Massa, Carrara, and the art cities of Tuscany
Places to visit
For those who decide to spend their holidays at the seaside, in Italy, Camping Calatella in Tuscany, in Marina di Massa is the ideal starting point for reaching the nearby cities of Massa e Carrara and the art cities of Tuscany, such as Florence, Pisa, Lucca, thanks to its privileged position.
Just a few kilometres away from Camping Calatella in Marina di Massa, lies the city of Florence, considered the cradle of the Renaissance, looking majestic and eternal. Thanks to its humongous artistic patrimony, Florence is one of the most visited cities all over the world: be enchanted by the church of Santa Maria Novella, just few steps from the main train station, by the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, famous for its cupola by Brunelleschi (one of the goriest episodes in the history of the cities took place right here: la Congiura dei Pazzi, against Giuliano and Lorenzo de’ Medici), and the church of Santa Croce, where Niccolò Macchiavelli, Michelangelo, Donatello, Galileo Galilei, Lorenzo Ghiberti, Guglielmo Marconi, Enrico Fermi, Gioachino Rossini, Leon Battista Alberti, Ugo Foscolo and many more are buried. Right here, in piazza Santa Croce, Roberto Benigni paid homage to Dante Alighieri, by reading and reciting the Divine Comedy.
The majestic Palazzo Vecchio (The Old Palace), in the heart of the historic centre of the city, dominates Piazza della Signoria; in the middle of the square, a copy of the colossal David of Michelangelo catches the eye; the original is kept at the la Galleria dell’Accademia; not far from there, you can admire The Rape of the Sabine Women, at the Loggia dei Lanzi, which is considered a masterpiece by Giambologna, along with other superb marble sculptures and the bronze Perseus by Benvenuto Cellini.
The extremely renowned Uffizi Gallery, located adjacent to Piazza della Signoria, exhibits an incredible collection of international painting masterpieces of different historical periods; just few steps away, over the fascinating Arno river, the Ponte Vecchio stands out, noted for still having antique jewellery shops built along it.
Pisa, and its incredible Leaning Tower, is just 40 kilometres away from the campsite: you cannot miss a visit to this unique place in the world.
Once out of the train station of San Rossore, crossing the sixteenth century Porta Nuova, the visual impact with Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles) will leave you speechless. The Baptistery, the Cathedral and the leaning Tower are a real treat for the eyes. The Monumental Cemetery and the Museum of the sinopias are incredibly remarkable as well.
Following Via Santa Maria and taking Via dei Mille, you will be led to Piazza dei Cavalieri, where you can admire the famous Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa, the Church of Santo Stefano dei Cavalieri and the Palazzo dell’Orologio: here, in the Muda Tower, nicknamed“Torre della Fame”, the Count Ugolino della Gherardesca and his sons and grandsons were immured and he ended up eating them. This sombre episode inspired Dante when writing one of his most evocative cantos of the Divine Comedy (Inferno, XXXIII).
Further on, Borgo Stretto and its medieval porticos will welcome you, Piazza Garibaldi will lead you to Ponte di Mezzo, and after that to Corso Italia. Continuing along the Lungarno Gambacorti, you will direct your glance on the small church of Santa Maria della Spina, an amazing Romanina-Gothic building, along with many Renaissance buildings: among them Palazzo Blu, previously called Palazzo Giuli Rosselmini Gualandi, is particularly noteworthy, being an international museum and exhibition centre. Do not miss the Luminara di San Ranieri, which takes place every 16th of June: people celebrate Saint Ranieri, the protector of the city of Pisa.
30 km away from Camping Calatella in Marina di Massa, another interesting city to pay a visit to during your holiday in Tuscany rises: it is Lucca, a treasure chest containing an ancient and tormented history. Mighty walls encircle the old town of Lucca, where artworks and historical monuments reign. Coming from the train station, you can get to Porta San Pietro and reach Piazza Napoleone, also called Piazza Grande, where you can find the Ducal palace, where the province offices and the Tourist information point are located.
