At the end of Monterosso Beach, the Giant statue also marks the village’s end. Overlooking the sea of the Cinque Terre but lacking arms and a leg, its head is bent to support something – but we do not know what. It is not only the weight of time on the Giant’s shoulders but also a story of the rolled-back luxury of a family that suffered a tragedy.
A STATUE CREATED TO ASSERT THE POWER OF THE PASTINE’S FAMILY.
In 1910 sculptor Arrigo Minerbi, known for having worked on behalf of Gabriele D’Annunzio, carved the statue of the Giant in Monterosso. Along with the engineer Levacher at the commission of a lawyer, Giovanni Pastine.
Descendant of a local family who emigrated to Argentina, the lawyer returned to the Cinque Terre after making a fortune abroad and intended to become a senator of the Italian Kingdom.
He bought the land and built a sumptuous villa (Villa Pastine). The statue was nothing more than a whim to state the richness of the Pastines. The sculpture was firmly attached to the cliff’s rock and had a long trident in its hands. It carried on his shoulders a massive shell that functioned as a roof garden overlooking the sea of the Cinque Terre at the front of the villa.
VILLA PASTINE HAD ITS STATUE OF LIBERTY … A DELUSION, ACCORDING TO SOME.
With the works done between 1906 and 1910, the Pastine lawyer got his grand Art Nouveau villa. Still, his taste for luxury left some not so excited, especially in a territory such as the Cinque Terre, which tends to maintain a low profile.
Eugenio Montale, one of the greatest Italian poets and a frequent visitor to Monterosso, looking at the Villa Pastine, defined it, without beating around the bush, as “a delusion!“.
Among the details that negatively impressed the poet was the copy of the Statue of Liberty at the villa’s entrance.
Montale described the villa: “… three upper floors each more than five meters high; a tower and terraces and a loggia with columns and a bridge. A pave decorated like a Turkish carpet, faux wood benches, and a grand three flights staircase in Carrara marble. Even an unthinkable copy of the Statue of Liberty then arches supporting the covered stairway of fake rock and the roof garden in front of the house. A dream or, for architecture rationalists, a delusion!“
SNEER AT THE PASTINES, AND THE WAR RAGES ON THE STATUE OF THE GIANT.
But things did not go as Mr.Pastine had imagined. First, he lost the election and had to give up his plans to become a senator. Then, his wife (Juanita) gave birth to a child suffering from physical and mental illness.
Some say that the kid was nicknamed the “Giant” in the village. This biting and evil sneer tied the kid’s misfortune to the glory sought by his father (unverified rumors).
Shortly after, the lawyer Pastine died; some say of a broken heart, while others think he caught the Spanish flu.
Juanita left Monterosso and the luxurious villa, leaving it to its fate.
During the Second World War, artillery shots mutilated the sculpture, depriving it of the arms, a leg, and the gorgeous shell-shaped roof garden as it is now.
VERY LITTLE REMAINS OF THE VILLA, BUT THE GIANT WAS SAVED.
Today little remains of the villa Pastine on Monterosso Beach, except the tower’s structure. When a rich Genoese (cousin of Montale) bought the land in the sixties, he tore down the now dilapidated structure to create the elegant building we see today.
It would have been his intention to break down also the statue of the Giant, especially after a storm damaged it in 1966. But the inhabitants of the village, who attributed the Giant’s appearances to those of a fellow villager, and the Municipality opposed his plan, forcing him to consolidate the sculpture.
THE NEW LIFE OF THE GIANT’S STATUE, GIVING ITS NAME TO THE MONTEROSSO BEACH.
For long, the Gigante stood still as history and vicissitudes left it, bearing the inevitable burden of the changing human fortunes.
Then in 2017, the detachment of some pieces of rock led the Municipality to close the free beach below and to consolidation works that lasted for about four years.
During this time, it emerged that the rock on which the entire statue rests, a type of granite of magmatic origin, occurs only at this point in the whole Cinque Terre Park area.
The Veronese Marino family that owns the land today engaged in a costly commitment for the conservative restoration, monitored and authorized by the Superintendence of Historical and Cultural Heritage of Liguria.
Various problems were addressed, including the construction site on a popular Monterosso beach, which forced the experts to operate in the critical situation of working on the cliffs emerging from the sea.
In 2021 the statue was released from the scaffolding that kept it caged for so long, and. Its figure nowadays, despite never changing, doesn’t carry exclusive and extravagant luxury signs on its shoulders but somehow turns into more humble and mature evidence of resilience.