Pietrasanta: Italy’s Small Athens

La città d’arte, Pietrasanta, is a hidden jewel tucked away between the Tuscan mountains and the Mediterranean coastline. Although easily accessible by a 30-minute train ride from Pisa, it might not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking about “Italian Art.” But let me introduce you to Pandora’s Box… a jewel equally as magical as Rome, Florence, or Venice.

This small Medieval town with brick-stone roofs, tight cobble-stoned streets and colourful plastered walls, has become a chic destination for its contemporary art scene. It is a sort of enclave where some of the most representative artists from the entire world meet to sketch-up, find inspiration, enjoy the sun and produce artworks.

The charm of this artistic utopia lies in the centuries-long tradition of marble carving. Originally founded in 1255 by Guiscardo da Pietrasanta, it became known for its precious statuary marble and talented artists. The great Renaissance master Michelangelo opened a marble quarry in Monte Altísimo, a mountain in the close-by town Carrara a few miles north along the coast. Besides designing the bell tower in the main piazza, he extracted massive marble blocks later flourishing into masterpieces, including his celebrated David.

Pietrasanta is often referred to as “Italy’s small Athens” and the “Hollywood of sculpture”. Bronze and marble quarries are spotted almost everywhere and artists’ studios bloom in every garage, attic and warehouse. Some even say there’s no better place to meet a famous contemporary artist than having a morning espresso at Bar Michelangelo in Piazza Duomo – a spacious piazza taken as an exhibition space where massive art installations and are constantly displayed. A place where artists, gipsies, locals and world-trotters meet to play music and perform their acts under the stars after a long day at the beach.

Fernando Botero, the renowned Colombian painter and sculptor, spends his springs and summers in Pietrasanta in the company of his partner, artist Sophia Vari, and their family. He has sculptures permanently exhibited throughout the town and even a church fresco painting depicting the Gateways of Heaven and Hell in Chiesa della Misericordia. In the painting such characters as Mother Teresa and Adolf Hitler swim in an explosion of colour, fire, demons, angels and dragons – personally my favourite work from his extensive oeuvre.

Fernando Botero, Gates of Hell, 1973, Chiesa della Misericordia, Pietrasanta.

Pietrasanta is a mystical crossroads where creativity, spontaneity, and ideas float from one mind to the next, from artists studios to galleries, from surreal landscapes to mouth-watering cuisine. In this medieval town, great art not only meets the eye but our minds and hearts are taken away in the cradle of art. ●


Il Posto – this has to be one of my favourite restaurants in the world – I’m not alone in this as this is Fernando Botero’s top pic! The owner, Simone, will come greet you personally at your table. You must have the risotto alla champagne.
Pizzeria L’Apogeo – best wood-baked pizza! I recommend Pizza al lardo. All their doughs are homemade, worked on over days.
Il Marzocco – a mouth-watering mix of antipasti, great wine and romantic atmosphere.
B’Art – a joint bar next to Giovanni Bonelli’s art gallery. The open-air loft space is laid out in an elevated piazza with a sculpture of a centaur by artist Igor Mitoraj – just surreal.
Bar Michelangelo – fantastic to sit out in the piazza and people-watch.
Lemon Bar (Marina di Pietrasanta) – best fresh fruit smoothies and cocktails in an oasis by the beach. It has a lounge area with hammocks and sofas under palm trees.
Get lost around town, through every little street you will find a gallery or art centre. Make sure to visit St. Agostino, a convent and church housing exhibitions and interesting collections all year round. Make sure to see the backyard with hidden sculptures!
ARTISTS: (based in Pietrasanta)
If you’re in Pietrasanta (or planning on going) and have any particular questions or want further tips send me an email at inoerob@gmail.com and I’ll be more than happy to help x

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