A lesser known and un-explored province of Tuscany, Massa-Carrara has a wide and wild variety of landscapes, from the elegant and sought-after beaches of Versilia to the high mountains of the Apuane, with steep mountains made almost entirely of white marble forming steep green valleys.
The twin towns of Massa and Carrara that give their shared names to this province, are both close to the coast, on the small piece of flat landscape before the mountains rise up behind them. But by far the larger area of this province is to be found inland, in beautiful and little-explored valleys squeezed between the mountain ranges of the Apennines and the Apuane. Here you will find castles, high, fortified villages, excellent restaurants and beautiful vistas.
The main road though the area runs through Pontremoli, crossing the Apennines at the "Cisa" pass, once known as the Lombards' pass or "Passo del Monte Bardone". In late antiquity and during the middle ages this was the preferred way to enter Tuscany and head south towards Rome, staying away from the coast that was controlled by the Byzantine navy. The route that crossed the mountains at the "Cisa" pass headed down to Massa, skirting the mountains towards Lucca, then into the Elsa valley and past Siena, then on to Rome, became known at the "Via Francigena", the Frankish Route from Northern Europe that pilgrims and traders would take to reach Rome.
Today you can visit the many churches left along the route, as well as ancient monasteries and castles - the whole area is a paradise for walkers.