The architectural complex, considered a “museum in itself”, comprises three distinct units: the fortified walls, equipped with ramparts, battlement walkways and artillery cubbies; the residential palace, decorated with Renaissance-era frescoes, and the keep. Each of the elements has been built, extended and modified at varying stages. The residential portion was constructed around a central courtyard and features notable frescoes both on its external and internal walls. Its rooms house antique furnishings and a permanent collection of three marble busts dating back to the Renaissance, which were uncovered during restoration works. A detail worth noting are the inscriptions carved by prisoners on the windows and walls. The first written evidence of the castle dates back to 1164, when emperor Frederick Redbeard assigned part of the fortification to Obizzo Malaspina. Some chroniclers recall that a century later, in 1268, Massa was occupied by Conradin of Swabia’s troops, who raided the land. The following year the castle was destroyed by soldiers from the neighbouring city of Lucca, whose governors no longer tolerated the support provided by the people of Massa to the emperor’s armed forces.
The succession of events and architectural phases undergone by the structure during the early Middle Ages are largely unknown; after the expulsion of the marquises of Massa, the castle passed into the hands of the Malaspina family, who would transfer it to Castruccio Castracani Antelminelli at the beginning of the 14th century. Until the mid 15th century, Massa and its castle fell beneath the influence of Lucca, Pisa and Florence, finally becoming the property of the Malapsina Marquises of Fosdinovo after an alternating series of events. During their rule, from the 15th to the 17th century, the castle was turned into a residence and underwent its most profound changes, with large architecturoups and for tour groups and families.