art and culture

Discovering the art of Pietrasanta

Of the many highlights that Mr. TWS and I enjoyed during our stay in Tuscany, one of our favorites was learning about the rich art culture of Pietrasanta, a town near the Versilian coast (Tuscany’s Riviera) in the foothills of the Apuan Alps.

One of several sculptures by Igor Mitoraj in Piazza Duomo

One of several sculptures by Igor Mitoraj in Piazza Duomo

In the company of our expert local guide and Tuscany travel consultant, Serena Giovannoni, we strolled among intriguing public art, watched artists at work on their creations, saw the nearby quarries where the area’s famous pure white marble is sourced, and enjoyed the beauty of Tuscany.

A marble quarry in the Apuan Alps near Pietrasanta

A marble quarry in the Apuan Alps near Pietrasanta

The precious marble

Although familiar with Michelangelo’s masterpieces and lucky enough to have seen a few in person, I didn’t know that in the quarries of the Apuan Alps near Pietrasanta he procured the fine marble for his sculptures. On our drive on winding roads above Seravezza just a few miles from Pietrasanta, we got a direct view of one of them cut into the forested hillside. Imagine back in the 16th century how difficult it must have been for Michelangelo and others to get their marble from hillside to workshop.

Students creating marble sculptures at an open-air art class

Students creating marble sculptures at an open-air art class

Also on our drive through the foothills to Pietrasanta, Serena took us to a unique art school where student artists were working with hammers and chisels to sculpt their masterpieces from marble slabs obtained nearby, inspired by the  gorgeous scenery of the mountain vistas.

Religious marble works in progress in Pietrasanta

Religious marble works in progress in Pietrasanta

In the town of Pietrasanta, we visited a marble sculpture workshop where we carefully stepped around dusty slabs of gorgeous marble recently removed from the quarries to watch the activity of the artists. Religious works for churches were being created alongside statues for other venues.

LOVE sculpture in a Pietrasanta marble workshop

LOVE sculpture in a Pietrasanta marble workshop

I’ve seen the familiar LOVE sculpture below in several other places in my travels, but I’ve never seen one while it is a work in progress.

Sculpture by Igor Mitoraj in Piazza Duomo

Sculpture by Igor Mitoraj in Piazza Duomo

 

Pietrasanta public art

During our afternoon in the city center of Pietrasanta, it was easy to understand why it is known as “Little Athens” and “City of the Artists” and why it is home to many Italian and international artists. The city exudes a passion for art with galleries and public art exhibits being key elements of the historic center.

One perspective of a prominent bronze sculpture by Igor Mitoraj on Piazza Duomo

One perspective of a prominent bronze sculpture by Igor Mitoraj on Piazza Duomo

Entering the city center at Piazza Duomo is a feast for the eyes with public art on display in the square. Prominent are the sculptures (shown here and in the photo at the top of the post) by Polish artist, Igor Mitoraj, who set up a studio in Pietrasanta in 1983 and contributed several works to the city.

Among the fashion boutiques and cafes on on Via Garibaldi, Pietrasanta also has numerous galleries  showcasing contemporary Tuscan artists. Although we didn’t visit the Museo dei Bozzetti on this visit, I’d like to return to see its extensive collections of over 600 sketches and models of the sculptures of more of 300 Italian and foreign artists, including Fernando Botero (whose bold sculptures we previously saw in Maui in art installations at the Grand Wailea Resort).

Porta della Pace (Doorway of Peace)

Porta della Pace (Doorway of Peace)

 

A lovely symbol of art and peace in Pietrasanta’s public art is Porta della Pace (Doorway of Peace) at the end of the main street in town.

The mosaic master: Piero Giannoni

A highlight of the afternoon was a personal visit with Piero Giannoni, a master mosaic artist who gave us a very warm welcome. During a walk-through that he graciously provided, his passion for his craft was evident as he spoke of completed projects and described the project in progress on a large open area on the floor of his studio. Working seven days a week to meet orders but also to fulfill his love of the art itself, he is clearly committed to his craft.

Mosaic master Piero Giannoni at work in his studio in Pietrasanta

Mosaic master Piero Giannoni at work in his studio in Pietrasanta

We watched Piero and another artist in his shop cutting, polishing, and placing each individual piece of glass. His many artistic accomplishments are diverse and include mosaic portraits for celebrities such as fashion designers Giorgio Armani and Roberto Cavalli as well as large mosaic art pieces that adorn churches and secular venues around the world.

