Things to See and Do in Carrara.

Massa Carrara

Located in the north of Tuscany, on the border with the regions of Liguria and Emilia-Romagna, the province of Massa Carrara is a land of identity, full of secrets and mysteries of history. Here nature has created unique landscapes ranging from the Apuan Riviera to the imposing white peaks of the Apuan Alps and the green valley of the Magra River with its clear and swift waters. Here at every step the inquisitive eyes of the traveler can see medieval village churches, which have survived many centuries, and majestic castles of the cities, which replaced many rulers.

Massa Carrara and the Apuan Alps are a paradise for nature lovers and hikers, where both summer and winter offer beautiful landscapes and cosy huts in the Alpine woods. Massa Carrara is also the only place in the world where in the heart of the mountains, you can watch a unique spectacle – breathtaking white marble quarries reflecting the sunlight, shimmering before the eyes of visitors. Here you can simply reach out and touch the precious material from which the great Italian geniuses Michelangelo and Canova created.

The cities of Massa and Carrara and the province of Massa Carrara, attractions, beaches, shopping, what to see, hotels and more.

The marble quarries of the province of Massa Carrara. Photo flickr.com

History of the province of Massa Carrara

The first mention of a fortified ancient Roman fort called Massa goes back to the eleventh century. As for Carrara, it originated two centuries earlier; in 963 the territory was inhabited by the bishops of the ancient Etruscan-Roman settlement of Luni. Then the two main cities of the modern province changed power a huge number of times, being in the hands of the Marquis of Lucca, Genoa and Parma, until finally their fate merged during the Malaspina dynasty. Massa Carrara remained a single principality from 1442 to 1741. From 1568 the head of the Malaspina dynasty wore the honorary title of Duke of Massa and Carrara, replaced by the ducal title in 1633. After 1741, the Duchy of Massa Carrara lost its own independence and was transferred to the Austrian house of d’Este.

During Napoleonic rule, the Duchy of Massa Carrara experienced a rapid change of various administrative systems until it was defined in 1806 as part of the Principality of Lucca and Piombino. With the fall of the regime, the Congress of Vienna again appointed the d’Este family as rulers of Massa Carrara.

In 1829 the Duchy of Massa Carrara was annexed to the Duchy of Modena and Reggio, and was even part of the Kingdom of Sardinia. The independent province of Massa Carrara was born in December 1859.

Attractions of the province of Massa Carrara

The first place on the itinerary to discover the region is the town of Massa Carrara located between the green hills at the foot of the Alps. The historic center of the city includes a medieval part with narrow, winding streets and the magnificent Palace of Malaspin of the sixteenth century, built for the rulers of the city.

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Massa – “Orange Square” (Piazza degli Aranci)

Decorated on three sides by beautiful orange trees, Piazza degli Aranci is the historical center of the city. In its center is the obelisk fountain, erected in 1853 in honor of Duke Francesco IV. The panorama as a whole is dominated by the magnificent facade of the Palazzo Ducale Malaspina, also called the “Red Palace”.

Born as a small villa for the Duke of Malaspin, the building was transformed into a palatial mansion for the Duke’s family in the spirit of the Renaissance, with beautiful loggias designed by Carrara engineer Gianfrancesco Bergamini (1665).

The palace’s façade was finished in the early 18th century by order of the Roman princess Teresa Pamphili, wife of Charles II. Architect Alessandro Bergamini decorated the facade of the building with many balconies with busts, added a wide central staircase, and enlivened the architecture of the palace’s main entrance.

The cities of Massa and Carrara and the province of Massa Carrara, attractions, beaches, shopping, what to see, hotels and more.

Piazza degli Aranci. Mass. Photo flickr.com

Massa Cathedral.

Dedicated to the saints Pietro and Francesco, the Massa Cathedral dates back to the fourteenth century, but many transformations over the centuries have erased the original architecture of this religious monument. Today, the Carrara marble facade is a monument to classical architecture, retaining only the Baroque interior. The cathedral contains an ancient baptismal font from the Ricomanni (fifteenth century) and many works of art, such as the Pinturicchio Madonna, a wooden crucifix from the thirteenth century and a triptych by Filippo Lippi. You can also see a magnificent marble altar by Andrea Bergamini in the cathedral.

The cities of Massa and Carrara and the province of Massa Carrara, attractions, beaches, shopping, what to see, hotels and more.

