Turning back time
The favourable climate, the variety of landscapes and the presence of unique natural environments were already known in ancient times, so much so that in Massarosa there are traces of prehistoric remains and Roman ones. There are some ruins worthy of note that date back to this period in the town of Massaciuccoli where you can visit the remains of a Roman villa that belonged to the Venulei aristocrats, and Roman baths, as well as the “Roman Massaciuccoli” archaeological exhibition. Another prosperous period for Massarosa was the 16th century when it was governed by Lucca: smart noble villas were built, such as Villa Baldini in Compignano, inhabited by Paolina Bonaparte.
Massaciuccoli with its lake and Roman ruins
Our journey through the Massarosa area begins on the plain, where there are swamps, ditches and small reclaimed areas in Massaciuccoli, which gives its name to the lake where there are the Roman ruins we mentioned above. The area is part of the Natural Park of Migliarino, San Rossore and Massaciuccoli and is a LIPU (Italian League for Bird Protection) oasis that deals with environmental education, management and awareness. Here you can take a walk along the wooden walkways that border the lake and pass by birdwatching huts. The lake, in fact, is a major transit point and stopover during the migrations of a large number of species and is also a nesting place for other birds. There is the possibility to do sports too, such as rowing, canoeing and sailing, and book guided tours by foot, canoe and navicello, an ancient boat that was once used for the transport of goods between towns on the lake shore. During the warmer months, you can take boat trips under the stars or sail to the Gran Teatro Puccini for the Puccini Festival in Torre del Lago. Finally, do not miss the view from the church of San Lorenzo, Massaciuccoli’s parish church from which you can admire the lake and the sea in the distance.
Let’s move on to Bozzano to see another unique aspect of the area: if you come here in the late spring and summer, you can watch the spectacle of the blooming lotus flowers. The Lotus Flower cycle path is about one and a half kilometres long and can be travelled by foot or bicycle. Along it you can admire these flowers, one of the excellent agricultural products of Massarosa.
Among churches and villages
It is time to go up hill, where there are noble villas, Romanesque churches and peaceful and tranquil places. The first stop, after climbing the Monte Pitoro hills edged by olive trees, is the parish church of San Pantaleone in Pieve a Elici. This ancient church was first mentioned in 892 and is considered a jewel of Romanesque architecture, further embellished by its position from which you can appreciate a remarkable view of the whole of Massarosa plain. Continuing along this road there are another two vantage points worth stopping off at: the small medieval village of Gualdo, also known as the town of fairy tales, and the view from the Montigiano church, which brings the hills, lake and sea together in a single glance.
The hill reserves more surprises as we move on to Bargecchia, where the bells in the bell tower of the Romanesque church of San Martino were immortalized by Puccini’s Tosca. The story goes that the maestro often went to Bargecchia to listen to the melody of the bells. Continuing on from Bargecchia you get to the hamlet of Corsanico, which houses the magnificent organ built by Vincenzo Colonna in 1602 that still used during the International Festival of Classical Music at the Church of San Michele Arcangelo.
The whole Massarosa area is characterised by festivals and gatherings that celebrate the local culinary traditions.