History of Pietrasanta


See Pietrasanta guide for highlights and historic monuments

Pietrasanta is a medieval town situated in the popular and attractive Italian region of Tuscany. Pietrasanta has its origins in the Middle Ages, when the town developed around a Lombard castle and had a fascinating medieval history.

In 13th century Tuscany, the rulers of the city of Lucca pursued an active policy of subjugating the territories that surrounded them, especially in Versilia. This of course led to a great deal of confrontation with the the local feudal lords, and also ongoing confrontations with the other important cities in the region, such as Pisa.

This feudal domination of the countryside made the foundation of new towns and cities very important, because the inhabitants who moved to these new towns were effectively escaping from thir feudal domination, to the extent that in Italy it was said that 'City air makes men free'.

Pietrasanta was planned and constructed to have a regular rectangular plan. In the early 14th century the town started the construction of the defensive walls and entry gates into the town, an action that also encompassed some of the villages close by such as Terranuova. These defensive walls were further strengthened when the town came under the Lordship of Castruccio Castracani (1281-1328), who also constructed two fortresses and the cathedral.

Pietrasanta had a turbulent time through the Middle Ages, which followed the fortunes of the many feudal families who were competing for the control of the Versilia region. The town suffered from several different occupations, among the controlling towns being Pisa, Lucca and Genoa. Eventually it fell under the control of Florence.

Under this Grand Duchy of Tuscany Pietrasanta was further strengthened and its defence walls further reinforced. The ruling Cosimo I de' Medici (1519-1574) encouraged the urban and economic development of the town, with industries based around the extraction and processing of iron, and also the reclamation and rehabilitation of the marshy land.

During the reign of the Medici the city had a considerable building program and numerous public and private mansions were constructed.

In the 17th century, with the end of the power of the Medici Family, Pietrasanta entered a period of economic crisis and most development of the city was stopped, although the growth was resumed enthusiastically in the 18th century under the Grand Duke Leopold of Tuscany (1797-1870).

From the 18th to the 19th centuries the iron based operations were reactivated and new developments started outside the walls - including marble processing and various artistic crafts which still characterize the economic life of the city to this day.