Thursday, 12 June 2014

italy week: high-rise or equus caballus

After passing Liguria and on to Tuscany, we made our first stop in the town Pietrasanta (meaning Holy Stone) to admire and take note of the transition in architectural styles.  The piazza, high brick tower (campanili or more generally torre), cathedral and church were certainly unique but also a highly typical ensemble for the towns and villages of the region and distinctive different than the layout for settlements elsewhere in Italy.
This place on the Italian Riviera on the foothills of the Alps neighbours the marble quarries of Carrara, which is the main building material and artistic medium for the whole area.  The main square featured also a rather brutal-looking exhibition of sculpted skeletal horses—including one huge steel installation with human skulls in the mid-section, like some dread, decaying Trojan horse.
The high tower was an impressive landmark and its design was promulgated to towns throughout the region, like the proto-skyscrapers of San Gimignano (which we visited later) whose skyline is unique for the Tuscan countryside and is visible for great distances with fourteen tall structures, commissioned by competing wealthy families, despite an ordinance issued by Florentine authorities in Middle Ages that buildings ought to be no higher than twenty-six meters.  Abstract artist M.C. Escher made an early wood-cut of the fine towers.
The towers of this region not only the free standing belfries of the adjacent churches, many eventually installed with a clockworks but were also strategic look-out points, with vantage from sea to mountains.