History of Versilia

History of Versilia and surroundings.

It is now certain that the first human settlements occurred during the Pliocene.
(View the Italian language page of prehistoric caves in Versilia, Tana della Volpe, la Buca della Gigia).
The advanced Etruscan civilization later occupied this area and thanks to its development, the working metal developed.
versiliaAfter the 4 B.C., the Apuan Ligures moved toward the sea since the invasion of Celtic tribes began.
In 193 B.C., the conflict between Apuan Ligures and Etruscans began and ended in 180 B.C., when the Roman consuls Marco Bebio and Publio Cornelio, thanks to the help of four Roman legions, forced the Ligures to abandon their area.
In the first century B.C., the recovery of the coastal area and the construction of public works started. Not far, next to the lake, some Roman villae were constructed. These facilities were linked by Via Aurelia, built in 109    (only the road section Pisa- River Magra).

In the first and second century A.D, quality of life improved thanks to the exploitation of iron and lead mines. In the same period, some marble quarries were born.

Collegiata di PietrasantaAfter the 5 century, the archbishop of Lucca S.Frediano, destroyed paganism. The first Church was built and it is now known as “Pieve” (from the Latin “plebs”); it was firstly dedicated to S- Giovanni Battista and some other martyrs. It was the same for the Church S. Giovanni and S. Felicita in Valdicastello.

Ponte del Principe Progressively, other Early Christian churches were built: S. Giovanni and S. Stefano of Vallecchia, of S. Stefano in Camaiore, of S. Ambrogio and S. Pantaleone of Elici and of S. Lorenzo in Massaciuccoli.
In 560 and 570, Byzantines created two new churches: S.Apollinaire on Monte Quiesa( “giesa” means “Chiesa”, church, in the dialect) and another one, which was born next to Porta Beltrame, was demolished by Napoléon Bonaparte in order to enlarge the road.
After the year 1000, the Roman occupation started to crush and the situation got even worse when Lombardic population occupied the territory of Lucca until Versilia River. They took possess of the roman lands and organised them in “Masse”; in the centre there was the “Sala” (villa or farm), then transformed into fortified castles.
“Massa Grausi” (now Massarosa), “Massa Cuccoli” (now Massarosa), “Sala Versiliae” (now Rocca of Pietrasanta) “Sala Vetza” (now Seravezza) were born in this way.
Between 1219 and 1226, Lucca took advantage of the conflict in Pisa to fortify Rotaio Castle. On the other side, Pisa sent some soldiers in Camaiore to fortify Montebello.

The history of Viareggio has a different course, since that before, the area that it occupies now, was invaded by unhealthy swamps.

Pietrasanta and Camaiore: Tuscan foundations
During the 11th to 13th centuries profound administrative, political and economic changes took place in Europe creating the conditions for founding "Terrae Novae"; independent cities, advanced strongholds having a military aspect, that slowly replaced the ancient feudal settlements.
These events occured throughout Europe but were particulary evident in Italy.
In Tuscany changes were relatively slow but highly significant.
Pisa, Lucca, Siena and Florence took advantage of the expansion in trade by conquering new territories and roads destroying many of the earlier settlements and building new cities in their place. Lucca was particulary interested in dominating the Apennine passes and in finding new outlets towards the sea; for this reason it directed its attention to the Versilia and later to the Garfagnana. Once Lucca had succeeded in Camaiore. Chiesa dei Frati destroying the numerous castles in Versilia (Vallecchia, Corvaia, Brancagliano etc.) during the second half of the 13th cent. the two cities of Pietrasanta (1255) and Camaiore were founded, giving Lucca the right to control the important Aurelia road, which connected France to Southern Italy through the Via Francigena.
Pietrasanta and Camaiore are very interesting examples of an urban project, having the same criteria: a right-angled plan with closed borders and four city blocks enclosed by parallel longitudinal streets. The city was surrounded by a moat where the walls were later to be built. The two central blocks which were larger than others were crossed half way by a lane that helped to let air into the houses and to cut off fires more easily. Today there are only a few traces of these lanes left.
The layout and position of this new town, situated between the hills and the sea, was neither influenced by earlier settlements nor by the ruined longobard town of Rocca di Sala; the important thing was to build the city in a strategic position near the Via Aurelia and in relationship to neighbouring towns and villages.
During the very first years of the 14th cent. Pietrasanta had its first walls which were enclosed by two battlemented defensive walls running to the top of the hill to Rocca di Sala. Of these first walls only a few remains can be seen today; in the 19th cent. they were torn down and partly used for other buildings.
In 1324 Castruccio Castracani strengthened the Rocca di Sala and built the Rocchetta Arrighina to improve the town's defensive position. This new structure built below formed a triangle with the old longobard settlement situated on top of the hill at its vertex; it was destroyed by the Florentines in 1484 and later rebuilt by them during their domination. Today the Rocchetta is private property hardly recognizable from the Cathedral square for houses that have been built against it.
Pisa and Lucca fought long over Pietrasanta which finally came under the Medicean State.
Thanks to Cosimo de' Medici, it became an ’important military centre and part of a system of defence with control over northern Tuscany and the Appennine passes.
The changing political and economic situation in the 14th cent. caused the city to expand towards the hills, still within the city walls but out of the original rectangular layout.
Only in the 19th cent., however, did it expand westwards towards the sea. Today's layout of Pietrasanta been changed as new districts and practical roads have been built in order to meet modern requirements but traces of the original city centre can still be seen.
Camaiore, the twin city of Pietrasanta, was founded in the same year; it has the same right-angled plan with city blocks that are laid out geometrically. Its design also shows the "cross cut" that divides the longitudinal blocks of houses into two unequal parts.