Pietrasanta, a Tuscan treasure between the Apuan Alps and the sea

Enjoy the view of the "little Athens"

In the area of Versilia, at about 3 kilometres from the coast and on the last foothills of the Apuan Alps, lies a town famous for its arts and culture scene. It’s Pietrasanta, also called “little Athens”, where many famous artists like Fernando Botero and the recently deceased Igor Mitoraj have decided to live and work.

Pietrasanta main square
Pietrasanta main square

Pietrasanta was established in 1255, when the noble Guiscardo Pietrasanta (from whom it got its name), mayor of the Republic of Lucca, founded it at the foot of the Lombard fortress and the pre-existing village called Rocca di Sala. The founding of the town in the thirteenth century marks a gap between two historical periods: the end of the feudal period with the expulsion of the Lords of Corvaia and Vallecchia, and the installation of the municipal power. There started a long conflict between Pisa and Lucca, dictated by the desire to take possession of a territory made important by the presence of the port of Motrone, the passage of the Via Francigena, and rich mineral resources such as iron and silver.

One of the entrance doors of the town
One of the entrance doors of the town

Pietrasanta as a product of the years of contention between Pisa, Genoa and Florence up until 1513, when the city and its surroundings definitively go under the dominion of the State of Florence, and the Grand Duchy of Tuscany until the unification of Italy in 1861. Pietrasanta has a long-standing tradition of marble workers and numerous workshops, galleries and art exhibitions. Even the great Michelangelo came to Versilia in search of marble for its works. The town is in a sort of symbiotic relationship with marble, and this is manifested everywhere from the houses, the magnificent cathedral, and the still functional ateliers of the town. The historic centre is very elegant and has many things to offer. Apart from the historical monuments, there are many shops, restaurants and places where you can have an Italian aperitivo.

What to see

Cathedral of St. Martin: The Duomo of Pietrasanta dates back to the year of the foundation of Pietrasanta (thirteenth century) and was enlarged in 1330 and again in 1387. Since the era of the creation, part of the left transept has been conserved, and is still clearly identifiable in the ensemble of the wall structure of the sixteenth century. The stunning three-sectioned façade is covered with white marble and a wonderful marble rose window of the fourteenth century. The 36 m-tall bell tower of red brick made in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century, contrasts with the white marble façade and hides a real masterpiece: the extraordinary helicoidal staircase that runs vertically inside it. Baptistery: It was originally a seventeenth century oratory dedicated to St. Hyacinth. It contains two baptismal fonts from 1385 and 1612.

The cathedral of Pietrasanta - detail
The cathedral of Pietrasanta - detail

Church of Saint Augustine, in Romanesque style, includes some remains of fourteenth to fifteenth century frescoes. The church with the adjoining convent is a sacred building from the fourteenth century. The façade incorporates architectural motifs and decoration of San Martino in Lucca. Today the building is no longer used for worship, but rather for temporary art exhibitions. Palazzo Moroni: Situated in Piazza Duomo next to the monumental complex of Saint Augustine, Palazzo Moroni, with its characteristic double external staircase, and the austerity of classical decoration of the windows is one of most historically significant buildings in the city. This is also due to the fact that it covers of a wide variety of public functions. In fact, it now houses the Archaeological Museum "Bruno Antonucci" and the Municipal Historical Archives. Column and Fountain of the Marzocco: Also called Colonna della Libertà, the Marzocco Column was made by Donato Benti in 1513 and is a symbol of the Medici’s power and rule in Pietrasanta. The Marzocco fountain is a finely decorated marble structure with bas-relief works.

The Cathedral - details
The Cathedral - details

The remains of the ancient fortress walls of the city are still visible: reach them by walking up the steep street until reaching the ancient Rocca di Sala, where you can have the best view of the urban plan of the historic centre. The Bozzetti Museum is divided in two locations. Opened in 1984, the Bozzetti Museum located in the ex-convent of S. Agostino showcases over 600 models and chalk moulds of sculptures by more than 300 Italian and foreign artists that worked at the marble workshops and bronze foundries in the Versilia area. The second location of the Bozzetti Museum, a former industrial building of the 1920s, displays chalk moulds and bronze models, along with techniques, machines and tools used in the making of sculptures, mosaics and bronze artworks.

What to do

La Versiliana Festival is one of the richest programs offered by the Versilia area and consists of a series of meetings with celebrities from the world of entertainment, politics, sports and publishing, in a series of concerts and theatrical performances in the beautiful Parco della Versiliana in Marina di Pietrasanta during the summer. Anteprime is an event where writers present their next book, and is a meeting place for publishers and customers. This is the official website.

Pietrasanta town centre
Pietrasanta town centre

San Biagio is the most revered saint in the city since the 15th century and it is celebrated on February 3rd with a great fair. DOCartoon is the first festival in the world to be primarily dedicated to animated documentaries and non-fiction comics. It is held in September at the MuSA (Virtual Museum of Sculpture and Architecture). Read more here: http://www.docartoon.it/ International price Barsanti e Matteucci is an award dedicated to those who are distinguished in the field of automotive engineering. It was established in 2000 to commemorate Eugenio Barsanti and Felice Matteucci, inventors of the internal combustion engine. Website

Bell tower of the cathedral of Pietrasanta
Bell tower of the cathedral of Pietrasanta

In the surroundings…

Colonnata Forte dei Marmi Versilia

 

Cover image credit: Antonio Cinotti

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