Exploring Val di Magra Area

Our Arcola Travel Guide, is here to help you find :

What is the attraction of the town ?

Arcola is a small, charming town perched on top of the hills separating the Gulf of La Spezia and the Magra valley offering stunning panoramas of the Apuane Alps. It is one of 18 communities part of the National Park of Montemarcello-Magra.

Val di Magra, Arcola Panoramic view of the town of Arcola

The origins of the town date to 639 - 516 BC , built between the early villages of Val di Magra -Castelnuovo Magra and Ameglia - as a settlement for people who had fled the territories of Luni due to malaria scare. Its history can be traced to events that have affected both the Lunigiana and Val di Magra areas.

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The town was a Roman military outpost during the struggles between Rome and the Ligurian tribes and as such Arcola has a typical compact Ligurian defence town structure. As a result nowadays you can wonder around and enjoy its medieval cobbled streets arranged in a ring-like fashion.

Val di Magra, arcola The charming Arcola's alleyways

As a result nowadays you can wonder around and enjoy its medieval cobbled streets arranged in ring like fashion...

Val di Magra, Arcola Alleyway

Val di Magra, Arcola Alleyway

In the 11th century Arcola became an important center for the feudal Obertenghi family who built on top of the hill a castle - Castello degli Obertenghi, of which only its tall pentagonal tower remains.

Val di Magra, ArcolaArcola and its castle's imposing tower

The castle itself had a rich history and had an important naval function in the western Marca Ligure. In 1128 the castle became the property of the monastery of San Venerio del Tino. During the thirteenth century the town was the center of the various attempts of the family domain Malaspina and the castle was besieged and captured by Captain Oberto Doria, Captain of the Republic of Genoa. Various events then led to the occupation of the castle by Castruccio Castracani (1320), and after by Niccolò Piccinino (1430). In 1494, the castle was return to the possession of the Genovese Repiblic. Partially destroyed during the Italian campaign of Napoleon, the castle was restored in 1884 by Eng. Canini and became the home to the town hall.

Val di Magra, Arcola Town HallThe Obertenghi castle , now the town hall

The imposing pentagonal tower built adjacent to the castle is hard to miss in the landscape of the town. Nowadays, it has been declared a national monument and is opened to visitors. It stands at 25 meters high with a perimeter of the same size. The tower was the focal point of the defence system of the castle. It was purposefully built in the most vulnerable to attack part. Positioned as a bastion on one side it had its corner stretched menacingly in the direction of possible attackers coming from porta Sovrana while on the other it was equipped with embrasures, affording the ability to defend the two side entrances.

Val di Magra, Arcola Pentagonal TowerThe impressive pentagonal tower of Obertenghi Castle

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The tower could be accessed through a narrow door on the east side which is still visible today. The entrance opening of the tower is believed to have been closely linked with the castle through a small bridge arriving at the upper walkway of the castle’s defense wall.

Val di Magra Arcola parish Church of San NicolòThe parish Church of San Nicolò

Another highlight in town is the parish church of San Nicolò which is mentioned in documents as early as 1132. It was enlarged in 1628 and completed in 1673 . It is built in baroque style and is divided into three naves with six marble columns of Etruscan order. Inside the church you can admire a very valuable table with marble top as well as a bas-relief of about 3 m depicting the Madonna and Child seated between Santa Margherita and San Nicolò.

Val di Magra Arcola parish Church of San Nicolò Bell TowerThe bell tower of the parish Church of San Nicolò

The bell tower is detached from the church and was built in 1658.

Val di Magra Arcola Sanctuary of the Our Lady of the Angles, Liguria Pictures The Sanctuary of the Our Lady of the Angles

You can also visit in the center of town the Sanctuary of the Our Lady of the Angles ( Santuario di Nostra Signora degli Angeli). The story goes that the sanctuary was built on the place where on May 21st, 1556 the Madonna miraculous appeared in front of the five sisters of Fiamberti family. The chapel was built in 1558 while the present temple is the work of the second half of the eighteenth century. In a typical Ligurian tradition, the churchyard of the Sanctuary is paved with white, red and black pebbles to form a rose.

Val di Magra Arcola Sanctuary of the Our Lady of the Angles, Liguria Pictures The entrance to the Sanctuary of the Our Lady of the Angles

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Things to Do Around the Area

The territory around Arcola has a rich, ancient history. It is part of the Regional Park of Montemarcello-Magra and offers a variety of activities for its visitors. You can take walks through its charming vineyards or hike through the hills amongst olive groves; engage in various sports activities or simply enjoy sampling local wines and tasty local dishes.

Val di Magra, Vineyard, Liguria Pictures

The whole area is considered one of the most interesting areas in Liguria from environmental point of view and was included in a Regional Natural Park ( ) from 1995. The National Park of Montemarcello offers variety of spectacular hiking trails to explore both suitable for experienced hikers as well as families. The great views, the scents of the woods and the colours of the country all make for an unforgettable hiking experience. There are also many easy trekking paths to enjoy along the Magra River.

