How to reach
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.
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.