If you like music, do not miss the Summer Festival in Piazza Napoleone and its vast array of concerts. Following Via Beccheria, you come across the marvellous Romanic Church of San Michele, and the statue of the Archangel Michele on top of it. Further on, in Piazza San Martino, a Romanic-Gothic cathedral with the same name appears: inside you can admire the marble funerary monument to Ilaria del Carretto by Jacopo della Quercia. Slightly further, you can indulge in some shopping or treat yourself with a drink or something to eat in the stylish Via Fillungo. The Guinigi Tower is one of the symbols of Lucca: an incredible tall monument with a rather peculiar roof garden on top; do not miss the Torre dell’Orologio, also called delle Ore. Do not stop your visit there, but push yourself to the marvellous Piazza dell’Anfiteatro, build on top of the ruins of the ancient Roman amphitheatre.
Towards the end of October and the beginning of November, Comics&Games takes place in Lucca: it is an international Festival of Comics, Cartoons, Illustration and Games.
Lucca is also famous for its hill area and surrounding countryside and their magnificent villas. Here is a list of the most famous ones you can pay a visit to: Villa Grabau in San Pancrazio, Villa Oliva in San Pancrazio, Villa Bernardini in Vicopelago, Villa Mansi in Segromigno a Monte, Villa di Camigliano or Villa Torrigiani in Camigliano.
Massa, a city of ancient origins, is located 5 km away from Camping Calatella in Partaccia and gave birth to the families Malaspina and Cybo-Malaspina; it is dominated by the Malaspina fortress and it is possible to visit it. Every two years, in April and May, the castle Malaspina in Massa hosts the craft market Spino Fiorito: wine tasting, local products, workshops and food tasting. A special edition was organized for EXPO 2015.
Massa’s pleasant historic town centre can be visited on foot. Among other places of interests, you can see Piazza Aranci, surrounded by orange trees; in front of this majestic square rises the Renaissance Palazzo Ducale, the Duomo and Piazza Mercurio.
Lose yourself in the narrow alleys in Massa and discover a great range of small restaurants, where you can taste the fantastic dishes of the culinary tradition of Massa: the tordelli (ravioli) with ragout sauce, the cockerel with barbe, a special vegetable (similar to meadow’s got beard), the marinated salt codfish, chicken and rabbit alla cacciatora, the cornmeal mush; rice cake as a dessert; Vermentini Candia of the Apuan Hills are among the best wines you can savour.
Carrara, situated 10 km away from Camping Calatella in Marina di Massa, is well-known all over the world for its spectacular marble caves; it is located on the slope of the Apuan Alps, and it can’t be missed if you plan on spend your holidays in Tuscany. The first settlers of the area were the Apuans in the ninth century a.C., but Romans designed the current planimetry of the city: they built the village where the quarry workers lived and from where marble was sent to the harbour of Luni and then to Rome.
Michelangelo used to come here rather often in order to choose personally the blocks of marble to carve to create his amazing sculptures. Michelangelo used to stay just besides the beautiful Romanic-Gothic Duomo di Sant’Andrea, whose magnificent rose window was made out of a sole block of marble. A plaque has been placed on the façade of the building where Michelangelo used to live.
Carrara boasts both art and history. The main street of the city is the long Via Roma, which leads to l’Accademia di Belle Arti and Piazza Gramsci, commonly called by the people of Carrara “Piazza d’Armi”. A unique marble fountain dominates the middle of the square: a big marble sphere is rotated by the strength of water. Just getting down the steps from Piazza d’Armi, and walking through Via Loris Giorgi, you get to Piazza Alberica with its loggias and beautiful buildings. Just as Massa, Carrara as well was reigned by the Cybo-Malaspina, and afterwards by Napoleon; Mazzini also had a strong bond with the city, and a square was entitled to him. The Teatro Animosi can be quickly reached by Piazza Alberica, just few steps away.
Dante, who is said to have spent part of his exile here, dedicated to the city of Massa Carrara the verses 46-51 of the Canto XX of the Inferno:
“That Aruns is, who backs the other’s belly,
Who in the hills of Luni, there where grubs
The Carrarese who houses underneath,
Among the marbles white, a cavern had
For his abode; whence to behold the stars
And sea, the view was not cut off from him.”
The rich culinary tradition of the city of Carrara include delicacies such as Lardo di Colonnata (a special fair dedicated to it takes place in August), and dishes such as: taglierini and beans, marinated salted codfish, stuffed muscles and the sweet rice cake, all dishes whose origin is claimed by both cities of Massa and Carrara.