Still feeling a bit wintry today, so I’m continuing my look back at last summer’s sunshine and trips to the beach! One very hot afternoon we wanted to go somewhere not too far, somewhere we hadn’t been before, with a little something of cultural interest to offer, but most importantly within easy reach of water to cool off afterwards. We pored over the map and came up with Pietrasanta. It hit the spot perfectly. As we parked the car we saw our first sculpture, this figure below.
This first encounter set the tone of the whole town. All over Pietrasanta there are sculptures and works of art, some permanent, some temporary. Pietrasanta is a mecca for working artists with many marble workshops and bronze foundries and this vibrance gives a unique feel to what would otherwise be a fairly standard Tuscan town.
I liked this frame for the street, I like that you can step through it and engage with it and it reminded me of the ‘stargate’ in a film watched long ago, I hoped it might be a portal to another world, but sadly not!
When we arrived it was that lazy, post lunch, all closed up time of day and the town semed empty and very sleepy. Many of the shops and galleries were closed but the signs indicated they would open again for the evening and well into the night. There are many galleries in Pietrasanta, and we peered in through a few windows, including the one below. I’ve thought hard what to say about these pieces, and have finally come to the conclusion it’s best to say nothing!
The reason for Pietrasanta’s artistic importance is it’s proximity to the marble quarries of the Apuane Alps. Most famously Michelangelo used local marble for ‘David’. A plaque above this bar shows where he stayed in 1518 whilst seeking out the perfect marble.
Of course the town has traditional art in the its churches like any Tuscan town. the baptistery font in the Oratorio di San Giacinto is undoubtedly impressive, though perhaps the cover is a bit too much! The cathedral of San Martino is 14th century, not impressive externally but inside was beautifully and subtly frescoed later in the 1800s by Adamello. I had good fortune as I entered, unexpectedly I heard a haunting Ave Maria, played by a violinist accompanied by the organist. No one else was there. I guess they were rehearsing but for me it was one of those perfect, beautiful moments.
In contrast is the church of the Misericordia. I stumbled across it accidentally and knew nothing about the frescoes there but was fascinated by them having spent many years using medieval doom paintings in history lessons to British teenagers. I ignored heaven and only photographed hell. I’m not sure what that says about me! Afterwards I looked them up, they are by Fernando Botero, a Colombian artist and were painted in 1993. Here’s the ‘Door to Hell’
Moving on from hell to the beach! Pietrasanta is only 3km inland from the Versilia coast and has it’s own beach resort, Marina di Pietrasanta. Many locals were heading to the beach along a bicycle path. As we were in the car we went a little further, to the dunes of Forte dei Marmi. Forte dei Marmi is a very exclusive resort but just before its lungomare becomes that of the next town, Cinquale, there is a WWF protected wildlife habitat of sand dunes. Here the usual Italian beach resort stabilmenti (pay beaches with umbrellas and sunloungers) are prohibited and the beach itself is a free public beach. It can be quite packed there as free beaches are few along this coast but the sea is lovely and the backdrop of the marble mountains of the Apuane Alps is magnificent.
The final picture goes to our last sight of Pietrasanta as we passed on our return. This voluptous lady sits in the middle of a traffic roundabout. This is how I most like to enjoy art, unexpectedly and part of real life and leaving the galleries aside, that’s what Pietrasanta offers. It’s not a ‘must see’ kind of a place but makes a refreshing day for those who either have already done the must see lists or those who prefer to avoid the well trodden paths of tick box trips.
Getting to Pietrasantsa.
By car- For quickest route pick up A11 and A12 autostrada direction Genova at Lucca, exit Versilia (From Bagni di Lucca 1 hour.) For more scenic route, north of Lucca head through Camaiore. For most stunning but longest route take the road over the Apuane Alps from Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, making sure to stop of at Isola Santa en route.
By train – Pietrasanta is the on the Genova to Rome rail line, and easily reached directly from Pisa in 25 minutes. Coming from Lucca change at Viareggio or Pisa San Rossore.