All Versilia from South to North
A special tour of the Coast most glamorous of Tuscany
TORRE DEL LAGO
Our first stop is the Regional Park of Migliarino, San Rossore, and the Massaciuccoli Lake, located very close to Pisa and its world-famous leaning tower. This protected park is rich in low dunes, pioneer plants, pinewoods planted in the eighteenth century and sweet-smelling stretches of Mediterranean scrub populated with deer and wild boars.
At Torre del Lago, an environmentally-friendly navigation service offers tours of the Massaciuccoli Lake, a WWF and LIPU-protected area: a paradise for birdwatching and naturalistic photography lovers.
Situated on the lake’s shore facing the coast is the famous Villa Puccini, where Giacomo Puccini, the great composer of the Tosca, Bohème and Turandot operas, spent the last years of his life, and where the Grand Open-Air Theatre stands. Every summer, this heavenly lakeside theatre attracts opera fans from all over the world for the prestigious Puccini Festival, which in 2015 (in its 61st year) will be held from July 24 to August 30.
Unforgettable is a walk along Viareggio’s promenade, with its eclectic repertoire of architectural and decorative styles that have shaped cafés, beach clubs, hotels and buildings. Neoclassical and early twentieth-century Art Nouveau villas, Art Deco and Rationalist buildings of the 1920s and 1930s: from the Savoia Movie Theatre to Magazzini Duilio 48, Principe di Piemonte Hotel, chalet Martini, Gran Caffè Regina Margherita, the Balena bathing establishment and the facades of Villini Tolomei and Chizzolini.
LIDO DI CAMAIORE
Fossa dell’Abate marks the boundary with Lido di Camaiore, the ideal destination for a family-friendly vacation. Swimming and sunbathing on the beach during the day turn to music, drinks, ice-cream and fun at night along the promenade lined with shops, cafés, ice-cream parlors and mini amusement parks.
The Lido di Camaiore’s pier, built in 2008, separates this area from the newly-built pier of Tonfano and from the three small seaside towns that we visit next on our tour and have a more informal and casual atmosphere than the nearby Forte dei Marmi.
LE FOCETTE, TONFANO,
Le Focette, once the heart of the Versilian area’s nightlife with the famous Bussola club, owned by Bernardini, and other popular clubs where the greatest singers of the ‘60s and ‘70s performed, including Mina; next comes Tonfano, with its lovely street markets and focaccia stalls; last but not least, Fiumetto, home of the beautiful Versiliana park, so dear to the great poet D’Annunzio, where a popular music and theatre festival is held every year in summertime.
FORTE DEI MARMI
Viale Morin, the quiet and tree-lined residential avenue running parallel to the seafront, takes us straight to Forte dei Marmi, the Versilia area’s most exclusive town.
The bustling holiday resort atmosphere, which starts fading in Fiumetto, disappears here: private and selective beach clubs, high-end designer boutiques, luxury shops, gourmet restaurants. An upmarket and elegant summer retreat, Forte dei Marmi is the Italian answer to Saint Tropez, although it seems to have forgotten lately the low-key chic that once pervaded it and made it the buen retiro of the Agnelli family.
Do not miss Forte dei Marmi’s Wednesday street market (a smaller version is held on Sundays), where you can find quite expensive but beautiful and sophisticated items of all sorts, and then treat yourself to a Negroni cocktail at the Capannina, at sunset, to take in the old-fashioned atmosphere that makes it so unique. If you’re a nightlife lover, welcome to wonderland. The Italian “gilded youth” flocks to this part of the coast every night, with the evening evolving gently from aperitivo to dinner to dancing at the Capannina, usually at the crowded piano bar.
FROM VITTORIA APUANA
TO MARINA DI MASSA
After Forte dei Marmi, the vacation goes back to a more family-focused style. Vittoria Apuana, Cinquale, Poveromo, Ronchi and Marina di Massa are definitely more traditional and affordable seaside destinations and the restyling they have undergone (especially Cinquale and Vittoria Apuana) in the past few years has made a big improvement in appearance.
Poveromo - in the 1700s it was a marshy and inaccessible place, populated with criminals fleeing from justice- began developing into a residential area in the late 1970s, with big villas surrounded and protected by the lush vegetation and thick pinewoods. In those years, immediately following the economic boom, there was a very popular club in this area, Oliviero, which was in competition with La Bussola and La Capannina, having the plus of allowing customers to enjoy drinks and relax by the poolside. It closed down in early 2000, but it will be forever part of the history of this piece of Tuscan coast.