemorate the war leader from Lucca who lived here during the Florentine dominion. Today the Fortress is open to visits all year round and home to public and private events.
For locals and visitors who enjoy sandy beaches, the beaches of Sarzana are the preferred choice over those of the nearby Golfo dei Poeti. A few kilometers by car from Sarzana, you can reach the immense beach of Marinella, with many establishments with excellent services, perfect for families. A few minutes away is Bocca di Magra, where the river Magra flows, and Fiumaretta, a seaside resort where the water and the sea mix.