Seravezza, between mountain and sea
The Medici, Michelangelo, the sea and the via Francigena
Medici villas included: Villa di Seravezza
This itinerary offers a few suggestions for visiting the Seravezza area and the Apuan Alps. Palazzo di Seravezza represented the presence of the Medici family in a border area, surrounded by state rivals, of the old Grand Duchy of Tuscany.
The 16th-century villa was built as a summer residence for the Medici, a way of marking Florence’s power in the Versilia, an area that the Florentines had always competed for with Pisa, Lucca and Genoa for its rich marble reserves.
The villa is at the foot of the Apuan Alps at the point where the Serra and Vezza rivers meet.
RECOMMENDED MODES OF TRANSPORT
By car or by public transport
PALAZZO DI SERAVEZZA
Today it’s used as a civic archive and library for the Municipality of Seravezza and also contains the Museum of Work and Folk Traditions of Historical Versilia. Since 1982, the first floor has been used for photography exhibitions of modern and contemporary art.
Before heading towards the coast, a stop at Azzano is highly recommended. In 1517, pope Leo X, himself a Medici, sent Michelangelo to the Versilia to choose marble for the Church of San Lorenzo in Florence. The project for the basilica’s façade was not completed in the end, but as Michelangelo was in the area, he designed the rose window for the nearby Romanesque Chapel of San Martino in Azzano. The church from the Early Middle Ages is covered with local marble, is flanked by a short bell tower from before the 11th century and has in the middle of the façade a famous rose window also known as “Michelangelo’s Eye”.
The most important task by the Renaissance genius while in the Versilia was building the “marble road,” a road which started at the seaside quarries in Forte dei Marmi, where marble could be loaded onto ships and transported to the mouth of the Arno. Palazzo di Seravezza is on this road that, approaching the sea, becomes via Michelangelo Buonarroti. Before that point, you can stop in Rupe di Corvaia where, due to recent archaeological discoveries, there are structures and objects that date back to ancient times. Scholars believe that this was an Etruscan place of worship, and that the close-by area of Ceragiola could be considered as one of the first sites for extracting marble even before the Romans had opened the quarries at Carrara.
The use of marble is visible in the nearby city of Pietrasanta, which today has many sculpture studios and a high quality outdoor museum of contemporary art and sculpture. The beautiful city has always been an important crossroads thanks to its location on the via Francigena, the old pilgrimage route from Canterbury to Rome. Walking from the elegant city centre, rich with art galleries, shops and monuments, you have to take the time to visit at least one of the beautiful churches. The Cathedral of San Martino is noteworthy as it houses many works of art and a bell tower with an attractive spiral staircase, unique in its kind, that runs from the base of the tower to the top.