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Massa Cathedral

One day in Massa

Ideas of what to see and do in Massa and its surroundings

Situated in northern Tuscany, close to the Apuan Alps, Massa is the capital of the province of Massa-Carrara. Though not as well-known as its Carrara counterpart, the city is a treasure chest of artistic and architectural gems. According to historical documents, Massa dates to 882 and became a medieval urban centre in the 11th and 12th centuries, while from the 15th to 19th centuries, Massa was the capital of the independent Principate of Massa and Carrara, ruled by the Malaspina and Cybo-Malaspina families. 

If you’re in the area for a day, we recommend passing through the city so you can explore its highlights, from architecture to art, spas to nature. We’ve put together a list of some of the best attractions to see in a day.

Malaspina Castle
Malaspina Castle
Malaspina Castle

The 15th-century fortress overlooks the city from atop a hill, reached by way of via della Rocca. The castle and its complex make up the old city, inside the medieval defense walls, which was the centre of life in the Middle Ages. To the right of the fortress, you can find the Church of San Rocco, home to a wooden crucifix made by a young Michelangelo.

Piazza Aranci
Piazza Aranci
Piazza Aranci - Credit: Matteo Dunchi

The piazza, situated in the city centre, was expanded during the rule of Elisa Baciocchi, Napoleon Bonaparte’s sister and Grand Duchess of the area in 1809. At the centre of the piazza, you’ll find a marble obelisk supported by four statue-fountains depicting lions.

Palazzo Ducale

The Renaissance palace is located in piazza degli Aranci and is also known as Palazzo Rosso. It dominates the piazza and is currently home to the city’s Provincial Administration.

Diocesan Museum
Diocesan Museum in Missa
Diocesan Museum in Missa - Credit: Museo Diocesano di Massa

The museum can be found in via Alberica, in one of the best-known historic palaces in Massa, the so-called Palazzino dei Cadetti. It was built at the end of the 16th century by Alberico I Cybo Malaspina, and until 1970, it was used as the bishop’s headquarters. It’s home to works by great artists, like Jacopo della Quercia.

Cathedral of Santi Pietro e Francesco
Cathedral of Santi Pietro e Francesco
Cathedral of Santi Pietro e Francesco - Credit: whatifwewalked

Construction on the cathedral began in the 1500s and was carried out at the Convent of San Francesco. It isn’t clear whether the church was built at the same time as the convent or whether it was constructed beforehand atop the ruins of a pre-existing building. It’s believed by some that the church was consecrated in 1389, which would make it the oldest church in Massa. Its façade, on the other hand, was finished much later, in 1936.

Piazza Mercurio

The piazza is located on the south side of Palazzo Ducale. Built in 1574 to be the city’s commercial centre, its name comes from the statue-fountain in the piazza depicting the Pagan god, known to protect traded goods.

Teatro Guglielmi
Teatro Guglielmi
Teatro Guglielmi - Credit: Davide Papalini

The building was constructed in 1880 as a courtly theatre and its named after Alessandro Guglielmi, a musician from Massa.

 

There are loads of things to see around Massa as well, including:

Marina di Massa
Pier in Marina di Massa
Pier in Marina di Massa - Credit: marco

This famous seaside resort flanked by the coast and the Apuan Alps has become a popular tourist spot thanks to its perfect location between the sea and the mountains. A large avenue running along the coast connects Marina di Massa to Viareggio, and a bike path links Marina di Massa to Forte dei Marmi. The pier is the best place for a picturesque walk as you enjoy the surrounding mountains and sea. During the summer, this is where boats leave for trips to nearby Liguria.

San Carlo Terme

The San Carlo hot springs are known for its thermal waters, which are particularly effective for treating renal conditions. It also boasts a remarkable panoramic terrace with breath-taking views of the Apuan Alps and the Versilia coast.

Appennino Tosco-Emiliano National Park
Appennino Tosco-Emiliano National Park
Appennino Tosco-Emiliano National Park - Credit: Shutterstock.com / Max Barattini

The park stretches throughout the municipalities of Fivizzano, Filattiera, Comano and Licciana Nardi, home to 22,000 hectares of beech and chestnut woods.

Pariana and Altagnana

The villages of Pariana and Altagnana are on the same road to San Carlo Terme, both boasting a typical medieval layout and sitting atop rocky outcrops that overlook the Frigido valley. 

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