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The sea and hills of Versilia

From Viareggio to Forte dei Marmi, leaving a little time to stop at Colonnata and Camaiore.

The sea and hills of Versilia

The elegant town of Viareggio is the natural point of departure from where to head off in to the hillside of Versilia. Among the most popular seaside towns on Italy's Tyrrhenian coast, Viareggio is best known internationally for its Carnival. For a whole month of the year, the streets are animated by a succession of parties, parades of street performers in flamboyant costumes, and processions of floats transporting immense satiric reproductions of politicians and celebrities through the town. Obligatory a walk along the sea front promenade which, from the harbour, proceeds for some 3kms along Viale Margherita skirting a fabulous beach of fine sand. This historic street, lined with striking Liberty style buildings, is home to a great array of boutiques where to buy articles of the best Italian designer fashion, and chic, open air café where to sip a drink whilst awaiting the opening of the numerous clubs and bars in which to experience Viareggio "by night". Before leaving Viareggio, we should make a visit to the Torre Matilde; the town's oldest building; constructed between 1534 and 1542 so as to protect the port from attack.

Just 8kms from Viareggio, between the sea and the green western slopes of the Apuan Alps, lies the peaceful Camaiore. Founded by the Lucchesi in 1255 on a pre-existing roman settlement, the historic center of the town contains a great number of vestiges of its Medieval past, amongst which the 13th century Collegiate of Santa Maria Assunta, and the 11th century Church of San Michele which, despite the many alterations, still conserves its Romanesque features. In the vicinity, heading towards the mountains, one finds the stunning Badia di San Pietro, founded by the Benedictine order in the 8th century along the ancient pilgrim route of Via Francigena. An important Medieval monastic center, of its primitive Romanesque structure one can still observe the plan of three naves, the apse, and the lower part of the facade.

Following in the footsteps of the thousands of pilgrims to have travelled along the Via Francigena, one of the most important roads through medieval Europe, from Camaiore we head towards Pietrasanta, taking the time for a brief detour to Monteggiori. Perched on a rocky spur spoke 265 meters above sea level, this small medieval village reserves an enchanting view across the Camaiore Valley, Pietrasanta, and hills carpeted with olive groves and vineyards.

Arguably the town of greatest historic and artistic importance in the whole of the Versilia area, the origins of Pietrasanta date back to the 13th century. The historic center radiates out from the splendid piazza, home to the town's most significant works of architecture; the 14th century Collegiate Church of San Martino, the 16th century Palazzo Moroni and the Rocca Arringhina, this latter built in 1324 by Castruccio Castracani.

Just a few kilometers from Pietrasanta, immersed in the green hills and olive groves, we come to the village of Valdicastello Carducci, where to visit the dwelling in which the great Tuscan poet Giosuè Carducci was born. Close by lies one of Versilia's oldest houses of worship; the parish church of San Giovanni and Santa Felicità (the existence of which has been documented since the 9th century).

At this stage we turn back towards the coast, where the internationally renowned Forte dei Marmi awaits, glamorous seaside town and bathing resort boasting a large beach, and a pine wood which shelters the luxurious villas of the rich and famous from curious eyes and camera lenses. The town developed around a fortress, erected in 1788 close to a landing stage used for the embarkation of marble extracted from the quarries situated nearby. From this landing stage, which stretches some 100 meters into the sea, stunningly beautiful views can be admired.

Whilst in the vicinity of Forte dei Marmi, it would be a shame not be visit to the town of Colonnata, just 20kms away, in the eastern zone of the region where the world renowned Carrara Marble is found. A hilltop village, historically inhabited by quarrymen and their families, Colonnata is characterised by steep narrow lanes which wind upwards as far as a tiny Romanesque church. Colonnata is principally known for its lard, "lardo di Colonnata" which, with bread and tomato, once formed the quarriers' principal source of energy. An event well worth attending is the "Sagra del lardo", held annually on the second Sunday after Italy's August 15th "Ferragosto" holiday and by now a well established tourist attraction in the area.


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Forte Dei Marmi Hotels
Lucca Hotels
Viareggio Hotels
Massa Carrara Hotels