What strikes you when you first look at Malaspina Castle is the extraordinary sculpted mass that seems to rise out of the rock that supports it, a majestic spur with olive groves, framed by the Apuan Alps behind it, overlooking the small coastal village of Massa.
The castle’s origins date back to the High Middle Ages, when the Obertenghi family built it to defend and control the part of the new Via Francigena at the foot of the mountain that substituted the old Aemilia Scauri road, which was abandoned as the waters of the coast turned progressively into marshland. It is possible that, in that period, only the castle’s central fortified tower existed on the hill, and that it was connected with other tall watchtowers in order to create a great chain of protection, from the nearby hills down to Montignoso.
The castle was expanded many times over the following centuries, but it was Alberico I Malaspina, lord of Fosdinovo, who in 1442 transformed it from a defensive structure into a noble dwelling, with new frescoed halls, columns and marble staircases in Renaissance style. It was newly rebuilt following the tragic and spectacular event that rocked the castle in 1538, when its great tower was struck by lightning: the bolt reached the depository that was holding munitions and oil, causing an explosion so great that the castle?s mighty walls exploded which, as one witness wrote, ‘andorno in fine ne le montagne’ – went to the ends of the mountains.
Works continued until the 17th Century, ensuring this castle’s place in history. It can be reached on foot, from the center of Massa. The town of Massa and the coast extend from the foot of the castle’s hill; on clear days, the sight of the Tyrrhenian Sea is stunning. Inside, beyond the gate, you find yourself in a courtyard that seems like a parade ground, with porticos, loggias and staircases leading to the terraces and bastions, in a flow of stone surfaces and spontaneous plants. Beyond the walkways on the battlements and the internal courtyards, you unexpectedly come upon the Renaissance Palace, with its piano nobile (noble main floor) and its frescoed halls, in an evocative visual contrast. In this corner of the castle, you can see the different phases of construction, the decorative enhancements that tell of the continuous evolution of tastes and needs of times past.
We highly recommend that you visit the castle for one of the many cultural events scheduled throughout the year, especially for Lo Spino Fiorito, a classic springtime appointment in Massa dedicated to the culture and production of wine in Italy.
Source: Trame di Lunigiana