The Filattiera area has been populated since very ancient times, as revealed by the discovery in Sorano of seven stele statues dating back to the Copper Age and the early Iron Age.
Archaeological excavations have brought to light two Ligurian necropolises in the railway station area and in the nearby locality of Quartareccia (SW of the SS62). Additionally, in Sorano a 1st-3rd century rustic Roman villa, a fortified Byzantine settlement (Kastron Soreon, fortified by the Byzantines to resist the Goths and mentioned in 610 by geographer Giorgio Ciprio), and an earlier religious building smaller than the Romanesque parish church of Santo Stefano have all been found. The first mention of the latter is contained in Pope Eugene III’s bull of 1148 in which the Bishop of Luni is confirmed as possessor of all the parish churches of the diocese. The jurisdiction of the Pieve extended over a vast territory, including the right bank of the River Magra.
The place name of Filattiera derives from the Greek fulactéria which has the meaning of a fortified place and relates to a military settlement of the Byzantine age that had to be distinguished from Kastron Soreon. However, the first material documents of a settlement on the Filattiera hill only date back to the 11th and 12th centuries. During this period in Sorano the parish church remained isolated as a place of rest and prayer located along the Via Francigena. A little further on, on the slopes of the hill, was the nucleus of borgo vecchio houses, crossed by the road. On the southern offshoot of the hill the castle of San Giorgio, with the towering tower flanked by the church, controlled the highway. This fortification was built by the Este family who bought the lands of Filattiera in 1029, their possession of which was confirmed in 1077 by Emperor Arrigo IV.
The Este domination did not last long. At the beginning of the twelfth century Alberto, the first of the Obertenghi to be called Malaspina, set his sights on new conquests in the Lunigiana. His son, Opizzo I, pursued similar aims and obtained from Emperor Federico Barbarossa sovereignty over various lands including a quarter of the territory belonging to Filattiera. Also obtained was reaffirmation of the right of the Malaspinas to have one quarter of the possessions of the Obertenghi (source of four lineages: the Pellavicino, Estense, Massa-Corsica and Malaspina). At some time prior to 1202 the Este family completely ceded Filattiera and all its other possessions within the Lunigiana to the Malaspinas, as recorded in the 1202 compromise agreement between the Malaspina marquises and Bishop Gualtiero of Luni in which the lords and people of Filattiera were also sworn in.
Starting from the second half of the fourteenth century the Malaspinas constructed a new castle on the north-western side of the hill together with a carefully planned quadrangular walled village with three parallel streets.
In 1221, with the division of the Malaspinian fiefdom between cousins Opizzino and Corrado the ancient, Filattiera became the capital of the domains on the left bank of the Magra alloted to Opizzino (whose coat of arms featured a spino fiorito – flowering thorn), with the exception of Villafranca which, despite being on the left bank of the river, went to Corrado (whose coat of arms featured a spino secco – dry thorn) together with the territories on the right. The possessions of Opizzino extended to the sea and the high Garfagnana. The current hamlets of Ponticello, Scorcetoli, Serravalle and Dobbiana located on the right bank of the Torrente Caprio remained excluded from his territory, aligning themselves instead to the Municipality of Pontremoli. Rocca Sigillina, was long disputed between Filattiera and Pontremoli.
After the death of Opizzino in 1254, the fiefdom was managed in concert by his three male children: Bernabò, Isnardo and Alberto. With this form of government it was intended to remedy the damage that would result from the application of the Lombard law which, on the death of each marquis, provided for the division of assets among all his heirs. However, in 1275 a first division was reached between Alberto and his nephews Francesco, son of Bernabò, and Gabriele and Azzolino, sons of Isnardo. The possessions were divided into three parts: the first touched Filattiera and the territory of the Bagnone valley: the fiefdom called “del Terziere” as it constituted the third part of the inherited lands. A second division, in 1351, led to the birth of the fiefs of Treschietto, Castiglione del Terziere, Malgrate and Bagnone. As a result, the fief of Filattiera as assigned to Ricciardino Malaspina was much reduced in size and had only two outlying hamlets: Gigliana and Biglio.
During the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the incessant shattering of the Lunigiana fiefdoms and their consequent weakening favoured the expansionist aims of the nearby city states of Italy: first Milan followed by Genoa and Florence. Penetration of the Florentine Republic into the Lunigiana began at the start of the 15th century with the acquisition in 1404 of Albiano, Caprigliola and Stadano, and the establishment of a partnership with the other marquises of Terziere which involved, among other things, mutual aid in the event of war and facilitation of trade. This first treaty was reconfirmed several times, until 1467.
Filattiera joined Florence in the war against the Visconti of Milan and, in 1437, was stormed and devastated by the Milanese army headed by Niccolò Piccinino. After this date the Florentine influence on the central Lunigiana area grew progressively.
In the first half of the 16th century the Marquises of Filattiera were involved in struggles between the French and the Spanish and the town was occupied several times by Spanish militias until the Marquis Manfredi III asked for help from Duke Cosimo I dei Medici who managed to free Filattiera in 1545. A few years later, in 1549, the Marquis arranged to sell the fiefdom to Cosimo who had openly declared his desire to acquire land in the area. Imperial consent to the purchase was required but not obtained. This, however, didn’t stop Cosimo openly publishing details of the purchase and sale and, taking advantage of Manfredi III’s absence from the fiefdom, replacing the mayor with a trusted governor and on 4 April 1551 making the people swear an oath of allegiance.
