Fivizzano – The Ancient Captaincy of Florence

Fivizzano - Photo © nighel harper
Fivizzano – Photo © nighel harper

It lies at an extremely important road junction and has always flourished as a cantre of trade and of top quality craftwork. It was the crossroads of trade for the Po Valley, the Western Riviera and the port of Leghorn: olive oil, cereals, vegetables, salt, wine and spices all passed through its market.

From here, too, the mineral resources of the area were diffused: gypsum from Sassalbo, kaolin for the factory of the Marquis Ginori of Doccia, white marble from Equi, stone from the Pognana quarry, not forgetting coal and the precious wood from its forests.

At Fivizzano, there were iron-factories, paper mills, foundries, dye-works, printing works and tanneries; it was the residence of famous jurists, doctors, notaries and men of letters. One of the best accounts of Fivizzano was that of Prospero Fantuzzi, a singular 19th century traveler who stopped here, in 1829, on his way to the sea:

“We arrived inside the very elegant Fivizzano. To anyone into whose hands this manuscript might one day fall, should they happen on this page, be so good at this point to imagine our state of mind and share with us our content and the delight that filled our imaginations upon alighting at Fivizzano.

Having crossed so many mountains, cliffs, precipices, old towns and villages more fit for wolves than men, we came across the charming view of the town…where everything was new, gracious and rich.

We went through the fine gateway into the heart of the town, surrounded by strong walls…and here we were in districts where, behind us, stood fine examples of architecture, decorated in sandstone and marble and, at the start of our tour, the majestic little palace of the Counts Fantoni, with its garden.

We came to the elegant square, surrounded by tall three-storey buildings, with a fountain in the middle…in the midst of the basin rises a spire of marble and rough stones…and four large well-carved dolphins spurt water from their mouths and to these smaller basins comes a continual stream of women to draw water, green-grocers to wash their vegetables, children to play and men to drink…”.

The large Medicean square, with the fountain donated by Cosimo III in 1682, is still today the center of life in Fivizzano, with the provostal Church, restored after the damage caused by the earthquake of 1920, the gracious buildings, the seat of the 16th century Accademia degli Imperfetti, which recalls the intense cultural life of Fivizzano.

The Fantoni Palace is being restored by an illustrious contemporary citizen of Fivizzano: the doctor and writer Loris Jacopo Bonomi.

It will eventually house the Museum of Printing to recall that Fivizzano was one of the capitals of this art. Here it was that Jacopo di Fivizzano opened one of the first printing works in Italy, here the first typewriter was invented and used, here the Arcadian poet Labindo lived and worked and lies buried in an elegant small temple, erected near the Town Hall.

The Augustinian complex is well worth a visit with its library, collection of fine works of art from churches in Fivizzano, the hostels and, on the outside, the bronze monument realling a native of Fivizzano, the mother of Niccolo’ V, the great Pope who founded the Vatican Library.

A Pope who never forgot his origins and who gave Fivizzano the precious tapestry, given to him, in turn, by Siena in 1450 on the Sanctification of St. Bernardino, and which Fivizzano sold to the Bargello Museum in Florence in 1937.

Photo © ariel632000
Photo © ariel632000

This has so-often been called “the Florence of Lunigiana” that it has become a common saying.

You will experience a Tuscan atmosphere if you go there, for Fivizzano chose alliance with Florence and was under Florentine captaincy right up to the end of Grand-ducal rule.

You should walk around the ancient walls, built under Cosimo de’ Medici in 1540, the best example of military fortified walls of their kind in Lunigiana.

Visit the Palace of Arcade Labindo and his tomb and stop to see the elegant Baroque fountain in the square, built by Cosimo III in 1683.

Outside the walls, you can visit the old town of Verrucola, and imposing manor house, built for Spinetta Malaspina the Great and now the residence of the sculptor Pietro Cascella.

Fivizzano is a noble town of ancient culture: Jacopo da Fivizzano printed incunabula there and the mother of Lunigiana’s great Pope, Niccolo’ V, was born there. Floklore comes to life with the pageant of the Disfida degli Arcieri di Terra e di Corte (Challenge of the Ground Archers and the Court Archers) and the Humanist tradition is preserved and continued in the 16th century Accademia degli Imperfetti.

At Fivizzano, you can also visit the monumental complex of the Augustinian Monastery and, nearby, the Parish Church of San Paolo di Vendaso; then there is the old town of Soliera with the Sanctuary devoted to the Madonna dei Colli (“Madonna of the Hills”), splendid Gragnola, Vinca, high up in the Apuan Mountains with its inimitably fine bread, Ceserano, with the farm and vuneyards of Count Picedi-Benettini.

No true Nature lover should miss a visit to the Botanical Gardens at Frignoli and the town of Sassalbo.

Where to stay in Fivizzano

There are numerous high quality hotels, villas, apartments and agriturismi (Farm stays) available, check them out and make a reservation here.