If you’re spending your holidays at the Versilia resorts in Tuscany, Italy, a trip to the town of Pietrasanta could be the perfect way to enhance your Summer holiday. We recently visited Pietrasanta and fell in love with its pretty streets and squares dotted with sculptures.
Pietrasanta, the little ‘Athens of Italy’, between the sea and the Apuan Alps
Pietrasanta sits a few kilometres from the Versilia beaches in Tuscany, central Italy. 20 km. north of Pisa, with fashionable Forte dei Marmi only 5 km away. It’s filled with art galleries and marble decorated buildings. It has a gorgeous Piazza Duomo that could compete with the ones in major Tuscan cities. What else could you ask for? Is this not enough to make it the perfect day trip?
Pietrasanta is a town where creativity and artisan crafts have been at home since Michelangelo’s time. So much so that it has been nicknamed the ‘Athens of Italy‘. In the 16th century, Michelangelo came right here to sign the contracts for the marble he was choosing in the Apuan Alps. Today the marble and bronze workshops are as busy as they were during the Renaissance. Artists from all over the world come here to take inspiration and to work side by side with skilled artisans.
⇒ Discover Pietrasanta’s main attractions.
In Pietrasanta art is in the air
The town centre is peppered with contemporary artistic pieces that poke behind buildings and engage with the city’s monuments. In the shady Piazza dello Statuto I spot a lovely small horse, a bronze jumping man, an elongated coated figure in marble. Near the car park in Piazza Matteotti, just outside the city centre, towers the plumpy and not very menacing “Warrior” by Botero. He welcomes the visitor with his big round belly, a massive helm and a thin weapon in his hand.
The “Peace frame” by American artist Nall frames the view of the high street, Via Mazzini. This is dotted with boutique shops and charming art galleries, perfect for a stroll.
⇒ Check out some itineraries around Tuscany made for your interests!
Along this street to your left is the Church of San Antonio e San Biagio. The renowned Colombian artist Fernando Botero painted two frescoes here, “Gates of Hell” and “Gates of Heaven” (1993).
The large figures seem to stand out in these frescoes, showing the artist’s typical mix of drama and irony. Avarice is counting money at the foot of an overweight devil, while a plump Mother Teresa accompanies a curvy Madonna with child.
A gorgeous Cathedral Square, open air museum
In Pietrasanta you see marble everywhere, on doors and windows frames, the white shining against the pastel colours of the building’s walls. Little details that are just waiting to be captured on camera.
But it is the main square that steals the show. The beautiful marble facade of the Cathedral of San Martino, flanked by a red brick tower, dominates the piazza that is dotted with art installations. Here the classic meets the contemporary with old edifices, all stern respectability, are set off by contemporary sculptures whose meaning is open to interpretation.
A Renaissance column stands in a corner, with the Florentine Marzocco lion on the top, while creations by artists from all over the world that challenge the eye.
There’s the feeling the here art is taken seriously but with a playful twist. The outside tables are the perfect place to order an aperitivo and meditate on its unique atmosphere.
The capital of artistic marble manufacturing
Pietrasanta has maintained its fame throughout the centuries as the place to go as a sculptor. With the marble-rich Apuan Alps a short distance away, and the presence of skilled artisans who passed their abilities from one generation to the next, the town has always been a hub of creativity.
The Museo Bozzetti “Pierluigi Gherardi” is the place to go to learn about how a sculpture is created, the process of collaboration between the artist and the artisan. The museums has a collection of ‘maquettes’ (small scale model) of statues that have been created here in Pietrasanta.
The artist decides the material, bronze or marble, and gives the craftsmen instructions. Long gone are the times of Michelangelo when he would chisel on his own.
⇒ Ask for a map of Pietrasanta at the Tourist Information in Piazza dello Statuto, with a detailed itinerary of all works of art disseminated throughout the town. Some of the installations change periodically and carry on inside the Museo Bozzetti.
⇒ WHERE IS PIETRASANTA? Pietrasanta is in northern Tuscany, 37 kms. from Lucca, and 12 kms. from Viareggio on the Versilia coast. The coastal resort of Marina di Pietrasanta is 5 kms. away.