Cathedral. Mass. Photo by antenna3.tv

Massa Sacred Art Museum

Next to the Massa Cathedral is the historic Museum of Sacred Art, which preserves antique furniture, vestments and works of ecclesiastical art, including paintings by Maratta and Pinturicchio.

The cities of Massa and Carrara and the province of Massa Carrara, attractions, beaches, shopping, what to see, hotels and more.

The “Triumph of Aphrodite” fountain Piazza del Mercato. Mass. Photo flickr.com

Rocca Malaspina Fortress

Via della Rocca reveals to Massa visitors the fortress walls of an imposing fortress, Castello Malaspina, which dominates the panorama of the old town. The fortress includes medieval fortifications of great historical interest and the Renaissance palace of Malaspina with its beautiful polychrome facade and richly decorated windows.

At the end of the thirteenth century the castle consisted only of a high tower and a fortress that protected the plains and coasts of the province. At the beginning of the fifteenth century the fortress was expanded by adding a residential part and an outer wall with towers. In 1442 the castle was transformed from an exclusively military fortress into the large and elegant residence of the Marquis Antonio Alberico Malaspina.

The cities of Massa and Carrara and the province of Massa Carrara, attractions, beaches, shopping, what to see, hotels and more.

Festive fireworks display at Rocca Malaspina Fortress. Mass. Photo flickr.com

What else to see in Massa?

Massa is a small town that you can easily explore on foot, but if you want to know the history of the province in detail, you should not limit yourself to the center, forgetting the suburban area. At the end of your visit to the city you should visit the Ethnological Museum of the Apuan Alps, the Pietro Pellegrini Natural Park and the Church of the Madonna del Carmine. You can go to the beautiful Villa Rinquostra, which served as the country residence of the Malaspina dynasty.

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History buffs will also enjoy a visit to the former spinning mill, now a museum of industrial archaeology.

The cities of Massa and Carrara and the province of Massa Carrara, attractions, beaches, shopping, what to see, hotels and more.

The magnificent panorama that opens from the Rocca Malaspina fortress. Mass. Photo flickr.com

Another important center of great historical and artistic importance in the province is undoubtedly Carrara, known worldwide as the “city of marble”, surrounded by the white “bastion” of the Apuan Alps, and at the center of intense marble mining and processing activity.

The cities of Massa and Carrara and the province of Massa Carrara, attractions, beaches, shopping, what to see, hotels and more.

Apuan Alps. The province of Massa Carrara. Photo flickr.com.

Where is the first place to go in Carrara?

Piazza Alberica – the heart of the “marble city”

Piazza di Carrara is the city’s central location, where many cultural events and exhibitions take place and where the city’s main attractions are concentrated. In the center of the square there is a monument and fountain dedicated to Maria Beatrice d’Este, Duchess of Massa Carrara. The square is surrounded by seventeenth and eighteenth century buildings, among which stand out the Palazzo delle Loge, the home of the sculptor Pietro Tacca and the Palazzo dei Conti del Medico with magnificent marble decorations.

The cities of Massa and Carrara and the province of Massa Carrara, attractions, beaches, shopping, what to see, hotels and more.

Piazza Alberica. Carrara. Photo flickr.com

Duomo di Carrara – Carrara Cathedral

The construction of the parish church of San Andrea began in 1035; the cathedral, as we see it today, appeared in 1395, with the addition of a marble facade.

The cathedral was built over three centuries, changing its own appearance and architecture. Only a few decorative elements remain of the original 11th-century parish church today.

The church is a fine example of Lombardo-Romanesque art of the twelfth century. Inside the cathedral are precious works of art, such as six Renaissance and Baroque altars dedicated to San Ceccardo, patron of Carrara, sculptures by the fifteenth-century Florentine master Andrea De Guardi, and two fourteenth-century statues by Giovanni Pisano depicting the Annunciation.

The cities of Massa and Carrara and the province of Massa Carrara, attractions, beaches, shopping, what to see, hotels and more.

Cathedral. Carrara. Photo wikipedia.org

Malaspina Castle Carrara

The ancient castle of Malaspina Carrara was erected after the city gained independence from the bishops of Luni to protect the medieval settlement. In 1187 the castle became the feudal estate of the Marquis Alberto Malaspina. Guglielmo Malaspina, ruler of Carrara since 1215, enlarged the castle, which at the time was a massive square tower. In 1473, Jacopo Malaspina enlarged the fortress with courtyards and galleries, and in 1519 Ricciarda Malaspina ordered a small residential building to be built next to the castle. In 1557 the castle was transformed into a stately and elegant palace where the ruling family lived. In 1806 the castle became the residence of the Academy of Fine Arts.

