The province of Massa Carrara, in the north of Tuscany, stretching between the Apennine mountains, the Tyrrhenian seacoast and the Apuan Alps, has always been a crossroad of thoroughfares (the Aurelia in Roman period and the Via Francigena in the Middle Ages) as well as location of various invasions and occupations on behalf of the Romans, Lombards, Normans and a variety of seigniories from the 14th to the 16th century. All this has had a strong influence on creating a strong regional identity which reflects itself in the culinary tradition jealously preserved in the houses of every village.
The Cooperative of the Candia Hills includes the area between Carrara, Massa and Montignoso. These Apuan hills are positioned among the tall, harsh mountains of the Apuan Alps, whose grey hue clashes against the green of these luxuriant, steep hills covered in vines. Just a short plain separates them from the sea. The cultivation of vines on these terraced hills goes back many centuries, documents testify there were wine dealings already in 200 B.C. Since the land is so steep and consists of small terraced strips, the effort of the vine-growers is great compared to how much the harvest yields. The DOC quality assurance label was awarded in January 1981 and regards specifically the production area, the crop production, the grape blends and the wines’ features. The typologies of Candia dei Colli Apuani DOC are sweet, dry and vin santo, whereas the grape varieties are mainly white Vermentino, Albarola, Trebbiano Toscano and Malvasia for the whites and red Vermentino, Ciliegiolo, Massaretta, Buonamico, Barsaglina and Sangiovese for the red wine.
Lunigiana is the historical territory covering the area from the Apennines to the Magra River, which takes its name from Luni, a Roman town but once an Etruscan settlement. And it was, in fact, the Etruscans who started cultivating vines in this area, leaving them to the care of the Romans who started producing the Lunense. Geographically straggling between Tuscany and Liguria, the wines of Colli di Luni were awarded the DOC label in 1990. The whites of Colli di Luni are mainly made of white Vermentino and a minimum of Trebbiano Toscano, whereas the reds are mainly Sangiovese and a minimum of Canaiolo, Pollera and/or Ciliegiolo.
Other local products of this rich, generous territory are cold meats such as the famous lard of Colonnata over the white marble quarries of Carrara, the ‘ham sausage’ of Montignoso just after Massa, the acacia or chestnut honey Lunigiana DOP, the small, pink onion of Treschietto, the caciotta cheese of Lunigiana, the tender beans of Bigliolo. Other excellent products are the different kinds of bread like the Marocca of Casola in Lungiana made with chestnut flour whereas the Marocco of Montignoso is made with maize flour olives, or the bread of Vinca, still baked today in wood-burning ovens. Lunigiana is also famous for its unique and delicious testaroli, made of flour and water and cooked on special cast-iron griddle directly over the fire and then served with pesto or tomato sauce or even just olive oil and grated parmesan cheese. Typical dishes are the various fish specialties along the coast, whereas inland one can find chard pies, taglierini (thin noodles) with beans, the pickled dried cod and the sweet rice cake.
As for sights these magnificent mountains offer many breathtaking views. From the marble quarries of Carrara, to the numerous castles and medieval hamlets in Lunigiana, from Massa dominated by the Malaspina Castle to Pontremoli with its elegant Baroque palaces; this lavish, at times wild, region will never cease to amaze.