Pontremoli ItalyThe delightfully quaint town of Pontremoli is a excellent destination for a day out, or somewhere to make a point of stopping at en route to the coast. It is a 2 ½ hour drive south west of Lake Garda, just before reaching La Spezia on the northwest coast. The town has historical importance as it lies on the old Via Francigena route to France. The delightful scenery of the Apennine Mountains makes the journey a pleasure in itself, particularly in the autumn with the splendid fall colours.
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Pontremoli was an important stop on the pilgrim route between Canterbury, England and Rome, and it still retains many of its ancient buildings and quiet streets. The medieval buildings are very well-preserved and the delightful castle is a bonus. This quiet ancient town is a very quaint place to stroll quietly as it remains largely tourist-free.
The old Castello del Piagnaro sits on the hill overlooking the town and is well worth walking up the narrow alleyway to reach it. Views of the countryside, the arched stone bridges crossing the river, and the rooftops of the town are quite lovely. Inside the castle is the Museo delle Statue Stele, basically a repository for the ancient stones unearthed by local farmers and excavators. Each stone is of a human figure, usually holding a weapon, and they are believed to be over 5000 years old.
Back in the town, the main square Piazza della Repubblica is the site of the Campanone bell tower. This local landmark is part of the wall built by Castracani way back in 1322, to divide squabbling factions of the Guelphs and the Ghibellines. The Piazza is the perfect place to sit with a gelato and watch the locals promenade or listen to the pealing church bells. The local restaurants here are legendary, serving delicacies of wild boar and local mushrooms, the finest testaroli pasta and other delicious and tasty cuisine.
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