Embark on a trip to Sarzana, the picturesque medieval town nestled between the fascinating regions of Liguria and Tuscany. Surrounded by lush landscapes, this fascinating destination, once a bustling crossroads of powerful historical players, now offers a serene retreat into the fascinating history of Italian art, culture and tradition.
For those coming from Tuscany, Sarzana is the first city in Liguria. The historic center is located inland but its territory extends to the sea.
Let this comprehensive travel guide reveal the enchanting beauty of Sarzana’s ancient fortresses, cobblestone alleys, sacred churches, lively markets, and true gastronomic treasures.
And, if you are lucky, you can attend one of the many events that enliven Sarzana throughout the year such as the “Festival of the Mind,” the “Opera Festival,” “Theater in the Fortress,” and “The Attic in the Street.”
You will find that Sarzana is also a strategic point for exploring the most interesting naturalistic corners of the Riviera di Levante.
What to see in Sarzana
All it takes to discover the best of Sarzana is a day and some good advice on what to visit, such as the 15th-century fortresses, the cathedral full of artwork
Dominating the historic landscape of Sarzana, Fortress Firmafede stands as a mighty testament to the city’s illustrious past. With solid stone walls that have stood the test of time, Firmafede inspires awe as a fortress and enchants as a source of evocative stories from the pages of history.
The original fortress was erected in 1202 by Pisa to command its rule over Sarzana. However, in 1488, the Genoese, having control over Sarzana, decided to demolish the Pisan fortress.
In its place, they erected the current iteration of the fortress, intending to emphasize their power. Designed by the famous architect Francione, Fortress Firmafede stands as one of the leading examples of 15th-century military architecture.
MUDEF Fortress Museum
Today, Fortress Firmafede transcends its initial militant function and plays an important cultural role. The fortress houses an art gallery and hosts various cultural events, festivals and exhibitions throughout the year.
From exhibiting contemporary art to hosting memorable opera performances and serving as the backdrop for lively medieval festivals, the fort has become an important center of Sarzana’s vibrant cultural scene.
Perched on the rolling hills of Sarzanello, the formidable Sarzanello Fortress silently tells the story of Sarzana’s intriguing past.
A testament to the medieval military fortress, this architectural marvel is effortlessly a crown jewel and symbol of the city.
Interestingly, the fortress we see today is not the original one but rather a representation of the power struggles that have characterized Sarzana’s history. The first fortress was demolished by the Florentines, only to be rebuilt by none other than Lorenzo de’ Medici.
Designed to dominate the Magra Valley from its vantage point, Sarzanello Fortress is a testament to the military architectural prowess of its time.
Today the mighty Sarzanello fortress, besides being a historical charmer, is also an active site of cultural significance. Regularly hosting a variety of cultural events, this fortress provides a unique platform for art exhibitions, music concerts and various festivals, transforming itself into a pulsating center of local creativity and tradition.
A visit to the fortress, in fact, is a journey through time and a must on your trip to Sarzana.
Matteotti Square is not just a square; it is the beating heart of Sarzana. Alive with the resonant buzz of daily life and the sonorous rhythm of important celebrations, the square is a true representation of Sarzana’s spirit.
Bordered by historic buildings, Matteotti Square embraces Sarzana’s rich historical tapestry. From the enchanting charm of St. Andrew’s Parish, which boasts its grand coat of arms, to the cozy houses that showcase traditional Italian architecture, the square is an open-air museum, offering glimpses into the city’s illustrious past:
- Roderio Palace, seat of the city hall
- Palazzo Podestà-Lucciardi, from the neoclassical style
- Constitutional Café, historic bar meeting place for discussions of culture and politics in the Risorgimento era.
Surrounding the square are numerous charming cafes, restaurants, and many boutiques and stores.Matteotti Square also offers a delightful shopping experience,
The beating heart of Sarzana, Matteotti Square, hosts some of the city’s most interesting events.
On summer evenings you can participate in “Sarzana under the Stars.” This iconic event transforms the square into a magical outdoor cinema, where you can enjoy classic and contemporary films under a starry sky.
