Known for its famous Riviera and the splendid Alpi Apuane behind it, Viareggio extends over an area of more than 20 km of beaches that go from Lake Massaciuccoli to the banks of the Cinquale.
In the inland territory, the hills and mountains offer possibilities for mountain and rock climbing, caving and hiking up to mountain refuges.
Viareggio is a municipality in the province of Lucca situated on the northern coast of Tuscany. The population numbers over 61,000, and the city is known for the Carnival celebration and its floats that form a parade along the promenade. But that is not all: it is also an active industrial centre with many handcrafting resources.
And it is famous for fishing and flower cultivation.
Holidays in Viareggio, history and culture
Viareggio originated from a castle that the Luccans and the Genoese, allied against the Pisans, built in 1172 on the shore to defend the coast and the surrounding territory. The impressively large stronghold was called the “Castrum de Via Regia”. After all, it was built at the end of that road, called by that name by Emperor Federico Barbarossa, and it was used as a passage between the fort and the inland area. Several centuries later in 1822, Princess Paolina Bonaparte Borghese, Napoleon’s sister, had a lovely villa built near the waterfront where she spent the last years of her life.
This was the start of a new season for Viareggio, the time when swimming in the sea became popular: because of its beautiful beaches, great geographical position and its citizens’ sense of hospitality, the town began to work its way into becoming a famous beach city. In 1828, the first beach establishments were built: Nereo for men and Dori for ladies, to comply with the moral codes of the times which prohibited swimming together. Around 1860, large establishments on piles were built: the Nettuno, the Balena, the Felice, the Oceano and all of the others from the Canal to Piazza Mazzini.
At the beginning of the 1900s, the city was known as the “Pearl of the Tyrrhenian”, a popular place of culture and tourism renowned throughout Europe and characterized by its particular architectural style – a combination of Eclecticism and Art Nouveau. During WWII, violent bomb raids levelled entire neighbourhoods, causing hundreds of civilian victims. When peace came, despite the horrendous damage, Viareggio was able to make a comeback by building houses, hotels, shipyards and beach establishments.
Today the city is considerably larger, with a population of over 60,000. A lively touristic location, and not just during the summer, the city is famous throughout the world for its traditional Carnival celebration. It is an active commercial centre, with well-known industrial and handcrafting businesses mainly in the shipbuilding field.
Other important activities include fishing, with a well-equipped fleet in the characteristic harbour which also provides shelter for pleasure boats, and flower cultivation, with considerable quantities of exported cut flowers.
During the first years of the 1900s, the more elegant part of Viareggio – the “waterfront promenade” was built up with new hospitality establishments. The typical models were those of the Mediterranean coast, where Belvedere turrets dominate the landscape and the architecture is organised around the contrast between the smooth walls and fake rustication. A traditional language returned, abandoning the canonical symmetry: openings became more common and small balconies emphasised their capacity.