Piazza al Serchio
From Florence take the Motorway A11 Firenze-Mare, exit at LUCCA then
take the SS12 road which follows the course of the "River Serchio"
and you will arrive in the Garfagnana. Follow the road signs for Gallicano/Castelnuovo
di Garfagnana first Piazza al Serchio then.
» Where is Piazza al Serchio
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In the antique locality called Sala, which is now in
the centre of Piazza al Serchio, may be found one of the oldest “Castrum”
(castles) of Garfagnana, Castelvecchio (Castrum Vetus) or Castello di
Sala. During the centuries, and above all as we will see later on at the
beginning of its history, it will often be referred to with different
names. Situated on a magnificent “doglione” (rocky wedge)
at the junction of two branches of the Serchio, that of Soraggio and that
of San Michele, it was used since roman times to keep under surveillance
the antique roads of communication coming from Luni and the lower valley
of the Serchio directed towards north.
The Castle of Sala took on an important role since the
time of the Byzantines. After Narsete had driven away the Goths, wanting
to protect Lucca from any eventual invaders, coming from the north, created
a defensive system made up of four castles, the Sala castle “Castellum
Garfagnanae” the castle at Castlenuovo Garfagnana “Castrum
Novum” the castle at Pieve Fosciana “Castellum Noverise”
and finally the castle at Castiglione Garfagnana “Castrum Castilione.
With the arrival of the Franchi, the castle that was
known as “Castrum Salae Episcopi” and some of its grounds
were assigned to the bishop of Luni, but then, with the installation of
the Longobardi, the bishops of Lucca, interested in Piazza al Serchio,
succeeded, during various periods in obtaining the “Castrum”
and its lands, establishing “the County of Piazza and Sala”
and keeping it in domain for a good 900 years.
After the year 1000, and after the continuous wars between
Lucca and Pisa and the Malaspina who were always ready to take possession
of upper Garfagnana, all this put in difficulty the Episcopate of Lucca
who in turn, to maintain the feudatory privileges of the County was obliged
on more than one occasion to turn for help to the emperors (Federico Barbarossa
1155, Enrico VI 1194, Ottone IV 1209, Carlo IV 1399) Castelvecchio often
found itself in the middle of battles roused by these military powers
and then after in the XV century with the arrival of the Estensi in Garfagnana,
and the intervention of the Holy See, the war transactions in the area
did non cease. War ceased in 1144, when a few men from the castles of
the vicarage of Camporgiano, after peace had been stipulated between Lucca
and Florence, refusing to return under the ruling of Lucca, asked for
protection from the Marquee of Ferrara, Leonello D’Este, and out
of retaliation towards the Lucchesi and its bishop, faithful to the city,
took control of Sala, attacking and destroying Castelvecchio. It took
the Episcopate of Lucca 30 years of complaints and the intervention of
the Pope to restore the County and to take back the castle which remained
in their possession until the end of the XVIIIth century.