Another prominent event is the annual Modern Antiques Fair (Modern Antiques Fair), which sees the square transformed into a bustling marketplace, a haven for those seeking Europe’s most valuable artifacts, vintage items and collectibles.
Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption
Positioned prominently in the heart of Sarzana, the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta stands tall, a captivating embodiment of the city’s historical grandeur and artistic depth. It is more than just a place of worship: it is a palpable testament to Sarzana’s historic lineage, a showcase of important works of art, and an embodiment of diverse architectural styles.
Originally founded in 1204 as a humble parish church, the cathedral evolved over time into the magnificent structure we see today. Renovated several times over the centuries, the cathedral represents a striking fusion of several architectural styles, testifying to the various stages of its transformation.
Housing a legion of spectacular works from the 14th to 18th centuries, the cathedral is a haven for art lovers.
Inside you will find the oldest painted cross in Italy, the crucifix of Mastro Guglielmo, one of the most important works of Romanesque art.
On the high altar is the enchanting polyptych by Pietro di Giovanni and Ambrogio Lorenzetti, dating from the 14th century. The splendid piece depicts passages from the Virgin’s life.
Other notable works of art include “The Death of St. Bernard” by Domenico Fiasella from 1625, and “Madonna and Child with Angels” by Matteo Civitali, dating from the late 1400s.
Beaches of Sarzana
Lying along the mouth of the Magra River, Fiumaretta Beach is a perfect start to your local beach itinerary. This sandy paradise is pristine, well equipped and boasts a relaxing atmosphere.
A thriving water sports center, Fiumaretta is especially popular among sailing and windsurfing enthusiasts. And if you are a nature lover, the rich biodiversity of the river delta it encompasses is bound to fascinate your senses.
Beach of Marinella di Sarzana
Next on our list is Marinella di Sarzana, a long, golden beach that allows you to bask in the Sarzana sun while drinking in breathtaking views of the Apuan Alps.
Whether you prefer private beach establishments with their regimented rows of umbrellas and sunbeds, or love the freedom of the open coast with its appeal to surfers and sunbathers, Marinella di Sarzana offers it all.
A visit to the Sarzana coastline would be incomplete without experiencing the unique charm of Punta Bianca. A somewhat unusual destination, this is where the beach meets the cliffs, creating a spectacular contrast between rugged white rocks and the pulsating blue sea.
The drive to the beach is a hike in itself, but the view that greets you is worth the effort.
Remember that there are no facilities, so bring water, sunscreen and take your trash or garbage with you when you leave.
Bocca di Magra Beach
Bocca di Magra is a hidden gem, where the Magra River meets the blue Mediterranean Sea. A small pebble beach, it is a paradise for those seeking a quieter place away from the more established beach resorts.
Punta Corvo Beach
Punta Corvo Beach, listed among the best beaches in Liguria, is hidden among the nature surrounding the village of Montemarcello.
Punta Corvo owes its charm to the route to reach it, which is surrounded by greenery.
To reach it you have to descend 700 steps, but it is really worth it: once you get there the spectacle is fabulous. Blue sea, dark beach, and waves crashing on the rocks create a truly striking scenery at any time of the year.
In the beautiful days it is possible to see on the horizon the islands of Portovenere and part of the Alta Versilia.
Where to sleep in Sarzana
In Sarzana, the choice of hotels, many B&Bs, room rentals, vacation homes and apartments for tourists is concentrated in the beach area.
Here too, as in many places in Liguria, it is definitely advisable to book early to have the best possible choice.
How to get to Sarzana
Reaching Sarzana is very easy.
By car from Liguria or Tuscany, you can get there by the highway, the A12 Genoa-Livorno, exiting at Sarzana, and following the signs for the city center.
From Emilia Romagna, it can be reached by highway, the A15 Parma-La Spezia, exiting at Sarzana, and following the signs for the city center.
Reaching Sarzana by train is equally easy, as it is well connected by the extensive Italian rail network and the station is right at the entrance to the historic center.
The nearest airport is Pisa Airport in Tuscany, about 70km away. Cristoforo Colombo Airport in Genoa (GOA), is about 110 km away.
ACCOMMODATIONS IN SARZANA
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