Piazza Aranci in Massa is named after the double row of orange trees, which were planted in the early twentieth century after the hotly debated demolition of the Church of San Pietro ordered by the Countess Elisa Baciocchi, Napoleon's niece. In the beginning, sweet citrus trees were selected and strict laws were in place to ensure that tourists and passersby didn’t pick the fruit, which were given instead to charities.
Over time, less appetizing bitter citruses were planted, proving hardier in the winter. Giacomo Leopardi and Giosué Carducci were equally entranced by these trees, mentioning them in letters after having visited the square.
Palazzo Ducale is the main attraction in the piazza, now housing the provincial offices and the prefecture. Erected in the mid-sixteenth century according to the wishes of Prince Alberico I Cybo-Malaspina, the palace underwent many changes over the centuries to make it into Massa’s most striking monument. The impressive façade that looks out over the square offers a colour scheme of red and white (in the marble and stuccowork).
Important monument stand in the middle of the piazza, including the obelisk dating to 1853 flanked by another striking fountain built a few years later and embellished with four statues of lions, made by the Isola workshop.
The piazza is home to city festivals, such as the traditional Quintana Cybea, the historic reconstruction dating to the sixteenth century, which is held on the first Saturday in August.