I’d never heard of Pietrasanta before my boyfriend’s sister urged us to go. It was such a pleasantly random surprise, and in many ways, more enjoyable than Rome, Florence, and Venice – probably because I had no expectations, so it would have been impossible to be disappointed.
Pietrasanta has all the credentials that the Big Name cities do, without the exhausting and slightly overwhelming need to see everything. It’s got Renaissance history (Michelangelo stayed and sculpted there at one point), there are Roman remains to be seen, a gorgeous piazza for people-watching and aperitivo, an impressive duomo, and all the prettiness of a quintessential coastal Tuscan town.
But it’s small…
So small in fact, that you can see pretty much the whole town in just a couple of hours. Which means you’re not rushing from 1 star attraction to the next, praying for a fountain that you can slip your blistered feet into. It’s a gelato-and-a-stroll kinda town…very civilized!
An impressive, MASSIVE bronze statue, The Warrior, stands boldly at the entrance to the town. Sculpted by internationally renowned Colombian artist, Fernando Botero, it’s a comical depiction of an obese – but muscled – Roman centurion, kitted out in helmet and shield, but stark naked. What a welcome!
Naked statues and frescoes of nude subjects are the norm in Italy, but Botero has made Pietrasanta his home and donated numerous statues, in his comically obese signature style, to the city. It’s such a refreshing change from the typically white marbled and fat-free sculptures that dominate elsewhere in Italy, and adds a sense of whimsical playfulness to the town.
And feels like a commune…
The town is so full of sculptures and installations that have been donated by various artists, that it feels like you’re strolling through the most delightful open air museum. Although it’s a bustling town, it’s not overly touristy, Italian glam has been swapped for artiste-chic, and the atmosphere is incredibly relaxed.
So the next time you’re in the Tuscan area, give the Leaning Tower of Pisa a miss (every photo you’ve ever seen has really done it justice!), and travel about 30 kms further north until you get to Pietrasanta. Botero’s artwork will be impossible to miss, and make sure you pop into the Church of Sant’Antonio e San Biagio in Via Mazzini and take a look at the frescoes he painted – I bet you’ll have never seen a more satirical interpretation of the gates to heaven and hell!