The Province of Massa-Carrara is situated on the border with Liguria and Emilia Romagna, and is characterized by an extensive coastal area rich in tourist accommodation structures and modern sea resorts.
A short distance from the sea, the Apuan Alps are a paradise for nature lovers and excursionists, both in summer and in winter, offering the possibility to stay in comfortable mountain refuges.
The spectacular white marble caves in the heart of these mountains are unique in the world and reveal themselves as a gleaming vision before the visitor's eyes. Entering the mountain's heart, one can touch the same precious stony elements preferred by artists like Michelangelo and Canova.
Arriving from the north, one reaches Lunigiana, embedded within two natural parks (of the Apuan Alps and the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines). Lunigiana offers many interesting culinary itineraries and holidays in prestigious agritouistic structures, engulfed among green hills, castles, romantic pievi (Romanesque abbey churches) and elegant towns including Pontremoli, Fivizzano and Aulla.
On the coast lie Carrara, with its Cathedral entirely built out of marble, and Massa, dominated by the Malaspina fortress. Both old town centers are ideal for walks during which one can admire the local art and shop at the same time.
All this is just a few miles from the wide beaches of the Apuan Coast, an ideal extension of Versilia that is comprised of Cinquale di Montignoso, Poveromo, Ronchi, Marina di Massa and Marina di Carrara.
The first stop on any tour of the Province must be Massa itself, nestled between green hills at the feet of the Apuan Alps.
Within the old town one finds the Medieval quarter, made up of narrow, winding streets, and the 16th-Century section, built by the Cybo Malaspinas, the area's nobles in those days. The Cathedral and the Palazzo Ducale of Cybo Malaspina (16th-17th Centuries) are of particular interest.
Another center of major historical and artistic interest is Carrara, known internationally as the "city of marble," surrounded by the white bastion of the Apuan Alps, where intense mining and stonework is carried out. In addition to valuable monuments that include the Cathedral and its Romanesque-Gothic façade, the 16th-Century Cybo Malaspina residence, and the majestic Palazzo delle Logge, Carrara also offers educational excursions regarding the local marble at the Museo Civico del Marmo (Marble Museum) and the sculptors' and artists' workshops present nearby.
The tour should then continue outside the city for a visit to the extremely impressive marble quarries, such as the Cava Museo di Fantiscritti. In the village of Campocecina, visitors can admire the Parco della Memoria and the Cava dei Poeti, where the quotations of illustrious persons and poets were engraved into the walls for the 2002 Biennale.
Lunigiana offers a unique itinerary for discovering enchanting villages, beginning with Fosdinovo, dominated by a Medieval castle. In Aulla is the majestic Brunella Fortress, constructed at the beginning of the 14th Century (its name derives from its distinctive color); and the Museum of Natural History. Crossing the Passo del Cerreto, travelers arrive in Fivizzano, with its ancient walls and Museo della Stampa (Print Museum). Do not miss the Abbey Church of Sorano, near Filattiera - a treasured Romanesque monument with a striking apse - set amidst a pristine environment.
Pontremoli is found in high Lunigiana and bears a remarkable artistic legacy: the magnificent Castello del Piagnaro, home to the Museum of Stele Statues; the Cathedral; and the village’s characteristic alleys. Finally, nestled within luxuriant nature and dense woods lies Zeri, famous for its gastronomy, e.g. the typical Zerasco lamb.
This hilly and mountainous terrain of Massa-Carra Province provides enormous opportunity for nature strolls, or for practicing more athletic activities like trekking (especially along streams and the Magra River), mountain biking excursions amongst the beautiful scenery, and fishing in the bountiful bodies of water.
Skiing is also an option in Lunigiana, thanks to the Passo Due Santi ski resort in Zeri, boasting a panorama that sweeps all the way to the sea.
Not far from the marble basins, Marina di Carrara and other seaside destinations are perfect for a relaxing beach vacation, where tourists can take on water sports and sailing.
The gourmands can follow various enogastronomic itineraries, through ancient villages and beautiful countryside, in search of typical produce and local wines.
The renowned Equi Terme and San Carlo Terme offer treatments based on their therapeutic waters.
The area proposes a varied calendar of events such as the Premio Bancarella in Pontremoli (July), the Premio Nazionale di Pittura (National Painting Prize) on the theme of Mare-Monti-Marmo (sea-mountains-marble), and the Mostra dell’artigianato del marmo e simposio internazionale di scultura, an artisan exhibit of marble and sculpture in Carrara. In August, in the spectacular setting of the marble quarries, runs an historic re-enactment of the lizzatura, the ancient method by which miners transported the blocks of marble downhill into the valley.
Among the festivals, the Disfida tra gli arcieri di terra e di corte (Dual Between the Court and People's Archers) in Fivizzano, and the Feast Day of San Francesco in Massa are the most important.
Numerous other festivals (sagre) celebrate the typical products, including the lard fest in Colonnata, that of blueberries in Massa, and the Sagra of San Domenichino in Marina di Massa.
Taglierini with beans, meat tordelli and lasagne intordellate are all pastas typical to Massese cooking.
Lard from Colonnata is an exceptional local product, spiced matured in Carrara-marble basins for at least six months.
Other specialties include the torta di riso (rice cake) and herb cake stuffed with egg, cheese and wild vegetables. The Lunigiani testaroli are also famous, made with a sheet of thin pastry, cooked on a flat, circular cast-iron sheet, then topped with pesto and pecorino.
The most typical dessert is spongata, a puff-pastry tart stuffed with jam and dried fruit.
Wine production in the area is also notable, particularly the Candia.