In eastern Liguria, very close to Tuscany, exists a zone called Lunigiana. It is an antique area that was extremally important, especially in Roman times. Nowadays, it is possible to visit the rests of the antique town of Luni that was located here. The place is so amazing, so unexpected and so off the beaten track that you will love it immediately !
How to get to Luni?
– by car – that is the best and the fastest way to get there.
- A12 motorway – use Sarzana motorway exit – then follow the indications to Marinella di Sarzana (SS1 Aurelia). After 5 roundabouts follow Luni Mare direction. Then go about 6 km by SS1 Aurelia. After the road signs that indicate you arrived at Luni, turn right to via Braccioli. The archaeological area of Luni will be on your left. If you are coming from Tuscany direction, use Carrara motorway exit – then take viale Gallileo Gallilei into the town centre direction. Then SS1 via Aurelia (direction Sarzana) and then turn left to via Braccioli. More info here.
– by bus – 17 line that connects Sarzana with Carrara. Ticket costs 1,50€/person. More info here.
The actual, archaeological area rises in correspondence of the Roman colony of Luna. In antiquity, it was facing the sea and had a harbour (now buried). The interest of the Romans for the area was linked to political-military reasons, but the richness and notoriety of the city derived from the exploitation of the quarries of Carrara marble. Luni was dedicated to Luna the goddess of the moon. The town was founded in 177 B.C. after a war between Romans and local Ligurian populations. During the Middle Ages, the town was famous for its diocese, whose bishop’s seat was in Luni. What is more, Luni was located along the Via Francigena and destination of pilgrimages. The flourishing period of Luni lasted until 1204 when due to the silting of the port, the bishops’ seat was transferred to Sarzana. In that period local inhabitants started abandoning of the town and populated the nearby, hilly town Ortonuovo. Today, the rests of ancient town of Luna are protected and managed by Area Archeologica e Sistema Museale dell’antica città di Luni.
Address: via Braccioli, Luni (SP)
open from Thursday to Sunday from 8.30 am – 7.30 pm, Mondays closed; however, from 11 June to 3 September the museum is open also during Mondays from 8.30 am – 1.30 pm
open from Thursday to Saturday from 8.30 am – 7.30 pm; the first Sunday of a month 8.30 am- 7.30 pm, other Sundays 8.30 am – 1.30 pm; Mondays closed
Guided tours in the amphitheatre
- October – May: at 10.30 am and 3.00 pm (n.b. the tour starts about 30 minutes earlier)
- June – September: at 10.30 am and 5.00 pm (n.b. the tour starts about 30 minutes earlier)
Tickets: 4€; reduced 2€ (18-25 years ); children under 18 years – free of charge. If you would like to visit also Roman Villa di Varignano (that I’ve described here) you can buy a cumulative ticket that costs 5€ and 2,5€ reduced.
Warning: the guided tours are in Italian.
The town was 24 hectares large and had about 7 thousand inhabitants. It had temples, manufactures, villas, theatre and amphitheatre. Everything was covered with marble with beautiful, rich mosaics and frescos. Luni during Roman domination was very important and rich town. Let’s start our visit to this incredible place.
The guided tour starts with Grande Tempio. A temple dedicated to the Luna goddess. In the ancient times, the whole area was covered with the white marble of Carrara. It had magnificent porticos, colonnades and squares. Nowadays you can admire a small part of the rests of the temple and its porticos.
Then you move to the residential part of Luni. Here were discovered the foundations of private houses, workshops and rich villas. It is possible to admire the forum (main square) of Luni.
Domus degli Affreschi
Next to it was located a magnificent Domus degli Affreschi (Frescos House) that is excavated only in a small part. Its walls were embellished with beautiful frescos and had colourful, marble pavements. To highlight the authority of its owners the villa had also three, beautiful gardens (!). Unfortunately, nowadays the villa is closed to the public.
After Domus degli Affreschi you can notice Cardo Maximus, a long canal that was used for gathering rainwater and release it to the sea.
Domus of mosaics
If you continue your visit following the rests of a Roman street, you arrive at another Domus where are still visible beautiful mosaics. They were called mosaics of the ocean and they represent sea animals and Neptune.
Then it is possible to visit an amphitheatre. You have to have a small stroll cause it was located outside of the town walls. The amphitheatre had three floors and could host about 7 thousands of spectators. It was used especially for gladiators games. Nowadays it is preserved only a part of a first floor of the amphitheatre that in the past was totally covered with the white marble of Carrara and richly decorated. Unfortunately, during ages, inhabitants of the zone used marble, stones and all precious things that they could find in antique Luni for constructing their houses.
Museum of ancient sculptures
After amphitheatre, you can visit also a small museum that is located in the middle of the ancient town. Inside you can admire the sculptures and different objects that were excavated in this area.
The last part, that is absolutely worth to be seen is a Roman theatre. It is located in the northern part of the Luni and it was a place where musical and poetic exhibitions were played. Unfortunately, when I was in Luni, the guided tour didn’t contemplate a visit of that part of the town …. 🙁
Well … even if it is quite difficult to find, even if it is not promoted by Liguria Region and even if it is not valorised and exploited as it could be … I strongly believe that it is one of the most fascinating and incredible places in the whole Liguria! Absolutely worth a visit! Trust me 😉