Massa (not to be confused with Massa Maríttima) lies near the coast at the northern extremity of Tuscany. To the east extends the chain of the Apuan Alps (part of which is now a nature reserve), famous for their marble. On the coast is a separate part of the town, Marina di Massa, a popular seaside resort.
Massa first appears in the records in 882. During the Middle Ages it frequently changed hands, passing successively under the control of Lucca, Pisa, Milan and Florence. In the 15th century it was held by the Margraves Malaspina and later by the Cybo Malaspina family (1533-1790), who began a complete rebuilding of the town.
The central feature of the old town of Massa is the Piazza Aranci. On the south side of the square stands the Palazzo Cybo Malaspina (now occupied by the Prefecture), a large and sumptuous mansion converted from an earlier villa by the margraves (by Giovanni Francesco Bergamini, 1665; façade by Alessandro Bergamini, 1701).
A short distance northeast of the Piazza Aranci in Massa, by way of Via Dante, we come to the cathedral, built at the behest of Giácomo Malaspina in the 15th century but altered in later centuries. The modern facade (1936) is faced with Carrara marble. The interior is notable for the sunken funerary chapel of the Cybo-Malaspina family.
On the hill to the southeast of Massa is the Malaspina Castle (La Rocca), originally dating from the Middle Ages but enlarged in palatial style by the Malaspinas in the 15th and 16th centuries.
From the rocca there is a magnificent view over the town, extending to the sea.
Marina di Massa
Marina di Massa lies some 5km/3mi southwest of Massa. With its long beach of fine sand, it is a popular resort. Inland extends a shady pine wood, the Pineta.