When in 1554 Manfredi died, Duke Cosimo demanded that the oath of fidelity be renewed and placed Filattiera under the Captaincy of Castiglione del Terziere. From that time on, the marquises effectively lost their control, keeping only the right to state revenues, honors and ownership of the castle. Several times they implored the Emperor to return the fiefdom to them but they failed on each occasion. At the end of the seventeenth century Manfredi V and Ippolito asked for renewal of their privileges and offered Cosimo III the sale of Filattiera once the Malaspina line had come to an end and the partnership had been renewed, without renouncing their dominion in the meantime. Despite Cosimo’s opposition, in 1698 Emperor Leopold I granted the reinvestiture of privileges to the Malaspina. The local population, however, rose up against the marquises. In consequence on 22 February 1701 Leopold had to issue a new decree which conferred the fief on Cosimo III – a decision renewed by subsequent decrees.
Under the reforms instigated by Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo in the second half of the 18th century, there was an administrative, territorial and judicial reorganization of the Lunigiana. In 1772 the peripheral courts were reformed with the establishment of the three vicariates of Bagnone, Fivizzano and Pontremoli. Previously, with the submission of Fivizzano to Florence in 1477, the Lunigiana had been divided into the Capitanati of Fivizzano and Castiglione del Terziere. By 1633 these had been united into one government. In 1751 the General Governorate of Lunigiana was created and the government of Fivizzano united to that of Pontremoli.
In 1777 various communities dependent on three chancelleries were established: Fivizzano, Bagnone and Pontremoli. Filattiera, Cavallana, Gigliana, Lusignana and Rocca Sigillina were assigned to the Community of Bagnone, while Caprio, Dobbiana, Scorcetoli and Serravalle were assigned to Pontremoli. On 4 October 1786 Filattiera was established as an autonomous community with the dependencies of Migliarina and part of Lusignana, while continuing to depend on the chancellery of Bagnone. Subsequently, the community of Caprio was also established including Scorcetoli, Dobbiana and Serravalle.
With the Napoleonic expeditions the grand ducal territory passed to the Transalpine Republic and, from 1801, to the Kingdom of Etruria assigned to Ludovico di Borbone. In 1808 the whole of Tuscany became part of the French empire: the Lunigiana territories of the former Kingdom of Etruria were administratively assigned to the Department of the Apennines with Chiavari as its capital.
Each Department was organized in districts, which included cantons, which were in turn divided into mayoralities. By means of a decree dated 24 March 1809 Pontremoli became the seat of the district which included the cantons of Pontremoli, Bagnone, Borgotaro, Compiano and Berceto. In 1812 Biglio, Rocca Sigillina, Cavallana, Lusignana, Gigliana (formerly part of the canton of Bagnone) were also aggregated to Pontremoli.
With the implementation of the provisions of the Congress of Vienna in 1815, Zeri, Caprio, Bagnone, Filattiera, Groppoli, Lusuolo, Terrarossa, Riccò, Albiano and Calice were returned to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Ferdinand III of Lorraine. The territory of Filattiera was divided, as before, into the Communities of Filattiera and Caprio with their dependencies, headed respectively by the Chancelleries of Bagnone and Pontremoli. Cavallana, Gigliana, part of Lusignana and Rocca Sigillina remained in the Community of Bagnone.
In 1848, following the death of Marie Louise Duchess of Parma, a treaty signed in 1844 between the Grand Duke of Tuscany, the Duke of Modena and the Duke of Lucca came into effect and the Lunigiana Parmense was formed under Bourbon rule. This included the territories of the upper Lunigiana (Zeri, Pontremoli, Mulazzo, Caprio, Filattiera, Bagnone and Villafranca), while the lower Lunigiana, from Aulla to Massa, remained in the possession of the Duke of Modena and became a new the Este province.
In the same year, in opposition to the Parma dominion, a provisional government was established with headquarters in Pontremoli and a union with the Grand Duchy of Tuscany was decreed. The following year, following an Austrian victory, the Province of Pontremoli was again created subject to the Duchy of Parma and under the domination of the Bourbons. The Province was divided into six municipalities, Zeri, Pontremoli, Mulazzo, Filattiera, Bagnone, Villafranca, including several municipalities. The Municipality of Filattiera was enlarged with the aggregation of the suppressed Community of Caprio and divided into six municipalities.
On 15 June 1859, following occupation by Savoy troops, a provisional government of the Parma provinces was formed by decree of Vittorio Emanuele II. This included all of the Lunigiana. With the armistice of Villafranca (11 July) it was established that the old rulers would return to the Parma, Modenese and Tuscan duchies, but the provisional governments formed did not accept these clauses and remained in office, reaffirming their desire to be annexed to Piedmont. On 4 September, elections for representatives of the People of the Parma Provinces were held and in December there was a reorganization of the territory with the creation of the province of Massa Carrara. Pontremoli became the capital of a district including the municipalities of Zeri, Mulazzo, Filattiera, Bagnone and Villafranca. In 1860 the Province of Massa Carrara was annexed to the Sardinian Kingdom, which the following year became the Kingdom of Italy. Filattiera reached its current territorial extension in 1865 with the union of the hamlets of Cavallana, Rocca Sigillina, Gigliana and Lusignana, detached from Bagnone.
Source: AST Toscana