Pietrasanta may be called The Little Athens of Italy but I would call it The Santa Fe of Italy.
When I lived in Santa Fe I loved the Canyon Road Art Walk that happens every fourth Friday evening.
Santa Fe’s historic Canyon Road goes back to the mid-eighteenth century is lined with about 130 galleries, in colorful adobe buildings. Rising beyond the road’s end are the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Behind the galleries are charming gardens with sculptures and on Art Walk nights free wine is often supplied.
I visited Pietrasanta recently to see the Umbrella Exhibit, and as I poked in the open-at-night galleries, I was reminded of Santa Fe.
Just like in Santa Fe: Some of the galleries have gardens at the back, the atmosphere is elegant, the summer nights are warm, mountains rise behind the town, the streets are welcoming to pedestrians, the architecture is lovely, the town is historic, and there’s a conviviality of people outside, sipping wine, looking at art, and at each other.
Both Santa Fe and Pietrasanta have been called home by leading artists of the twentieth century: Georgia O’ Keeffe, pioneer of American modernism found inspiration in Santa Fe and lived there or near there, from the 1940s to her death in the 1980s, while the Colombian sculptor Fernando Botero took up residence in Pietrasanta in the 1970s and today calls it his favorite place to work.
In an inteview with The Florentine Botero said,
“Pietrasanta is a city that was made for sculptors. There are seven foundries and many marble artisans. Everyone here knows me and my wife very well. They call us by name and they invite us to the bar for a drink, as if we were all old friends. I’ve worked in Paris, Berlin, Switzerland, but here everything is easier and more enjoyable.”
Don’t miss Botero’s frescos of Heaven and Hell in the Church of Sant’ Antonio Abate in Pietrasanta.
I had been to Pietrasanta once before, on a hot afternoon when most things were closed. It’s a whole other animal at night. During the day the streets are mostly absent of the colorful chairs and lantern-lit tables, and the galleries are not as noticeable.
A summer night in Pietrasanta was a revelation.
I found it absolutely magical with the colorful umbrellas above the streets mimicking the colorful tables and chairs and below. Lanterns and candles gave off a gold light and every restaurant I passed was more lovely than the one prior.
In the piazza people gathered to watch a busker, and the Duomo from its perch was so pretty with its rosetta window ringed with light and it’s marble facade all creamy. I couldn’t help but enthuse to a bar owner about how beautiful his town is.
“We’ve a lot of success with the umbrellas” he tells me.
“They render the town absolutely magical.” I reply.
“Yes, it’s been extended into September because people love it so much.” He says.
The exhibit has enchanted everyone, and caused a record amount of instagram photos this summer with the hashtag #Pietrasanta.
While the Umbrella Exhibit will end September 16, I think you’ll still find Pietrasanta dreamy on a summer night, so add it to your Tuscan plans! And if you love the charm and art-focus of Santa Fe, you’ll be thrilled with Pietrasanta—particularly on a warm night when the art galleries and restaurants are all a buzz.