Poet Eugenio Montale was a teenager when the Monterosso Giant started growing.
It was 1910, and the future winner of the Nobel prize in Literature was 14 years old; he spent his summer holidays with his family in Villa Montale, in the small town in the province of La Spezia that is part of the wonderful Cinque Terre.
That was the year Giovanni Pàstine, who had emigrated to Argentina and now was back in Liguria with his wife, started having this huge caryatid representing Neptune built, with a shell-shaped terrace on his shoulders.
The Giant is 14 meters tall and weighs 170 tons; it is permanently placed in front of the Fegine Beach, at the foot of Villa Pàstine, the Art Nouveau home where Pàstine moved after finding great success in the New World and returning home to enjoy his fortune.
Montale could see him walk “on the terrace, with a Panama hat on his head. He had a long, soft mustache, a shaved chin, and wore flashy ties and raw silk shirts”. His wife “went down to the beach around noon, wrapped in a big robe and protected by a wide straw hat with a chinstrap. Black and shapely, she did not allow for prying eyes, and when she undressed inside the only existing cabin, she came out more covered up than before” (translated from E. Montale, “Farfalla di Dinard”, 1956).
The Monterosso Giant – a work in reinforced concrete by sculptor Arrigo Minerbi and architect Francesco Levacher – survived the destruction of Villa Pàstine during the Second World War (only one tower is left).
Mutilated, it remains at the service of a world that is long gone.