Pietrasanta lies a few kilometres away from Forte dei Marmi, the Ligurian beach area. It has its origins in the Middle Ages and was founded in 1255 by Guiscardo da Pietrasanta, the leader of Lucca and was the ancient capital of the Medici headquarters in Versilia. Over the centuries it has become a town with more than 20,000 inhabitants.
When we planed for our summer trip to Tuscany we could not find enough information about Pietrasanta. Therefore we did not consider visiting the place. On the way back from our day trip to Lucca, we were looking for a place to have a dinner. According to the Google Map the bigger town on the way is Pietrasanta which has plenty of Italian restaurants. So we stopped at Pietrasanta for the dinner. But the moment we entered into the old historical town, we were totally distracted by the art works, public piazzas, churches and cozy evening atmosphere around the elegant historical town centre.
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The Cathedral of San Martino
In the center of Pietrasanta is the Cathedral of San Martino overlooking the beautiful Piazza Duomo. The Cathedral dates back to the 14th century. The great rose window in the marble façade stands out, which is a distinguished 15th century work by Lorenzo Riccomanni from Pietrasanta.
The Bell Tower
In contrast to the Cathedral of San Martino the 36 m-tall Bell Tower has a simple brickwork appearance, but originally it was also to be covered with marble plates. Inside of it is a helical staircase.
Sant’Agostino used to be a church. It is now used for art exhibitions and other cultural events. The church has a single nave with an awkward entrance with three rounded arches delimited by pilasters. The pilasters uphold twelve walled up arches. The bell-tower next to it was not added until 1780. Inside the church, there is a single nave vaunting three large marble arches.
Baptistery of Pietrasanta
Baptistery of Pietrasanta, also known as Oratory of San Giacinto, is definitely a piece of art. Built in 17th century it has the only altarpiece which remains from that period. The balustrade and the holy water stoves from 18th century are also of interest. The entire complex of interior decorations which restored in 1988 and 2011, including frescoes, medallions and various sculptures, is beautiful.
In the immediate vicinity of the Cathedral of San Martino is the Palazzo Moroni. There is a building with a double staircase in front of the main façade. The building was originated from two houses in 17th century, the House of Augustinian Fathers and the house of a notary. Now it hosts the Archaeological Museum (Bruno Antonucci) and the Municipal Historical Archives.
The City Hall and City Tower
The City Hall of Pietrasanta is in Piazza Matteotti 29, just outside the historic centre of the town, Piazza Duomo. The City Tower was built around 1530 and its current appearance dates back in 1860. The City Tower is located in the middle of two buildings, with an adjoining bar and a cafeteria.
Bars and restaurants
Our stomach started rumbling. Before exploring further we decided to eat first. While in Germany people already finishing dinners around 20:00, in most Italian restaurants just open around this time. So actually it was just the right time to eat our dinner. Many Italians arrived in decent dresses and flooded into eateries. We felt somewhat embarrassed because we did not change any clothes after our day trip to Lucca. We looked weary and hungry. Some tourists had the same situation. Nevertheless, all waiters smiled at us warmly when we approached to their restaurants.
There are too many high-class Italian restaurants and bars to keep everyone happy. All restaurants have outdoor settings, very colourful and tempting. Based on the names of each eatery we were able to select a restaurant offering mainly sea foods. We ordered some Italian dishes sea food pasta, sea food starters and Tuna steaks. Although the food was freshly made, we had nearly zero waiting time for the food. The quality and the quantity of the food is top.
Streets of art galleries and boutiques
After our dinner we took another walk in the town. Having admired churches and piazzas, we opted for some side streets. This turned to be another surprise because we discovered another major feature of the town.
The centre part of streets Via G. Garibaldi and Via Stagio Stagi are dotted with many fine arts galleries and boutiques. They are classic and contemporary art galleries, craft studios such as a workshop for hand-made shoes, boutiques for interior designs and wine bars etc. Most open till late evening so that people can still visit them after their long dinners.
Along the two streets there many seating places laying on the ground next to every shop. Everyone can use them for a rest. Locals like to sit there and chat with each other till late night.
Other things to do
Other sites are of interest:
- Bozzetti Museum, an interesting museum dedicated to marble sculpture. It is located at Via Sant’Agostino c/o Centro Culturale Luigi Russo, 55045, Pietrasanta
- Church of St. Abate or Mercy, which is located at Via Giuseppe Mazzini, 55045 Pietrasanta
- Chiesa di Sant’Antonio Abate, a church which is frequent by locals. It is located at Via Giuseppe Mazzini N. 103, 55045 Pietrasanta
- Sketches Museum Pierluigi Gherardi, which is located at Via Sant’Agostino 1, 55045 Pietrasanta
In fact Pietrasanta is the perfect destination for art enthusiasts, both classic and contemporary. Over the centuries it has been an important centre of marble extraction and working. It is a well-known gathering place for artists from all the world. Over the years many artists have decided to settle down here. In recent years, Pietrasanta has become an open-air museum, where visitors can admire sculptures and art pieces among streets and piazzas.
As a cultural tourism destination Pietrasanta is a great home base for exploring the Cinque Terre of Liguria, Portovenere and other Tuscany destinations. There are many good hotel in this area with reasonable prices. In the summer holiday season hotels along the Ligurian coast are very expensive. If you don’t want to plan your holiday only for beaches, you could probably consider to stay in this town.
How to get there
The best way to go there is by car. You can find many offers from different merchants at AutoEurope.com.
- If you arrive from Florence, take A11 and then A12, exit at Versilia.
- If you arrive from Milan, take A1 heading south to Parma, and then take A15 to La Spezia. Exit at Versilia tool booth.
- If you arrive from Genoa, take A12 in the south direction and exit at Versilia toll booth.
- If you arrive from Rome, take A1 to Florence and then take A11 to Viareggio. Finally take A12 in the north direction up to the Versilia exit.
Pietrasanta is well connected to other Italian cities. You can book tickets online.
There are buses to and from other Tuscan cities. The website Compagnia Toscana Trasporti for offers the bus schedules but it is in Italian language.
The closest airport is the Pisa’s Galileo Galilei Airport, which is 45 km away.
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