The cities of Massa and Carrara and the province of Massa Carrara, attractions, beaches, shopping, what to see, hotels and more.

The Castle of Malaspina. Carrara. Photo settemuse.it

In addition to these important monuments, Carrara offers the opportunity to take an interesting journey to discover the world of marble, through a visit to the Marble Museum and the many art workshops in the city. From the city the route continues to the impressive quarries where, for more than two thousand years, Carrara marble with white, purple, peach and blue veins, as well as purple (Medici marble), has been quarried.

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The cities of Massa and Carrara and the province of Massa Carrara, attractions, beaches, shopping, what to see, hotels and more.

Marble blocks. Carrara. Photo flickr.com.

Do not miss the other small gems of the province, starting with the Borgo Fosdinovo, where there is a majestic medieval castle. In Aulla you can visit the magnificent fortress of Brunella, built at the beginning of the fourteenth century, which takes its name from its peculiar color, and the Natural History Museum. Through Passo del Cerretto you will reach Fivizzano with its ancient walls and the Seal Museum. Visit also Pontremoli with its significant artistic heritage: here you will find the magnificent Piagnaro Castle, the Statue Museum and the Cathedral.

The cities of Massa and Carrara and the province of Massa Carrara, attractions, beaches, shopping, what to see, hotels and more.

Pontremoli. Photo flickr.com

What to do in the province of Massa Carra?

The hilly and mountainous terrain offers travelers the opportunity to immerse themselves in magnificent nature through hiking and relaxing walks, as well as taking part in sporting activities such as mountain biking amid beautiful scenery and fishing in the area’s numerous bodies of water.

In Lunigiana you can go skiing, thanks to the ski resort “Zeri Passo Due Santi”, from where you can admire the panorama stretching down to the sea.

Marina di Carrara and other seaside destinations offer tourists a relaxing vacation on the beach, where you can practice all kinds of water sports and sailing.

The cities of Massa and Carrara and the province of Massa Carrara, attractions, beaches, shopping, what to see, hotels and more.

Marina di Carrara port. Photo flickr.com

Sweethearts will enjoy numerous gastronomic and wine tours through small medieval towns and the countryside, discovering typical products and local wines.

For lovers of spas in the province there are the famous centers of Equi Terme and San Carlo Terme, located near the precious thermal springs.

In the events calendar of the region there are a variety of events, including numerous marble exhibitions, among which the famous “International Exhibition of Marble and Sculpture” which takes place in summer in Carrara. In August, among the picturesque marble quarries near Carrara, there is a historical re-enactment related to marble production. The festival is called “lizzatura”, as well as the ancient method by which workers transported blocks of marble.

Among the most important festivals in the province are the “Disfida tra gli arcieri di terra e di corte” in Fivizzano and the church festival dedicated to the patron saint of Massa, San Francesco.

There are also numerous festivals and fairs dedicated to regional products, including the Festival of Lard in Colonnata, the Festival of Blueberries in Massa and the Festival of San Domenichino in Marina di Massa.

Local cuisine

The most famous dishes of the province of Massa Carrara are taglierini (noodles) with beans, meatballs and lasagne.

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In addition, the province is famous for the local bacon, which is aged for at least six months in Carrara marble basins, spiced up with numerous spices.

Other specialties of Massa Carrara are the rice cake and “herb cake”, stuffed eggs, cheese and the famous “testaroli” (puff pastries cooked in cast iron pans, then lavishly covered with pesto sauce and sprinkled with grated cheese).

Carrara “spongata”, a puff pastry cake with jam and nuts, is famous among the sweets.

The province will delight wine lovers with wonderful wines, such as Candia.

How to reach Massa Carrara?

Here are some tips on how to reach the province faster, for tourists who want to spend their vacation in Massa Carrara.

By plane

Galileo Galilei International Airport (Pisa), located closest to the main cities of the province (40 km)

Other international airports that are close to Massa:

108 km: Florence Peretola Airport (FLR / LIRQ)

130 km: Christopher Columbus Airport, Genoa (GOA / LIMJ)

135 km: Parma airport (PMF / LIMP)

You can book flights to any of these airports from the main cities in Europe, Russia and Ukraine here.

