Places to visit
The main entrance of the Castelnuovo old town is the monumental arch in Piazza Umberto . Looking at this arch, on your right, you can see the Rocca Ariostesca, symbol of the city. This structure owes the name to the poet Ludovico Ariosto, who was sent by Alfonso d’Este, Duke of Ferrara, to lead the Garfagnana region between 1522 and 1525. The Rocca, dating back to the twelfth century, was later expanded with the addition of the tower on which the town clock is set, the terrace facing the square and, of course, the stone portal of access to the city center. The Rocca was damaged during the Second World War and later restored, it houses today the archaeological museum in which are preserved remains of ancient peoples (called “Apuani”) who inhabited the Garfagnana and Apuan alps in prehistoric times. Inside,there are often several events such as art exhibitions or events related to the territory and to local food and wine.
When you enter the main city gate, you find a narrow street in front of you (Via Fulvio Testi) which represents a little shopping area and a meeting point for the Castelnuovesi and tourists. Walking ahead for about 50/60 metres, you can see, on your left, a large ancient porch with columns which is often used as a covered place for antique markets and local produce. Continuing the walk along the main road in front of you, you reach the Cathedral dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul, built in the sixteenth century on the a previous Romanesque church. The simple stone facade is adorned with 4 pilasters surmounted by a pediment. Inside, the cathedral houses an altarpiece made of Della Robbia pottery and dedicated to St. Joseph, attributed to Verrocchio, a wooden sculpture of the Crucifix, known as the “Black Christ”,it escaped a fire that damaged the sacristy in 1977 and now kept in the chapel of S. Joseph beside the apse; other notable art works are preserved in the Cathedral: “Madonna with Saints” (painting by Michele di Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio), a marble frame (Civitali) and various paintings dating to XVII° century .
Outside the historic center, on the road to the train station, you can see the Teatro Alfieri dating back to 1860. After the Teatro del Giglio in Lucca, this is the second theater in the province, with its 510 seats. In the second half of the XX° century, the Alfieri theatre was transformed into a cinema till its close-down in 1990. In 1997 it was bought by the municipality of Castelnuovo di Garfagnana and, after the careful restoration directed by architect Stefano Dini, Alfieri was back to the glories of the past. It’s also interesting to see the Montalfonso Fortress, located on top of the hill overlooking Castelnuovo. It was commissioned in the XVI° century by Duke Alfonso to provide the city with a defensive structure and a possible shelter in case of attack by the powerful and the neighbouring Republic of Lucca. Inside there are several buildings that were destined for the troops, offices and prisons (now there are only seven). Recently, the entire Fortezza di Montalfonso was totally restored and consolidated; The fortress, once a military building protected by its strong walls and bastions is now an open space for locals and visitors, offering its grounds to events such as concerts, meetings, wedding parties, food and wine events, etc. … A special path called the “Trail of Ariosto” was created by local municipality in order to reach the fortress , walking through dense forests of chestnuts. You can access to this trial from Castelnuovo and from Pasquigliora (in the village of Torre), close to Pruneta di Sopra villa.
An event that has its roots in history and attracts many tourists during the summer months is the Thursday market which takes place in Piazza Umberto I and in the nearby streets. What today seems like a normal, modern market is what remains of a medieval called “mercato dei banchetti”, a place where everybody could sell, buy and also barter country products the, animals and any other manufactered article.