• 2 years ago
Categories: Eat LocalLa Spezia local insider

Monterosso, the Giant: from splendor to grimace

Luxury quirk in a dream villa, the statue of the Giant also marked the misfortune of those who designed it, and was in danger of being destroyed

At the end of the Fegina Beach, the statue of the Giant today is at the end of Monterosso. Overlookig the sea of the Cinque Terre, but lacking arms and a leg and the head is bent in the effort to support you do not know what. It is not only the weight of time to be borne on the Giant’s shoulders, but also a story of rolled back opluence of a family that has known tragedy .

A statue created to make clear the power of the Pastine family

The statue of the Giant was built by the sculptor Arrigo Minerbi (very popular at the time for having also worked on behalf of Gabriele D’Annunzio) and engineer Levacher in 1910 at the behest of Advocate John Pastine .

Descendant of a local family emigrated to Argentina, the lawyer was back in the Cinque Terre after making a fortune and with the intent to become senator of the Kingdom.

Having bought the land, he built a sumptuous villa (Villa Pastine). The statue was nothing more than a whim to state the richness of Pastine: strongly united to the rock of the cliff, the sculpture also had a narrow trident in its hands and carried on his shoulders a very big shell that was the roof garden overlooking the sea of the Cinque Terre in front of the villa .

The giant statue of Monterosso (Cinque Terre) in its original form. Image taken from www.naturamediterraneo.com

Villa Pastine had its own Statue of Liberty … but it was a delusion according to some

With the works done between 1906 and 1910, the Pastine lawyer got his grand art nouveau villa, but his taste for luxury left some not so excited, especially in a by nature low profile territory such as the Cinque Terre.

Eugenio Montale , one of the greatest Italian poets, frequent visitor in Monterosso, looking at villa Pastine defined it, without beating about the bush, “a delusion!”.

Among the details that negatively impressed the poet there was definitely the copy of the Statue of Liberty at the villa’s entrance.

Montale described the villa: “… three upper floors more than five meters high each, with a tower and terraces and a loggia with columns and a bridge and a paved decorated like a turkish carpet and faux wood benches and a grand three flights staircase of Carrara marble and even an unthinkable copy of the Statue of Liberty … and then the arches that supported the covered stairway of fake rock and the roof garden in front of the house … a dream or, for architecture rationalists, a delusion!

Bad luck on Pastine and the Giant: sneer at Pastine and the war rages on the statue

But things did not go as the  Lawyer Pastine had imagined. First he lost the election and the project to become senator was abandoned, later his wife (Juanita) gave birth to a child suffering from physical and mental ailments.

Some say that, as mordant and evil sneer , in the village the kid was nicknamed the “Giant” , tying the misfortune to the glory sought by the father ( ed. the writer could not verify these rumors ).

Shortly after the Pastine lawyer died, some say of a broken heart, others of Spanish flu.

Juanita left Monterosso and the luxurious villa, leaving it to its fate.

During the Second World War , a artillery shot mutilated the sculpture , depriving it of the arms, of a leg and the beautiful shell, as it is now.

Of the Pastine villa remains very little, but the Giant was saved

Today of the villa Pastine remains only the structure of the tower. When, in the sixties a rich Genoese (cousin of Montale) bought the land, he tore down the now dilapidated structure, to realize the elegant building of today.

It would have been his intention to break down also The statue of the Giant , but the inhabitants of the village and the municipality itself opposed.

Consolidated at the new owner’s expense, the Gigante stands still so, aloof the sea as the history and the vicissitudes left it.

He won’t be carrying the shell on his shoulders, but his muscles still bear a burden that can’t be overlooked: the changing fortunes of human life.

This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)

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