Pietrasanta, the Little Athens of Italy
Pietrasanta is a lovely medieval town known for its marble and bronze workshops, artists and monuments. It is named the Little Athens of Italy, thanks to the many international artists that chose Pietrasanta as their adopted country.
Pietrasanta is part of Versilia on the coast of northern Tuscany, about 20 miles north of Pisa and 15 miles south of Carrara. Being only 2 miles off the coast you can quickly reach the beach of Marina di Pietrasanta and the fashionable Forte dei Marmi.
Pietrasanta also makes a perfect base for visiting interesting places as northern Tuscany, Lunigiana, Lucca, Florence, Cinque Terre, Portovenere, the Gulf of Poets, and it is one of the steps of the Via Francigena.
View from the terrace of Museum of Bozzetti
I really love this town and its historical center. The first time I saw Piazza del Duomo, its beauty left me breathless. I consider Pietrasanta a tiny jewel of Tuscany set on a strip of land between the Mediterranean Sea and the mountains of Apuan Alps.
Enjoy a pleasant walk to Piazza Duomo and through the streets of the center with the little workshops, the local specialty shops, the art galleries and temporary exhibitions. And I suggest you to take your time to get a typical Italian aperitif in one of the bars that face the square.
Pietrasanta, town of artists and workshops
Since its foundation on 1200 by Guiscardo da Pietrasanta, chief magistrate of the close town of Lucca, the village was a crossroads of artists coming from all over the world.
The origins of Versilia artistic marble-working tradition go far back in time. Under the Medici government, there were marble quarries opened in the nearby Alps. Many artists, including Michelangelo Buonarroti, visited Pietrasanta to learn skills from local artisans, work with them and get the best white marble for his famous works of art.
Many of them also donated their pieces of art to the town making of Pietrasanta as a real open-air museum.
The main street Via Mazzini
Mitoraj sculpture at the entrance of Saint Agostino Church
Pietrasanta is one of the most qualified centers for the art of the sculpture. There are numerous artisan studios and foundries scattered in the town. They are often run by families that hand down skills from generation to generation. Many of them are open to visitors for an educative and interesting tour.
The nineteenth-century Italian poet Giosuè Carducci, Nobel Prize for literature in 1906, in a letter said: “I like Pietrasanta: a beautiful small city with a singular piazza, a cathedral worth of a great city, all against the background of the Apuan Alps. And what a landscape all around! What a mountain, what a greenery, what a shadow, what a river, what a cool streams running merrily under the chestnuts, olives, and orange trees, and the marble quarries flank the greenery on every side!”
The hystorical attraction of Pietrasanta
The Duomo of Pietrasanta and its wonderful piazza
Piazza del Duomo is the beautiful rectangular square. It is the meeting point for locals and tourists. Here you also find bars, temporary art exhibits, old buildings.
The Duomo of San Martino is the majestic cathedral, built in the fourteenth century, which dominates the square. The facade is covered with marble. Inside there are frescoes and other important art pieces. The bell tower is completely made of bricks, and if you are lucky enough (it’s quite rare that it is open), you can get in and see its interior from the base.
Palazzo Pretorio was the old center of Captain of Justice. Marble coats-of-arms can be seen on the facade. On the ground floor, there is also the town theater.
The Archaeology Museum of Versilia is inside the 17th century Palazzo Moroni in Piazza del Duomo. The collection counts findings from prehistoric to medieval and a collection of Renaissance ceramics.
View of the courtyard of the cloister
Saint Agostino’s Church and Convent is a complex originating in the fourteenth century by Augustinian monks. The church, romanesque style, has a marble facade and the apse has a restored wooden choir. There are many important paintings and frescoes inside. It is currently the seat of art exhibits. The courtyard of the cloister is surrounded by marble columns and today it hosts the Cultural Center, a very quiet Civic Library, and the Bozzetti Sculpture Museum.
Bozzetti Museum and International Park of Contemporary Sculpture: the park propose an open-air exhibition itinerary between more than 600 sketches, models and drawings of Italian and foreign sculptures and artists who worked at Pietrasanta.
Rocchetta Arrighina and Porta a Pisa is the most picturesque access to the historical center. It is the only survivor of the three ancient town gates.
Church of San Antonio Abate, one of the oldest churches in town, exhibits ancient wooden statues of Saints and Botero frescoes Gate of Heaven and Gates of Hell.
View from Rocca di Sala
Rocca di Sala and Guinigi Palace: take a nice and healthy panoramic walk up on the hill to the rock. You have a splendid view of the town center and surroundings. The elegant noble Palace, built by Paolo Guinigi in 1408, hosted emperors and poets but today it is not open to visitors.
The bronze sculpture of The Warrior by Botero in Piazza Matteotti
The MuSA, Virtual Museum of Sculpture and Architecture, where you can make a tour of real art exhibitions and virtual tours of industrial and artisan companies of the Apuan Alps – Versilia area involved in the fields of marble quarrying, production and processing.
Did you know that…
- The Chilean writer Luis Sepulveda has the Pietrasanta Honorary Citizenship.
- The Mexican film Director Alfonso Cuaron, Oscar 2014 winner for Gravity and director for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, lives in Pietrasanta with his family.
- The Italian Actress and Hollywood star Gina Lollobrigida, sex symbol during the 60s, lives here and usually organize exhibitions of her sculptures in Pietrasanta.
- The famous Colombian artist and sculptor Fernando Botero fell in love with Pietrasanta. He bought a house and he uses to spend few months a year here.
- Igor Mitoraj, the famous polish sculptor who died recently, set his marble studio up on 1983. He has been honorary citizen of Pietrasanta since 2001.
- During last autumn/winter, the town center hosted a fascinating exhbit of Salvador Dalì sculptures. Read here our experience.