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Via Francigena Leg 4: Avenza to Pietrasanta

A unique route at the footstesps of the Apuan Alps along the fourth leg of the Fracigena in Tuscany

Leaving Avenza, you take a road among the vineyards covering the hills, with views of the Apuan Alps and the sea. The route passes through the old center of Massa before climbing up to Montignoso, with Aghinolfi castle and then taking another scenic road. The stage ends in Pietrasanta, home of Apuan marble and sculpture, a destination for artists from around the world.
Start: Avenza, Torre di Castruccio
Pietrasanta, Cathedral
Total length (km): 27.8
Accessibility: on foot or with mountain bike
Time on foot (h: min): 6.15
Climb in ascent (m): 409
Climb in descent (m): 400
Maximum altitude (m): 183
Difficulty: challenging
Paved roads: 90%
Unpaved roads and driveways: 5%
Mule-tracks and trails: 5%
Cyclability: 98%
How to get to the departure point: La Spezia-Rome railway line, Carrara-Avenza


Avenza – A must see is the Church of S. Pietro, where there is a wooden cross, thought to bring about miracles and provide strength. It was a very important stopping point along the via Francigena during medieval times. Castruccio Castracani is the man to thank for its construction. Not far from Avenza lies the city of Carrara, home to the beautiful Malaspina castle, built by Alberico Cybo Malaspina during the fourteenth century. It now houses the Academy of Fine Arts. Carrara’s Romanesque gothic-style cathedral was built during the ninth century and then clad in Carrara marble.

Massa – A must see is the Ducal Palace, built between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries for Cybo Malaspina, which then became his primary residence. The most impressive part of the building was constructed by Carlo I, namely the Swiss Room and the Ducal Chapel. The final touches to these were made at the beginning of the eighth century by Alessandro Bergamini, according to the wishes of the Roman princess, Teresa Pamphilj, wife of Carlo II.  The Diocesan Museum is inside one of the historic palaces in Massa, the ‘little palace of the people’. Built at the end of the fourteenth century by Alberico I Cybo Malaspina, it was then donated in 1822 to the Diocese of Massa-Carrara-Pontremoli. Nowadays, works of art which best represent the art history and religion of the region are displayed in the rooms.

The Cathedral, named after Saints Peter and Francesco, whose dome was built in the seventeenth century, was built with only one central nave and three side altars. The chapel in the crypt contains the remains of the Princes and Dukes of Massa. Teatro Guglielmi, built in 1880, was named after the music maestro, Alessandro Guglielmi. The inside of the theatre is decorated ornately and divided into three levels and a large gallery.

The Misericordia Church, built in 1629, has retained, almost completely, its original structure. Noteworthy is the apse and the two side chapels. From Malaspina castle, built high on a rocky hill overlooking a vast area of flat land, you can enjoy a clear view of the coast. Originally from the Early Middle Ages, under control of Malaspina, during the Renaissance, it took on its current form as a palace and castle. The Church of the Madonna del Carmine was built in the mid fourteenth century, alongside the convent of S. Chiara, in accordance with Taddea Malaspina’s wishes.

Montignoso – A must see is the Aghinolfi castle, which has changed its structure during the course of the centuries due to various different construction work. It was built close to the sea to allow monitoring of the coast from La Spezia al Porto in Livorno and powers along the via Francigena below, and thus enjoys an exceptional strategic position. Inside the impressive eight-sided tower, thanks to the construction of a glass floor, the archaeological finds from the dig below are clearly visible as well as the phases of fortification work of the basement of an ancient tower, dating from between the eighth to the tenth century. The most interesting pieces found have been put in the museum. The surrounding stronghold walls have been restored and the archaeological park within is now open to the public.

Francigena and Spiritual Routes