The area of Tuscany that we live is technically referred to as Versilia, or the coastline where many Italians, Germans, and Russians make their home for the summer. It is characterized by an expansive coastline in front of the beautiful Appenine Mountains, where marble has been quarried for thousands of years.
Our home is located in a small town called Strettoia, in the larger commune of Pietrasanta. The old town center of Pietrasanta is where many famous artists once lived, including Michelangelo, with many galleries and sculptures lining the piazza. The Pietrasanta Cathedral has a beautiful interior and a facade covered in white marble.
When my friend, Lauren, was visiting, we took a bike tour of Versilia had the opportunity to meet a famous local sculptor named Maggi. He graciously showed us his sculpting studio, paintings, and sculpting techniques. In fact, he said he even has sculptures in Dallas and Washington DC!
Whereas Pietrasanta attracts many tourists, Strettoia is a neighborhood of humble houses on the hilltop and is home to year-round Italians. The photos below show views from the mountain range in the town next to us, Seravezza, the Castello Aghinolfi in Montignoso, our home in Strettoia with JoJo, and our lovely orange and lemons from our property.
There is also a beautiful winery called “L’altre Donna” at the top of the mountain we live on, where you can taste wine made from the local Vermintino grape, and enjoy some tasty treats from the owner. If you come for dinner, you will be treated to a gourmet meal of traditional dishes all made from local ingredients.
If you drive a couple miles towards the water, you will reach Forte dei Marmi, the ritzy vacation town lined by beach clubs across the water and designer stores throughout the town center. Although crowded in the spring and summer months, it becomes a bit of a ghost town in the fall and winter when most of the shops and restaurants close. There is a beautiful promenade & boardwalk along the water where you can watch the fisherman catch the local specialties you can find at many of the local seaside restaurants.
One of the top restaurants in Versilia, Lorenzo’s, is a seafood restaurant run by a couple and is essentially an institution in the area. We dined there for a special lunch, where Ryan had an excellent tasting menu and I devoured a beautiful crudo and codfish with truffles. Lorenzo’s has a Michelin Star, and is thus worthy of a special occasion if you are in Versilia.
The other major city in the Versilia region is called Viareggio, or the city of Carnivals. Also a popular seaside resort, it is best known for the Carnival of Viareggio and its paper mache floats that are displayed during a parade in the weeks around Easter. It has been going on since 1873 and is the second biggest carnival in Italy next to Venice.
Lauren and I had the opportunity to visit a shop where they were constructing carnival masks. The same location is also home to a Carnival Museum where you can learn about the city of Viareggio. Although the museum was closed, we were able to view some of the magnificent paper mache floats.
Finally, I needed to make an addendum to my Versilia post to add my experience viewing the peaks of the marble mountains from the town of Colonnata. Colonatta was founded around 49 BC and was used by the Romans to house slaves that excavated marble from the mountains. The town is situated on a road about 30 minutes from Carrara. The drive is sprinkled with small gift shops and marble status displays for tourists. Every turn warrants a breathtaking view of the marble peaks.
The town itself has a mystical air. It was silent except for the occasional chatter of locals. The storefronts advertised colonnata lard- a delicacy of the region that once filled the miners bellies. There is a beautiful marble memorial commemorating the miners that have died in the quarry. A marble church lies next to the monument, an eerily beautiful building that echoed the hardships of the workers.
I will certainly be returning with family to experience the thrill of driving up the mountain and experiencing the serenity of Colonnata.