Halfway between the marine coast and the alpine inland, surrounded by the Apennine and Apuan mountain chains, Aulla covers a strategic position along the ancient Via Francigena, where the Aulella stream and the river Magra meet. Because of the heavy 1944 bombing attacks that irreparably damaged the historical center, Aulla’s present twentieth century appearance is quite different from the typical medieval villages of Lunigiana. Famous for its past support of politician Bettino Craxi, heavily involved in the Tangentopoli scandal, Aulla is now one of the most developed productive centers of the Lunigiana territory.
Renowned for its important role in the control of northern trade routes, for centuries it was fought over by the Vescovi family of Luni – under their jurisdiction for hundreds of years – and the Malaspina. The cities of Pisa, Lucca and Genoa also contended this valuable position protected by one of Lunigiana’s most majestic fortresses: the bastion of the Brunella. Today this impregnable and splendid example of sixteenth century military architecture hosts the Museum of Natural History.
Built between 1470 and 1540, it is made of the volcanic rock, just like the spur it is perched on. This monolith is protected by four unassailable ramparts with steep escarpments, it was the first major construction to be designed and built in this territory after the invention of firearms.
In addition to the Palazzo dei Centurione, renovated by the Malaspina family in 1200, another must-see sight is the Abbey of San Caprasio. Founded in 884 but dedicated to the saint only in 1077, this medieval convent was an important milestone for the pilgrims of the Via Francigena. The apse is all that remains of its original Romanesque structure but the stories of the Saint – St. Ilario wrote about him in the funeral oration “Though your love has ignored his name and his life until now, know that Christ counts him among his friends” – and the recent excavations that have unearthed his tomb make this visit worthwhile.
Last but not least, from sacred to profane, the many stores that emerged here after the second world war deserve a good tour. Aulla’s variety of commercial activities makes it the right destination for every kind of purchase.
Source: Trame di Lunigiana