A Land of Wonders...
A famous excerpt from the local writer Mario Tobino is painted in huge characters on the pier of Viareggio's harbour: "Viareggio, in you I was born and in you I wish to die" (Viareggio in te son nato in te spero morire).
That was my resolution before 2006, the year when I left my home town and ventured into the wider international world.
After twelve years abroad I have seen my eyes progressively assuming the perspective of a foreigner, and now I can experience directly what for decades I heard tourists saying about my home land. In those times I could not quite understand why they were so taken by it.
Viareggio and its surroundings are just stunning: the waters, the sand, the mountains, the woods, the olive trees, the vineyards, the little villages perched over the valleys, the hidden historical and art treasures.
I will never forget when a few years ago I went into an olive plantation after a very long time away: here in England I may see the odd isolated olive tree in a garden, but there I was completely surrounded by mighty specimens as far as as my eyes could see. It was not nostalgia, it was a completely fresh experience, an epiphany I could not have had when I was still "too Italian", I experienced the hills of my childhood and youth as the most exotic I had ever visited.
In the following I am collecting the best picks of things that you can do and see in Viareggio, both within walking distance as well as enticing day trips into the surrounding area. They are a mixture of my memories and the contributions of my friends. It is a work in progress so please revisit this page to see new updates :-)
Sea and Beaches
You can just relax on the Viareggio beach within walking distance from the house enjoying all the tourist comforts or explore other landmarks of the coastline on day trips: Macchia Lucchese coastal park, Cinque Terre, Golfo di Baratti, Tuscan Islands.
Art & History
Pisa (20km), Lucca (20Km) and Florence (100km) are the obvious destinations not to be missed: if you are new to Italy and interested in art and history they will blow your mind away.
On paths less trodden and even closer to home, you can find authentic gems like Camaiore, Pietrasanta and Seravezza away from the buzz of the big cities.
Explore Inner Tuscany
Crossing the boundaries of the Lucca province, you access the typical Tuscan landscape which features the world renowned Chianti vineyard in the triangle between Siena, Volterra and Florence. Volterra, Siena and San Gimignano are a classic and well worth a day trip from the house.
Restaurants, gelateria and pizzerias are in great abundance in the city. You have some at walking distance from the house. 'Rizieri' and 'Rusticanella' are the best take away pizzerias, my first call when I go back to visit. Do not forget to try the 'Cecina'(made with chickpea flour), a local specialty that I even prefer to pizza.
Mountains & Water
The Apuane Alps are an impressive alpine environment with views of the sea and luscious wooded valleys where the sign of old hamlets are still very visible. Packed with marked trails,it is a veritable paradise for hikers and walkers.
Beyond the Apuane Alps, the narrower valley of the Garfagnana still allows the discovery of little restaurants serving unforgettable local food specialties.
The wet area of Massaciuccoli Lake and the coastal Mediterranean forests complete the variety of natural landscapes.
Viareggio is famous in Italy for its Carnival in January/February. Lucca Comics is another big event in October. During the summer, countless local food and music festivals dot the nearby villages and towns.
Viareggio boasts scores of posh shops on its promenade, from home decor to the most famous and coolest fashion brands. Forte dei Marmi, approximately 15 km away is probably the poshest of all. When I was a kid we used to have fun guessing the price of items in the shop window.