A Weird Week: Despatches from Little Athens

It's been a strange week - the weather turbulent;  one moment the kind of thunderstorm you have to stand at the door and watch, but the next temperatures of 27 degrees and the sun shining.  On Tuesday evening we went for a walk between showers and discovered the most beautiful house hidden in the woods at the end of a track, surrounded by overgrown olive trees and brambles.

It's obviously been empty for a long time and the roof has gone.  But it was one of those - 'What if we were millionaires?' moments.  Property here, even ruined houses in the woods, fetch unbelievable prices.  This one would probably be between 200 and 300 thousand euros.  At least one can dream ......

No, Neil hasn't decided to end it all - this is his home-made hoist to lift half a ton of marble!  He's been searching for the right marble to make a new sculpture, or more accurately, a group of three small sculptures that have to be carved out of the same marble. Finding the right piece has been difficult, because most marble has veins of a darker colour, and these angular shapes needed something plain.

Marble studios have been closing down all over Pietrasanta during the last year - the economic crisis is causing a big cut back on marble fireplaces, shelves, floors and other big items for houses, as well as sculptures.  In one of the closed studios we found what we wanted - a lovely piece of  white Greek marble, glittering in the sun in the long grass and the brambles.  The owner was glad to sell it and gave us a good price.  Marble is heavy, and the studio no longer had any cranes or fork lifts, so Neil improvised with a hoist.  A friend offered to transport it in his Ape - and this is what Neil posted to Facebook!

But everything eventually got fixed, and the marble is where it should be and Neil is back in the studio he's been using since the old one closed!

Because of its connections with art and sculpture particularly, Pietrasanta has been given the title of 'La Piccola Athene' - Little Athens.   But the sculptors working around Pietrasanta are getting fewer and fewer due to the crisis - they are a very small band now, but some beautiful work being done.  This is from the current exhibition in the Piazza - Bergomi's bronze figures.  Some people love them - but they're a little bit 'static' for me - they don't offer much for the imagination, except perhaps when photographed against the skyline.

And we've just had the closing party for an exhibition by Venezuelan sculptor Maria Gamundi, who creates the most beautiful, classical figures in marble and bronze.

My favourite was 'Comfort', which was displayed in an alcove, which gave it a spiritual aura, like a goddess in a shrine.  

Meanwhile, back in England, my children have suddenly become very grateful that their begging letters to Jim'll Fix It went unanswered.  I don't have any words to describe how I feel about that particular tragedy, but I do understand the culture that allowed it to happen and I may blog about that soon.


  1. What a lovely and wide ranging post.

    It is terrible to hear the crisis is biting so hard.

    A spot of Keynesian economics is called for.

    I am with you on "Comfort" it is fantastic!


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