Viareggio, a Tuscan Culture and Coast Weekend

Tuscany + Beach + Sea + Sun + Italian Food = What more could you ask for? It’s all in Viareggio, on the Versilian Coast of Tuscany. Our first trip here, unlike the stop in Lucca, was totally planned. Mapping out our first Italian holiday adventure since moving to Europe, I thought what about a few September days at the beach while in Tuscany? Beach doesn’t typically come to mind when you think of Tuscany but we found it and loved it!

We crossed the mountain headed northeast from Lucca and within 40 minutes arrived to a quiet dark Viareggio and the Hotel President. Excited to see the town the next morning, we awoke early and out our big windows was the perfect view…long beach, beach clubs, a boardwalk, sunshine and sea.

The Versilian Coast is one of the oldest sea resorts in Tuscany runs north to Forte de Marmi and sits between the Tyrranean Sea and Apuan Alps. Viareggio’s name came from the fortress that Pisa, Lucca and Genoa built here in 1172 to defend the coast at the end of the road, via regia. Beach clubs first opened here in 1828 and since its been a hub for Italian family holidays. It peaked as a resort in the 1920’s and while La Passeggiata (‘the boardwalk’) is a bit worn now, you can still imagine the splendor looking at The Liberty Style/Art Nouveau buildings.

The town has been a port since 1913 and now some of the biggest yachts in the world are made here by companies like Perini Navi and Benetti. You won’t believe the size of these things!! Walk down to the pier to check them out sitting in the port and being made in massive hangars.

Viareggio’s most famous event is Carnevale di Viareggio, one of the biggest carnival festivals in Europe. Taking place since 1873, it now draws over one million people each year for its five masked parades full of papier mâché.

Overall there isn’t a ton to do here which makes it perfect! On our second visit we felt like regulars and hit the same spots. We spent most of our time at Bagno Irene, one of over 100 beach clubs lining the sand of Viareggio. Family run like most of the clubs, its been in the family since 1943. You feel the Italian hospitality the moment you walk in. Hotel President has a special rate (for chair, umbrella, use of their facilities) with them so we headed over late morning after the hotel’s yummy breakfast and lazed away the day on the beach surrounded by Italians on holiday. If you need an espresso or beverage, make the short walk to the club. If you’re hungry, they have amazing food. And if you want a beach massage, just look for one of the many great Asian masseuse strolling the beach offering their services (and don’t be intimidated…it’s fabulous!).

After sunset drinks on the beach, we cleaned up for dinner and strolled La Passeggiata. The town is very low key and casual. There are tons of restaurants to chose from…pizza, pasta and seafood are plenty. We like Sa Playa (V.le Margherita, 68) and Tito Pizzeria (Lungomolo del Greco 3). La Passeggiata is also fun to walk in the morning down to the pier to see the fresh catches on display or rent a bike in the park to explore.

So if you’re looking for an incredible Tuscan weekend of culture and coast, Viareggio and Lucca are perfect!

More great Viareggio photos are in the gallery!

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