By Car

Freeway A12 Genoa – Livorno, exit Carrara or Massa

Autostrada A15 Parma – La Spezia, exit at Pantremoli or Aulla

SS.62 Del Passo della Chiesa

SS.63 Del Passo della Cerreto

SS. 445 Della Garfagnana

You can rent a car here.

By train

Both the main cities of the province of Massa and Carrara have their own railway station – Massa Centrale and Carrara Avenza. There are regular trains from Genoa, Rome, Parma, La Spezia, Aulla and Lucca. Once you arrive at the station, from here, with the appropriate public transport, you can reach any town in the province.

By boat.

Massa and Carrara are close to the coast (Marina di Massa, Cinquale) and therefore are easily accessible by boat.

Where to stay in the province of Massa Carrara?

Plan your vacation well in advance, choosing from the many hotels, spas, cottages, apartments and campsites of the province of Massa Carrara.

Carrara

The Tuscan city of Carrara has gained its fame for its white marble, which is extracted in quarries near the Apuan Alps. The valuable Carrara marble was used by Michelangelo, who personally selected the best blocks for his creations.

Carrara

The city’s coat of arms depicts the wheel of a cart and bears the motto “Our strength is in the wheel”. These carts were used to lift the marble slabs that made up Carrara’s wealth.

The name comes from the Celtic word kair, meaning “stone”, and reflects the presence of the Apuan Alps. Marble has been quarried on this land since the Iron Age. But it was the Romans who gave it a boost. They took the blocks to the nearby port of Luni and sent them to Rome to build the villas of the patricians. But almost nothing remains of the oldest quarries. With the spread of Christianity, Carrara marble was used to build churches. It was mined by both open and closed methods. In the Middle Ages Carrara was owned by the Byzantines and Lombards, then under the dominion of the bishops of Luna. Since the 14th century Carrara was part of the Republic of Pisa, the Republic of Lucca and the Republic of Florence, and then it was acquired by Gian Galeazzo Visconti. From 1477 Carrara belonged to Tommaso Campofregoso, signor of Sarzana and then to the Malaspina family. Maria Teresa Malaspina married Ercole III Rinaldo d’Este, Duke of Modena and Reggio, so the Carrara lands became part of the Duchy of Modena and Reggio. In the nineteenth century, Carrara was the cradle of anarchism, which flourished among the quarry workers.

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Piazza Duomo is the central square of the city. It has a trapezoidal shape and is surrounded by historic buildings. Carrara’s cathedral, sandwiched by buildings, is dedicated to St. Andrew. It dates back to the 11th century. Its magnificent 14th century facade is made of white marble and decorated with an elegant rose window. In the same century was erected a bell tower, the height of which is 33 meters. The cathedral houses a 14th century crucifix, as well as numerous works of art.

Cathedral

Cathedral

Behind the temple is the house where Michelangelo often stayed during his visits to Carrara.

Michelangelo's House

Michelangelo’s House

The Via Ghibellina leads to Piazza Alberica, which was built in the XVII century. The building with the red facade is the palazzo del Medico, which was built in the XVIII century in the Baroque style by the architect Alessandro Bergamini. The Del Medicos were noble citizens, and representatives of ruling dynasties and artists stayed in their house many times. It is now a residential building.

Piazza Alberica

Piazza Alberica

Statue of Beatrice D

Statue of Beatrice D’Este. Piazza Alberica

Via Verdi leads to Piazza d’Armi , where the jagged tower of the castle catches your eye. It is the Palazzo Cibo Malaspina or Ducal Palace, which is one of the most beautiful and famous buildings of Carrara.

Palazzo Cibo Malaspina

Palazzo Cibo-Malaspina

It was erected during the Lombard period and became the permanent residence of the Malaspina dynasty in 1448. After their fall, many works of art were stolen and the premises were used for various purposes. The palazzo now combines two nuclei: the Malaspina Castle, dating back to the 13th century, and the Renaissance assignment built under Alberic I. The ancient walls now house the Academy of Fine Arts.

Marble Pavements of Carrara

The marble pavements of Carrara

Via Roma

Via Roma

Carrara

Carrara

Carrara

Carrara

Carrara

Carrara

Carrara

Carrara

It is worth a trip to the picturesque village of Colonnata, nestled amongst the marble cuts. Here you can visit the museum of the Fantiscritti mines and buy the specialty lard that is salted in marble containers. The lard has the status of a special product, protected by the geographical name Lardo di Colonnata IGP.

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