THE VERSILIAN COAST
The beaches from Viareggio northwards to Liguria are popular with local holidaymakers
and some tourists, but have been blighted by beachfront strip development and get unpleas-
antly packed with Italy's beach-loving hoi polloi during summer. We suggest steering clear
of this coastal strip and instead heading inland to explore the hinterland town of Pi-
etrasanta, known for its vibrant arts culture and centro storico .
Versilia is a major gateway to both the Apuane Alps, Garfagnana and Lunigiana with
roads from the coastal towns snaking their way deep into the heart of the mountains and
connecting with small villages and walking tracks.
TOP OF CHAPTER
Often overlooked by Tuscan travellers, this refined art town is a real unexpected surprise.
Its bijou historic heart, originally walled, is car-free and loaded with tiny art galleries,
workshops and fashion boutiques - perfect for a day's amble broken only by lunch.
Founded by Guiscardo da Pietrasanta, podestà (governing magistrate) of Lucca in 1255,
Pietrasanta was seen as a prize by Genoa, Lucca, Pisa and Florence, all of whom jostled for
possession of its marble quarries and bronze foundries. As was so often the case, Florence
won out and Leo X (Giovanni de' Medici) took control in 1513. Leo put the town's famous
quarries at the disposal of Michelangelo, who came here in 1518 to source marble for the
facade of San Lorenzo in Florence. The artistic inclination of Pietrasanta dates from this
time, and today it is the home of many artists, including internationally lauded Colombian-
born sculptor Fernando Botero whose work can be seen here.
Pietrasanta is a great base for exploring the Apuane Alps and a lovely day trip from Pisa
Sights & Activities
From Pietrasanta train station on Piazza della Stazione head straight across Piazza Car-
ducci, through the Old City gate and onto Piazza del Duomo , the main square that poses as an
outdoor gallery for sculptures and other large works of art. It is impossible to miss the at-