Monday, August 31, 2015


A view of Florence, from the surrounding hills.
Tuscany evokes instant images in most travellers’ minds: of pastel-hued buildings, green landscapes, magnificent sculptures and mouth-watering meals.

For many, though, it will be the art that leaves the most lasting impression because creativity is on display everywhere in this part of Italy. Whether it’s the age-old sculptures on the squares of major cities such as Florence and Siena, or more modern works on display in smaller towns, art is an inescapable part of the Tuscan experience - and perhaps nowhere more so than in Pietrasanta.

This coastal town in the province of Lucca has attracted artists for centuries, drawing them with its marble. According to local lore, Michelangelo was among the first sculptors to recognize the quality of Pietrasanta’s stone.

Art on the square in Pietrasanta.
In the 1400s, marble helped the town to grow in importance and influence, but the area fell into decline in later centuries, as malaria became a scourge. (Tuscany is again confronting a huge mosquito problem because of the proliferation of Asian tiger mosquitoes.)

Since the mid-1800s, Pietrasanta has seen a revival with the construction of art schools and ateliers, and the renewed extraction of its famous stone. Nowadays, artists such as the Colombian painter and sculptor Fernando Botero and his artist wife Sophia Vari spend a good part of their time in Pietrasanta.

Siren call in Pietrasanta, by Luigi Galligani.
Both have several pieces of artwork that can be seen in the town, but apart from such renowned figures, visitors to Pietrasanta will be struck by the many other items on display, on squares and in galleries.

For several months of the year, the local authorities also host diverse temporary outdoor shows that give one the feeling of taking a stroll with art.

Because of this distinctive ambiance, Pietrasanta is well worth including on the itinerary of Florence-Lucca-Pisa-Siena, cities that are more on the beaten track.

Art in Pietrasanta (photo: Turismo Versilia)
Detail of a painting by Botero, in Pietrasanta.