At the mouth of the Valley of Frigido, near to the Western Alpes, lies Massa, that has surely Roman origins, even though the first document to report its existence is dated 882. This exhibit is preserved in the Archbishop's archive in Lucca and in it, for the first time, the antique name of the district "Massa Prope Frigidum" appears.
Important archeological sites report the presence of inhabitants in the area since the Paleolithic and Neolithic Ages; certain evidence is given by the ruins of retrieved tombs, where weapons and various objects have been found.
The name "Massa" traces its origins from the Middle Ages and means "farm, landed property"
Between the XV and XIX century is was capital of the independent Princedom and later Dukedom of Massa and Carrara, ruled by the Families Malaspina and Cybo-Malaspina. In 1829 the city was taken over by the Dukes of Modena of the Austrian Family of Este and in 1859 it became part of the Regno di Sardegna.
The city is overlooked by a hill and on its top the Malaspina Castle dominates the whole valley below in a strategic location between the sea and via Francigena.
A large fortified wall with observation towers encloses two large parts of the city. At the higher end a parade ground, protected by an arched pathway and a octagonal stronghold (probably the oldest building of he complex) connected to a circular tower (baluardo di San Paolino) by a fortified pathway.
The Cathedral, dedicated to the Saints Pietro and Francesco, is the most important church of Massa, since the demolition of the old Collegiata di San Pietro in Bagnara. The Cathedral, built on the ruins of the Church of the Franciscans Convent, has been enlarged and modified over the centuries.
Two series of overlapped arches, completed by Prof. Cesario Fellini in 1936, are present in the façade. Inside the Cathedral a series of famous masterpieces are preserved: a three piece painting of Bernardino del Castelletto, the glass and pottery Nativity Scene of Benedetto Buglioni, the marble Altars of Bergamini and a series of paintings of famous Italian and local artists such as Maratta, Garzi, Pinturicchio, etc...
Of historic and architectonic interest are the Abbeys of San Vitale in Mirteto and San Gimignano in Antona, which with the small Church of San Leonardo al Frigido are the only survived evidence of the religiousness of the Middle Ages. The Abbey of San Vitale, recently refurbished, preserves a series of marble sculptures of the local school since the XV century. The Church of San Leonardo preserves its simple but elegant Medieval design. Its antique portal of the artist Biduino has been replaced as it is actually on exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum.
Not to miss: the three Sanctuaries: the first devote to the Beata Vergine dei Quercioli (1835), the second devote to the Madonna degli Uliveti (where a famous wooden statue of the artist Jacopo della Quercia is preserved) and the third devote to Nostra Signora della Misericordia, built in second half of the '600, based on the design of the architect Raffaele Locci.