“What I like is Pietrasanta:
Beautiful town, a unique square,
A large city cathedral,
And, the background, the Apuan Alps.
And what a country around!”
Venerated by the nobel prize for literature Giosuè Carducci (here born on July 27, 1835) Pietrasanta is a town in the province of Lucca, nestled between the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Apuan Alps.
Easy to reach by car driving along the A12 for those coming from Milan/Genoa and via the A11 for those arriving from Florence, Pietrasanta is a small jewel of Versilia, a seaside town with an enviable cultural and historical heritage and centuries-old artistic tradition.
Pietrasanta is the capital of Versilia and was founded in 1255 by Guiscardo, a nobleman from Milan. In 1513 it became part of the State of Florence because of an award given by Pope Leo X De’ Medici due to its strategic military position and its mining and agricultural resources. It was during these years of economic growth that the artist Michelangelo Buonarroti arrived in Versilia looking for marble for his sculptures, an element which was precious for the economy back then but above all for the future.
In fact, a centuries-long tradition connects the city of Pietrasanta to to the artistic workmanship of marble and bronze of international importance; a link testified by the presence of numerous galleries in the old town centre. A noble town (since 1841) and a city of art, Pietrasanta owes its peculiarity to the presence of marble workshops and bronze foundries where the old artisans still work, supporting the artist in the production of monumental works that will then be placed in the most important squares and sites in the world. Certainly, with the introduction and development of technology in this sector, great strides have been taken and the approach to work has changed significantly, but in Pietrasanta it is still possible to admire the true work of the artisan hand that is still handed down from genration to generation.
The “Museo dei Bozzetti”, located inside the “Luigi Russo” Cultural Centre in Piazza Duomo, is the most authentic testimony to the passage of international artists from the town. Founded in 1984 by photographer Jette Mulendorph, the museum documents the artistic activity of sculptors who come to Pietrasanta from all over the world to make their works in local artisan workshops.
The museum’s collection includes miniature sketches and real size models that represent the sculptor’s initial idea before it becomes a finished work. The dimensions may vary from a few centimeters to a few meters and are mostly made of plaster, but you can also see terracotta or wood sketches. The current collection has more than 700 sketches and models of over 300 international artists.
In Piazza Duomo, the heart of the old town center, you can also see the 13th-century Romanesque-Gothic Cathedral of S.Martino and the 14th century S.Augustin Church. The “Museo dei Bozzetti” and the Municipal Library overlook the cloister of Saint Augustin, which is located next to church and often hosts art exhibitions. Another attraction you can’t miss in the square is Palazzo Moroni, another site dedicated to exhibitions where you can still admire objects dating back to Etruscan times, and the Municipal Theater.
Leaving the city the center and taking Via Sarzanese towards Viareggio, you’ll find the “MUSA” – a virtual museum of sculpture and architecture – an innovative multimedia exhibition space where events, art gatherings and exhibitions of various kinds are held. As a true open-air museum, located in the streets and in the town’s neural points, it is possible to admire the masterpieces of world-famous artists such as Fernando Botero (“The Warrior”, Matteotti Square), Kan Yasuda (“Dream Key” Piazza della Stazione), Igor Mitoraj (“The Centaur”, Piazzetta del Centauro “), Jean-Michel Folon (“L’Oiseau “, Rotonda Viale Apua).
Undoubtedly, Pietrasanta is a destination that contemporary art lovers can’t miss. It is not only a par excellence artistic destination, but also a privileged place for unique culinary experiences. Starting from the aperitif that can be enjoyed in one of the quaint pubs overlooking the Cathedral Square. A great number of places with different styles are a great meeting point and a good start for a night out with friends. The old town centre is full of restaurants and wine bars open for lunch and dinner, small rooms decorated with taste and details and menus within everybody’s reach. You can find places where dishes are the result of a search for the best quality in terms of ingredients and cooking methods – such as the restaurant “Filippo”, that tou surely need to try out if you visit Pietrasanta, but also the local inns that offer typical dishes of the local and Tuscan tradition.
In short, a stop that is worth organizing for those who are going to come to Versilia, especially during summer, but still perfect all the year round because of the unforgettable opportunities it offers for culture and fun.
A suggestion for those who intend to stay in Pietrasanta in September is the great exhibition of the korean sculptor Park Eun-Sun (can be visited until October 29), set up in Piazza Duomo, Church and Cloister of Sant’Agostino and the Pier of Marina di Pietrasanta. An opportunity not to miss for your first time in Versilia!
Copyright photos: Nicola GnesiF. Caselli