Val di Magra, National park of Montemarcello, Hiking, Liguria Pictures

If you are fascinated by the vegetation in the area then a visit to the Botanical Garden in the Park is a must too. The garden is situated on the summit of Mount Murlo, where, thanks to the particular weather conditions, it is possible to enjoy different and typical kinds of vegetation: Mediterranean maquis, garigue, Aleppo pine woods, and deciduous oak woods.

Val di Magra, National Park of Montemarcello, Flowers, Liguria Pictures

Some of the plants are protected species, such as the cream narcissus and several wild orchids like the brightly colored yellow orchid (Orchis provincialis Balb.). Moreover, the garden also houses a large collection of medicinal plants. You can enjoy guided visits around the Garden and environmental education activities too.

Val di Magra, National Park of Montemarcello, Botanical Garden Activities, Liguria Pictures

You can visit the nearby ancient village of Trebiano which sits on top of a hill and offers stunning views over the valley. From here, in fact, one can enjoy exceptional panoramas of the Apuan Alps all the way to Versilia on one side, and the hills of Lerici on the other. When in Trebiano do not miss the parish church of San Michele Arcangelo, with its 16th century façade, and the ruins of the hilltop castle.

Arcola is also close to the Liguria border with Tuscany, an area known as Lunigiana, and from here one can easily visit the towns of Lucca, Carrara, Viareggio, Montecatini, even Pisa and Florence.

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Whether with bus or car, the town of Sarzana is well worth a visit too. This ancient city, dating to 963 AC, is built around the Castle and the old town, surrounded by the old city walls, is a treasure trove of small workshops, businesses and the marvels of the Italian everyday life. There are lots of bars and restaurants that contribute to a lively nightlife.

Fortress of Sarzanello, Sarzana, Liguria Pictures The Fortress of Sarzanello, Sarzana

For the beach lovers, the picturesque and secluded beaches of Punta Corvo and Punta Bianca (more easily accessible via a boat service leaving from Bocca di Magra and Fiumaretta) are at an each reach.

Punta Corvo Spiaggione, Liguria Pictures Around 11 secluded beaches are dotted around the coastline in the area

The small beaches are scattered along the harsh coast between Montemarcello and Lerici and originated from landslides that were later shaped by the sea.

Punta Corvo Spiagge, Liguria Pictures The beaches are famous for their tranquility and clear water

The beach of Punta Corvo is also called "spiaggione" (big beach) as it is the biggest of them all; its sand is dark grey since it originated from the surrounding stones of the same color. The water is so clear that the rocky sea bottom can be seen at a few meters from the shore.

Punta Corvo Spiaggione, Liguria Pictures The beach at Punto Corvo

A short drive away are also the charming beaches of Lerici as well as the massive beach resort in Tuscany, Forte dei Marmi.

The Must Taste Local Specialities in Arcola

As early as the fifteenth century, the agricultural activities in Arcola and Trebiano, were already highly developed with crops of seeds, grains, vegetables, grapes, olive trees and fruits. In the nineteenth century, in the area was introduced the cultivation of maize, potatoes, sugar beets, hemp, linen and mulberry. The area is particularly famous for its production of olive oil and wines.

The local cuisine in and around Arcola is a mixture of the flavours and traditions of Lunigiana region, the area meeting the borders of Liguria, Tuscani and Emilia regions. Amongst the must-taste specialities of the area we have lo stoccafisso and il baccalà, la focaccia and the soups of grains. Not to be missed are the ravioli stuffed with vegetables or meat as well as the local version of cima alla genovese.

Enjoy the Arcola's Festivals and Events

  • The first Sunday of September - Enjoy the annual Sagra del Raviolo

  • Last Weekend of August - Four-days event celebrated since 1983 and dedicated to the review of Arcola's wines . It is held in the grounds of Villa-Picedi Benettini and is combined with the Sagra della Polenta. The event is now one of the most important and popular food and wine events in the province.

Interactive Map of the Area

Arcola can easily be reached by car and it is highly recommended if visiting the area. It is located along the Provincial Road Aurelia and is just 5km away from the next largest town of Sarzana. To get to town by car, take either:

  • Motorway A12 Genova – Livorno, Exit Sarzana. Or

  • Motorway A15 Parma - La Spezia , Exit  Vezzano Ligure

You might find our Interactive Map of the area below very useful when planning your journey as well.

View Liguria in a larger map

Using the Map ...

  • The arrows move you up, down, left and right (or grab the screen and pull in any direction)

  • The + and - to zoom you in and out

  • The "Map" button shows the village in map illustration form

  • The "Satellite" button shows La Serra in satellite images (zoom in for detail!)

  • The "Terrain" button shows an artistic rendering of the terrain that covers the village  (zoom out to use this feature)

You can zoom in and out, finding the best scale and then print it to .pdf and bring it along on vacation! You definitely won't find a more detailed, up to date map online or on vacation.


Thank you for visiting our guide… we look forward to welcoming you to Liguria and hope you will love it as much as we do ! Signiture

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