Mr. TWS and I particularly appreciated the mosaic representation of “The Kiss” (below left), a favorite Gustav Klimt painting.

Left: Piero Giannoni’s mosaic of Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss”; Right: Mosaic artist at work in the studio and colorful glass pieces

Left: Piero Giannoni’s mosaic of Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss”; Right: Mosaic artist at work in the studio and colorful glass pieces

My day was made when Piero selected a large sampling of colorful glass mosaic pieces and gave them to me — it was a special treasure and a great souvenir.

The art of a Pietrasanta villa

Driving from the city center about four miles into the Versilia hills above Pietrasanta, we reached the beautifully restored 18th century Villa Sant’Andrea for a tour by the owners and Serena, who upon request provides wedding planning and concierge services for guests. Its baroque style with beamed ceilings, extensive manicured gardens, and decorative frescoes seem a perfect fit to the theme of art in Pietrasanta.

Villa Sant’Andrea in the hills above Pietrasanta

Villa Sant’Andrea in the hills above Pietrasanta

The building itself is stately and elegant and the panoramic vistas of the towns below on the Versilian coast are dramatic. The villa embodies a much more Mediterranean Riviera ambiance than that of more well-known Tuscany images of rolling hills dotted with vineyards.

CSW 13 Sant-Andrea-exterior1

As we walked through the stylish living and sitting rooms, large kitchen, eight spacious bedrooms, and seven baths, we admired the fine furnishings, marble and ceramic tiles, and the fine art. Particularly impressive are the frescoes, some of which are shown in the photos of the villa’s interior below.

Gorgeous frescoes in living room of Villa Sant’Andrea

Gorgeous frescoes in living room of Villa Sant’Andrea

 

Elegant decor and beautiful frescoes in first floor living room of Villa Sant’Andrea

Elegant decor and beautiful frescoes in first floor living room of Villa Sant’Andrea

 

Delicate frescoe patterns on the walls of a bedroom in Villa Sant’Andrea

Delicate frescoe patterns on the walls of a bedroom in Villa Sant’Andrea

Villa Sant’Andrea is ideally suited for large gatherings and special events accommodating up to 20 people. A private consecrated chapel is appealing for weddings and other celebrations. We could easily envision being part of a large group of guests at the villa and relaxing around the pool followed by cocktails on the terrace to enjoy the stunning views

Inviting pool of Villa Sant’Andrea overlooking the Versilian coast of Tuscany

Inviting pool of Villa Sant’Andrea overlooking the Versilian coast of Tuscany

Beyond the villa, the location is convenient for visiting Pietrasanta and the coastal town of Viareggio, enjoying the beaches of the Versilian coast (nearest beach is 6 km away), a golf course in Forte dei Marmi, and important cities of Tuscany such as Lucca, Pisa (also the nearest airport), and Florence.

Art travel tip: Viareggio and La Cittadella di Carnevale

Serena had a surprise for us before the end of our tour with her — a visit to nearby Viareggio (where there are many Art Deco and Art Nouveau buildings to admire) and La Cittadella di Carnevale, a property with 16 huge hangars where floats for the very popular annual carnival in Viareggio (to be held during February in 2016) are made and stored. The floats are amazing and in the photo bottom right you get a sense of their size. The largest floats can take five months to build and can be as wide as 20m and as tall as 14m. During open hours, you can stroll around the grounds and visit the workshops.

Hangars housing the enormous floats of La Cittadella di Carnevale in Viareggio

Hangars housing the enormous floats of La Cittadella di Carnevale in Viareggio

Grazie to Serena Giovanonni, Villa Sant’Andrea, and EsteVillas for hosting our day discovering the art of Pietrasanta.

With Serena Giovannoni on a bridge across the Burlamacca Canal in Viareggio

With Serena Giovannoni on a bridge across the Burlamacca Canal in Viareggio

Take a look at the EsteVillas website for details, more photos, and booking information for Villa Sant’Andrea and other properties in their collection.

Posted on Dec 16 2015

Written by Catherine Sweeney  Travelling with Sweeney

Villa Santandrea  Pietrasanta, Versilia, Tuscany