Small painted Massa – as Giovanni Pascoli called it – while in the words of Montaigne the place had beautiful houses, beautiful streets, and painted. In the city the Renaissance left its mark in the decorations of the noble palaces adorned with frescoes, often with the theme of citrus fruits, which colored the mild valleys of this part of Tuscany.
It was above all under the reign of Alberico Cybo Malaspina that the facades of the buildings of Massa began to appear polychrome decorations made with frescoes, graffiti and stucco, as happened at the same time in Genoa and Florence, where Alberico had direct family relations.
So perhaps Alberico imagined he had a small Florence or a small Superb – nickname of Genoa – in his ever richer Massa, or the Genoese families forced into a temporary exile in the Tuscan city in the middle of the sixteenth century following the revolts of 1575 wanted to reproduce here a little of the art that colored the streets of the Maritime Republic.
Certainly, it was an era in which the city of Massa was a small but lively cultural and commercial center, which shone with colors in its houses but also in its valleys cultivated with citrus fruits.
An orang-ed city
It is no coincidence that the main square of Massa (designed, however, in the 19th century) is called Piazza Aranci and is surrounded by two rows of citrus fruits. The massese orange, but also the cedar and the lemon, are cultivated here since the 14th century, the altitude and the proximity to the sea give it a taste and an aroma very different from those of the Calabrian and Sicilian oranges. Excellent for juices because it is very rich in juice, it also has a perfect peel to be used in pastry.
It is then, however, in the sixteenth century that citrus cultivation is affirmed with the most bitter variants of oranges, while sweet orange appears in the seventeenth century.
And this is why the Oranges become the main object of the depictions of the Massa Picta, conferring the figurative particularity of many city facades, for example in the decorations of Casa Maggesi in Via Piastronata, Casa Landi in Via Cavour, Casa Mussi in Via Guglielmi, Casa Diana in Piazza Aranci, Palazzo Ricci in Via Dante.