I grew up spending my summers on the cozy hillside, Tuscan town of Pietrasanta. Wait, what am I saying? I still do. I’m actually sitting in the piazza right this second writing this!
We used spend the whole month of July here – fourteen mischievous souls in total including siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents and second spouses (the common thread in my family). And up until a few years, people didn’t seem to know where Pietrasanta was, exactly. I always found myself saying that it’s a 20 minute bike ride from Forte Dei Marmi. Everyone’s heard of Forte but still, I’m sure they didn’t know exactly where that was either.
But now, call it Google maps, CNTraveller or whatever, Pietrasanta, our little secret lost in time, has become ‘cool’ in everyone else’s eyes which sucks for us because our well-kept secret is out and up for grabs. Now we run into random people we know from elsewhere intruding in our little slice of heaven that is essentially made up of a main piazza and a few side streets.
Sculpting brought my grandfather to Pietrasanta in the early 1980s. He bought a little cottage on La Rocca overlooking the town because some of the best bronze foundries in the world are here. Close by are the gleaming peaks of Carrara – the source of marble that Michelangelo (who actually lived for a while in Pietrasanta) used to sculpt his David in 1501 and that artists still, to this day, use because of its impecable quality.
So since the cat’s out of the bag, the least I can do is make you, the friendly intruder, experience this city of artists the best way I know how.
3-4 full days of your life are needed to absorb Pietrasanta (depending on how much you want to eat)
How to get your ass there
The closest airports are Pisa (35 minute drive) and Florence (1.5 hour drive). Rent a car, spot my grandfather’s dove sculpture just outside the Florence airport, turn up music and enjoy the drive.
Pietrasanta is T I N Y. The closer you are to the piazza the better as it’s very lively, full of bars, restaurants, pedestrian and good looking Italians just roaming around. Free. Single girls – bring your huge butterfly nets. Happy hunting!
Albergo di Pietrasanta – Definitely the priciest option but if you’re the type that likes to find a chocolate on your pillow before you go to bed, you want the room perfectly turned down, lights dimmed – honey, you’re home.
Hotel Palagi – I’m so biased here because location is perfect, and this is the place we all have gotten kicked out of the house for when we’ve had boyfriends and girlfriends visiting so it obviously hold a dear place in my heart. But through objective eyes, this place is plain BLAH. The AC works, sheets are clean. That’s all you need to know.
L’Enoteca Marcucci – My mouth is watering just writing down the name of this restaurant – everything about it is F A B U L O U S: they have one of the largest wine cellars in Tuscany and candle light is their choice of illumination. Try their Bisteca alla Fiorentina. Say hi to Michele, the owner!
Il Posto – Now I’m properly salivating… This little modern hole-in-the-wall has the most perfect truffle pasta and branzino al forno you’ve ever tasted. It may not be the liveliest place but you’ll be so in love with what’s on your plate that you probably won’t want to talk anyway. Simone, the owner, will take care of you.
Trattoria Gatto Nero – Just across the street from Il Posto, perfect for lunch or dinner. Try their pasta al ragu! They’re menu is verbal so listen up. You’ll just feel like you’re in an Italian grandmother’s terrace eating whatever she picked from her garden and decided to serve you.
Da Clara – This is about 10 – 15 minute drive from Pietrasanta, in Lido di Camaiore, and they serve the best sea food you can possibly imagine! Ever since I can remember, during World Cup summers, we always go there, order a million dishes to share and yell at the television!
Walk down Via Mazzini (the main street in Pietrasanta) and step into a tiny chapel called La Misericordia to see Botero’s Heaven and Hell frescos that he painted in 1993. If you keep walking down the avenue you’ll reach his monumental Warrior sculpture that guards the entrance of the town.
Public announcement: summer in Italy means it’s summer for everyone. So at 12 or 12:30 all the shops close down and absolutely everyone and their mothers goes to the beach to have lunch and work on their tan until 4 pm. Pietrasanta becomes a ghost town. Rent a couple of bicycles in Albergo di Pietrasanta and make your way to the beach down Via Apua and then through the pinewood forrest! It’s a very beautiful ride.
The beach is full of ‘bagnos’ – walk into one and rent one of their tents. They all serve delicious food so you can’t go wrong.
If your pockets are deeper, head straight to Bagno Twiga. They have the most beautiful beach tents and the best pasta alle vongole. It also becomes a club at night – one of the funnest, if I may say so!
After lunch drive to Lucca (40 mins) and walk around. I love renting bicycles and going around the fort walls!
On Wednesdays and Sunday mornings there is an amazing flea market smack in the center of Forte Dei Marmi. It’s a 30 minute bike ride from Pietrasanta and you’ll find everything – from amazing leather goods, beachwear, and other goodies. And while you’re there have a capuccino and a fresh spremuta di arancia in Caffè Principe – it’s a classic.
Take a 30 minute drive to Carrara, you’ll pass by tiny villages lost in time; you’ll climb, climb, climb the road through the mountain until you’re only surrounded by white marble. It’s a sight for sore eyes.
Atelier Paolo Milani – He has the most beautiful shop across the street from L’enoteca filled with all kinds of fabrics and the most amazing dresses. He sows everything himself – it’s like a cave of wonders.
All the bars are conveniently located on the piazza so that you can sit, drink your Moscato D’Asti (the most Tuscan dessert wine from northern Italya) after dinner and bluntly stare at the beautiful people. The piazza at night is very lively until 2 am when everything closes down.
Caffè del Teatro – Our ultimate favorite! After dinner no one really asks “where shall we go for a drink” – everyone just makes their way naturally there. Ask for Stefano, the owner, impossible to not love that guy.
Pietrasantese – located on the opposite side of the piazza from Caffe del Teatro. Walk towards the bathrooms and follow the corridor down – there’s a whole other hidden bar that many people know about so you’ll always find the locals here.
Bar Michelangelo – just next door to Pietrasantese. This is right below where Michelangelo once lived! Drink the history!
Travel changes lives & Art prolongs it.
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*Images: Enoteca Marcucci courtesy of Gio Marta
*Pietrasanta courtesy of StuffThatMakesMyHeartBeatFaster (great name)