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The town of Pietrasanta has its origins in the Middle Ages, in the year 1255 when it started to develop around the foot of a Lombard castle. Over the centuries it has developed to be a town which now has more than 20,000 inhabitants.
The town took its name from its founder, the 'Podestà' of Lucca - called Guiscardo from Pietrasanta - and was once the capital of the historical Versilia region (see history of Pietrasanta for details).
Explore Pietrasanta: tourism and travel guide
The historic centre of Pietrasanta contains several notable monuments and museums - we suggest you start your visit in the center of Pietrasanta in the Piazza del Teatro where you can see the cathedral.
The cathedral - the Duomo di San Martino - dates back to the first half of the 14th century and is a church of some interest. From the front the great rose window in the façade stands out, which is a distinguished 15th century work by Lorenzo Riccomanni from Pietrasanta.
The 15th century bell tower is more than 30 meters high and a structure of great artistic value by Donato Benti, although according to the original plan it should be also be covered with marble - the work remained unfinished.
The interior of the cathedral is also interesting. It includes three aisles, some remarkable paintings by Pietro Dandini (1646-1712), and a late Gothic tableau depicting the 'Madonna and Saints'.
The marble pulpit, among the other sculptures of the Cathedral, is considered a masterpiece, with the high relief sculptures attributed to Donato Benti (1508). The pedestal upon which it stands is a 15th century work by Lorenzo Stagi. The bronze statues depicting angels are also beautiful.
Also in the square around the cathedral we can again thank Donato Benti for the Baptistry, while next to it stand the 'Torre delle Ore' (clocktower) and the 16th century Palazzo Moroni.
Archaeology Museum of Versilia
Inside the Palazzo Moroni you can visit the the Archaeology Museum of Versilia, with finds dating back to the Neolithic era and including the Art Pottery of the Roman and Medieval Ages. The museum includes several collections:
- in the Prehistoric section are finds such as human bones, arrowheads, daggers and other artefacts such as vases and pendants made of bone.
- the Etruscan and Ligurian section includes the Etruscan memorial pillars of Versilia, some tombs and other significant evidence of settlement of these populations in the area such as pottery, personal ornaments and tools.
- the Roman and medieval section contains various artefacts including amphoras, potteries, glassware, working tools, tombs, funerary objects, coins.
Other Pietrasanta highlights
Nearby is the Church of St. Augustine, also dating from the 14th century and a work of the Augustinian monks who later (in the 16th century) also built the Monastery, while the bell tower dates from 1780. The marble façade of the church is characterized by three large arches, surmounted by an elegant Gothic arches supported by little columns.
The interior has a single nave with a truss roof. Particularly important from an artistic point of view is the first altar on the right, dating from the 15th century.
This whole square is a real 'open air museum', with buildings such as the Praetorian Palace (XIV century), the seat in the Middle Ages of the Vicars Bank and Captains of Justice. In the vestibule and on the façade you can see the coats of arms of some famous families from Pietrasanta.
Among the most important structures here we can include the fountain, commissioned by the Medici of Florence to supply water to the city; the monument to Leopoldo II by Vincenzo Santini (1807-1876); and the 'Column of Liberty' with the famous “Marzocco” - a lion impressed in an escutcheon, the emblem of the Medici Family.
Going up the Colle di Sala you come to the picturesque Rocca di Sala, a vast fortified complex.
Proceeding to Via Mazzini and towards the so-called Porta a Massa, you pass a number of civic and religious buildings, ranging from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance until the 19th century. These include the medieval church of San Biagio, the Ponticelli Palace (XVI century), the Albiani Palace (XIX century) and the Masini Palace.
Outside the walls of Pietrasanta there are further important buildings such as the Palazzo della Posta Vecchia (XVI century) and the Church and Convent of Saint Francis. In the region you can also visit Valdicastello, where you can visit the house of the Italian poet Giosue Carducci.
After exploring Pietrasanta be sure to stop in one of the typical local restaurants which offers prestigious dishes such as the typical 'Marzipan' and 'tordelli with sauce', and some of the most famous wines of Italy - among them the wine of Saint Colombano, as well as Barbera, Croatina, Cabernet and Merlot; and the Verdea, Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot.
Where is Pietrasanta?
The town is near the north-west coast of the west of Tuscany, and north-west of Pisa and Lucca. It is typically visited as a trip from one of the nearby coastal resorts such as the Marina di Pietrasanta and the Lido di Camaiore, or perhaps the Art Deco resort of Viareggio on the coast a short distance to the south.
You can find more local travel ideas in the Tuscany guide.