Why visit Viareggio?:
Viareggio is the southernmost Italian Riviera style resort on Italy's Mediterranean coast and the largest beach town in Tuscany. Liberty style buildings housing shops, cafes, and seafood restaurants line its promenade and there are several good Liberty style villas, including one built by Puccini, in town. Although Viareggio was at its peak as a resort in the early to mid 1900s, it's still a top Tuscan town for beaches, seafood, and nightlife.
It's also known for holding one of Italy's top carnevale, or mardi gras, festivals.
Viareggio is on Italy's west coast in the area of Tuscany known as the Versilia Coast. It's about 20 kilometers north of Pisa and 30 kilometers west of Lucca.
Where to Stay in Viareggio:
Many hotels are found near the beach and some have rooms with sea views or private beaches. Villa Tina was one of the first Liberty style buildings in Viareggio and the 3-star hotel still has period furniture and decor. Grand Hotel Principe del Piemonte, dating from 1922, is one of the historic hotels and is reminiscent of Viareggio's heyday. Il Principino, on the seafront across the street, was Viareggio's first beach resort built in 1938. See more top-rated Viareggio hotels.
How to Get to Viareggio:
Viareggio is on the rail line that runs along the coast between Genoa and Rome. It's just off the A12 autostrada (toll road) that runs along the coast from the French border.
Free parking is available outside the center or there are many paid parking places in town. The closest airport is Pisa, about 15 miles away. (see Italy airports map)
Viareggio holds one of the largest and most celebrated carnival festivals in Italy, drawing over a million people.
The elaborate parade, running along the seafront promenade, is usually held the three Sundays before carnevale, the day of carnevale (Shrove Tuesday), and the Sunday following. Admission is charged for the parades. Theater, music, masked balls and other events are held during the carnival season, too. There's even a carnival museum in town (see attractions below).
Viareggio Summer Festivals:
Cittadella Jazz and More is a festival of concerts during summer from mid-June through mid-August. Theater and dance performances are held during summer, too. The summer Puccini Opera Festival is held at Torre di Lago Puccini, about 4 kilometers from Viareggio.
Food and Cooking in Viareggio:
There's a small fishing port in Viareggio and you can expect good seafood made with fresh fish at most restaurants, especially those near the port area. You can even take a cooking class in one of the top restaurants.
Beaches - The coast is lined with sandy beaches, most part of privately owned facilities although there is a free beach area in the south part of the city. For a price at the private beach establishments, you get a beach chair and umbrella and use of facilities like changing rooms and restrooms.
Most facilities have a snack bar too. The sea is usually calm and good for swimming.
Promenade - A long seafront promenade lined with shops, cafes, and restaurants runs between the beach and town. The south end has Liberty-style architecture. The promenade is the place to see and be seen, especially during the evening passeggiata.
Pineta di Ponente - The large pinewood park, just two blocks from the beach, is a good place for walking and escaping the sun.
Piazza Shelley - One of the town squares is named for the poet Shelley who drowned nearby off the coast in 1822.
Villas - Villa Paolina near Piazza Shelley, was commissioned by Napoleon's sister in 1822. Several Liberty-style villas were built in the countryside in the early 1900's and the town of Viareggio later developed around them. Villa Amore, on the main street along the sea, was the first, built in 1909.
One of the best examples of Liberty style is Villino Flore, built in 1912. Villa Puccini, the composer's last villa, is on Via Belluomini, around the corner from Grand Hotel Principe del Piemonte. You can see the villas from the outside but they are not open to visitors.
Museo Cittadella del Carnevale - The Carnival Citadel Museum has an exhibition of floats, masks, carnival postcards, and other memorabilia related to carnevale. It's currently open Saturday and Sunday afternoons and admission is free.