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 attractions of Pietrasanta
The Duomo of Pietrasanta and its wonderful piazza
- Piazza del Duomo is the beautiful rectangular square, meeting point for locals and tourists. Here you find the Duomo, old Palazzi, and also bars and little shops. During summer it becomes the set of outdoor temporary art exhibits. This summer 2018, the spanish artist Manolo Valdés has the honor to show 40 marvellous artworks made in bronze, wood, and aluminum in the Piazza and in the cloister of Sant’Agostino. The exhibit runs from June 16 to September 30.
- The Duomo of San Martino is the majestic cathedral, built in the fourteenth century, which dominates the square. The facade is covered with marble, and 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. The ground floor hosts 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
- The church of Saint Agostino and the adjoining cloister is a complex originating in the fourteenth century by Augustinian monks. The church in romanesque style, has a marble facade and the apse has a restored wooden choir. There are many important paintings and frescoes inside, and it is currently the seat of art exhibits. Marble columns surround the courtyard of the cloister, and today hosts the Cultural Center, the quiet Civic Library, and the Bozzetti Sculpture Museum.
- The Bozzetti Museum and International Park of Contemporary Sculpture. The park proposes an open-air exhibition itinerary between more than 600 sketches, models and drawings of sculptures made by Italian and foreign artists who worked in Pietrasanta.
- The “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.
- The 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
- Take a nice and healthy panoramic walk up on the hill to the Rocca di Sala and Guinigi Palace. From there you have a splendid view of the town center and of surroundings till the sea. The elegant noble Palace, built by Paolo Guinigi in 1408, hosted emperors and poets but today, unfortunately, it is not open to visitors.
The bronze sculpture of The Warrior by Botero in Piazza Matteotti
- The MuSA is the Virtual Museum of Sculpture and Architecture. It is open to visitors during the summer every Thursday and Sunday afternoon. The most interesting thing to see is a video of about thirty minutes, projected in 8 different video walls, telling the story of the area and of the process of marble extraction. This modern space hosts also real models of art works, and three big touch screens where you find information about the industrial and artisan companies of the area, see where you can find art works made with the local marble all over the world, and virtual tours of marble quarries.
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 sometimes organize exhibitions of her sculptures in Pietrasanta.
- The famous Colombian artist and sculptor Fernando Botero fell in love with Pietrasanta that 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.
- This summer 2017, the sky over Via Mazzini and Via Garibaldi is invaded by thousand of floating colored umbrellas.