Pietrasanta, the "small Athens"

Pietrasanta, the "Little Athens". Art, sea, mountains, theater, culture.

What I like is Pietrasanta:
a beautiful town with a unique square,
a cathedral worthy of a great city,
and the Apuan Alps forming a background.
And what surroundings!
What mountains, what greenery,
what shade, what rivers,
what fresh streams gurgle beneath chestnuts trees,
and olive groves, and orange orchards,
all framed by marble quarries along the green!

Giosuè Carducci

Pietrasanta, the

Historic town with notable monuments mainly contained in the magnificent Piazza del Duomo and also important centre for the artistic working of marble. Marina di Pietrasanta is located on the sea-front and is a renown seaside resort with elegant villas, hotels and sport facilities set amid the greenery. Famous nightclubs and discotheques available.
A renown summer festival at the open air theatre Versiliana is held in the summer featuring a wide variety of entertainment.
Nearby, in the 'village of Valdicastello it is possible to visit the native home of the poet Carducci.

It has been defined the "small Athens" for its marble studios, its artistic foundries, its artisans, the sculptors coming from all over the world, for its cultural activities, for the ancient and modern monuments, for its sculptures, gifts of the great artists of the century the add beauty to its streets and squares, and also for its historic center, considered a precious jewelry case of the Middle Ages.
Pietrasanta is correctly considered as the number one place in the world for marble working.
Art and craft in this town mix together and can be breathed in every street, in the studios of artisans as well as in the ateliers of the artists and in the numerous galleries or cultural centers.

All year long, but particularly during the Summer months, there are many art exhibitions that attract thousands of tourists and visitors.

ln the town there are two museums: an archeological one and the "Bozzetti" sculpture model museum.
The latter is unique in its genre. But it is the town as a whole to offer exhibition paths that are informal and permanent with its marble studios, the artistic bronze foundries and the monumental sculptures given to the town by artists like Botero, Mitoraj, Messina, Miozzo, Finotti, Folon and Tommasi.

The Military Origins

Pietrasanta was founded around 1255, when a nobleman from Milan, Guiscardo da Pietrasanta, lord of the province of Lucca, gave it his name and noble coat of arms giving its citizens the same rights and privileges the citizens in Lucca had. Since then, Pietrasanta obtained a great importance for its position of military strategy and its vicinity to the sea landing o f Motrone. The town was the object of continuous war fare and conquest from Pisa, Genova , Florence and France.

Art in Pietrasanta

Historic and artistic capital of Versilia, Pietrasanta remains faithful to its tradition, showing examples of religious, military and civilian architecture.
Without any doubt Piazza Duomo is the undiscussed value of the town.
Dominated by the "Rocca di Sala" (XIV century, which rises from the homonymous hill with its bastion and embattled walls in a thick olive-grove).
Hearth of the historic center, the square is encircled by the San Martino's Cathedral (XIV century) with its red brick belltower, the Sant' Agostino's church (XIV century), the "Torre delle Ore" (Tower of the Hours, XVI), and sober buildings among which the Palazzo Pretorio (XIV century), Palazzo Panichi (or Carli) and the Rocchetta Arrighina (XIV century) and the Palazzo Moroni (XVI century). The square is moreover embellished by the Fonte del Marzocco (XVI century), the Colonna dello Libertà (XVI century) and the monument to Leopoldo ll (XIX century). Other important buildings of the historic center are: the Sant'Antonio Abate's church (XIV century) that houses two large frescoes by Fernando Botero, San Francesco's church (XVI century) and the Palazzo della Posta Vecchia (XVI century) and the works of Mitoraj.

The environment

"What I like is Pietrasanta: a beautiful town with a unique square, a cathedral worthy of a great city, and the Apuan Alps forming a background. And what surroundings! What mountains, what greenery, what shade, what rivers, what fresh streams gurgle beneath chestnuts trees, and olive groves, and orange orchards, all framed by marble quarries along the green!"
This description of his home country was written by Giosué Carducci, the great poet native of Valdicastello, where the humble house in which he was born is visited by continuous streams of pilgrims.
Lying on the state highway "Aurelia", the "E1" motorway (Versilia exit) and on one of the main railway lines, Pietrasanta, which is with “easy reach of the Pisa airport, has the added advantage of being served by an excellent roadway network linking it with important centres.
The seat of interesting cultural activity from prose theatre to ballet and concerts, from sculpture and art exhibitions to congresses and meetings, it has become an increasingly important reference point and place of encounter for sculptors who come from all over the world to learn the art of marble cutting.
The restless spirit of Michelangelo the "renowned", who negotiated in Pietrasanta the purchase of marble for the facade of S. Lorenzo in Florence, still seems to wander the streets of the town. Besides Carducci (1835-1907), among the most famous of Pietrasanta sons are Stagio Stagi (1479?-1561) distinguished sculptor and ornamentalist, the sculptor and historian Vincenzo Santini (1807-1876) who was the first director of the local art school and author of "Historical Comments on Central Versilia", the Piarist Eugenio Barsanti (1821-1864) who together with Felice Matteucci from Lucca invented the piston engine.
A lively cultural centre, the town has an excellent public library housed in the restored monumental premises of S. Augustine, today the "Luigi Russo" Cultural Centre, a municipal historic archive of particular interest, an archaeological museum, a museum of sculptors' models and a theatre.

The economy

In spite of the fact that agricultural land and forest cover a considerable percentage of the municipal territory, the most important activities for the economy of Pietrasanta are marble working and tourism.
Situated at the foot of the imposing range of the Apuan Alps, whose marble-bearing basins are of world-wide fame, Pietrasanta, whose direct extractive activity is limited to the Ceragiola-Solaio quarry, has therefore found one of its principal resources in the artistic and industrial working of this precious calcareous rock.
Numerous specialised workers are active here, having learned their art in the various "studios" and the local Art Institute "Stagio Stagi", the old school for the preparation of marble workers, which, having started its activity in distant 1843 and being "useful to the town" was "through the good will of the citizens, to make Pietrasanta capable of corresponding to the beneficial sovereign seats".
Even today in the historic town centre artisan workshops still provide an evocative cultural itinerary which the tourist discovers and appreciated for its originality. In small premises which open directly onto the street or in larger laboratories outside the town walls, skilful master artisans reproduce art treasures, classical models and bold modern figures.
Parallel to this productive branch which occupies sculptors, modellers, rough hewers, ornamentalist, stone-masons and other specialists who make use not only of Apuan marble but also of that from other Italian regions or from abroad, a number of other activities have been successfully developed, including mosaic work, ceramics and bronze-working.
The other great wealth of the Pietrasanta municipality is the tourist industry; as well as by the environmental and monumental features of the town itself and other surrounding centres, visitors are attracted to the nearby seaside resort of Marina di Pietrasanta, principal tourist showcase of the area.
Modern accommodation facilities, bathing establishments, sporting and recreational amenities, a great variety of evening entertainment venues as well as the Versiliana open- air theatre and literary café with its park which inspired D'Annunzio, all guarantee the numerous Italian and foreign visitors a comfortable and enjoyable sojourn.
The wide beach with its fine golden sand, stretching for over four kilometres, slopes gently into the sea thus making it particularly suitable for children. Marina di Pietrasanta includes four localities: Focette, Motrone, Tonfano and Fiumetto. The tourist can easily alternate sea-side cures with equally salubrious relaxation in the pine-wood, walks in the country and excursions into the hills and mountains.

@ Pier Luca Mori 2024

Camaiore, Lucca (Italy)