What to eat, drink and do in Versilia
Author: JOHN IRVING
Photography: Simon Bajada
The home of the great composer, Versilia could be Italy's best kept secret. This is our guide to Tuscany's northern resort region, filled with natural beauty, beaches, and elegant seafood restaurants.
The nearest international airport to the region is in Pisa, 25 kilometres south of Viareggio. The Versilia district is easy to reach by car or train from Rome, Florence, Genoa and Milan. The autostrada A12 runs parallel to the coast, just a couple of kilometres inland.
Grand Hotel Principe di Piemonte
Prestige, class and refinement are rolled into one in an elegant Liberty palazzo on the Viareggio promenade. Be sure to book at its two-star restaurant, Il Piccolo Principe.
Piazza Giacomo Puccini 1, 55049 Viareggio, +39 058 44 011, slh.com
Hotel Plaza e de Russie
Relive the atmosphere of the Grand Tour in the oldest luxury hotel in town.
Piazza Massimo D'Azeglio 1, 55049 Viareggio, +39 058 444 449, plazaederussie.com
Locanda Le Monache
A recently restored hotel-restaurant adjacent to a 16th-century convent in the old town centre.
Piazza XXIX Maggio 36, 55041 Camaiore, +39 058 49 89258, www.lemonache.com
Hotel Club I Pini
A charming hotel in an Art Nouveau mansion just 200 metres from the beach.
Via Roma 43, 55041 Lido di Camaiore, +39 058 46 6103, clubipini.com
Hotel-meets-art gallery with an extraordinary collection of modern and contemporary Italian paintings in guestrooms and public spaces.
Palazzo Barsanti Bonetti, Via Garibaldi 35, 55045 Pietrasanta, +39 058 47 93726, albergopietrasanta.com
Likely the oldest seafood restaurant in Viareggio. Don't miss the baby cuttlefish with polenta and the cacciucco.
Via Sant'Andrea 27, 55049 Viareggio, +39 058 49 43266, trattoriabuonamico.it
This elegant seafood restaurant is much favoured by pioneers of Italy's Slow Food and Gambero Rosso gastronomic movements.
Via Giuseppe Mazzini 122, 55049 Viareggio, +39 058 43 1382, romanoristorante.it
Trattoria La Darsena
Fine traditional Viareggio fare.
Via Virgilio 150, 55049 Viareggio, +39 058 43 92785, trattorialadarsena.it
Osteria Barsanti 54
This pleasant historic osteria is the place to sample typical local dishes, especially inland specialties such as tordelli and zuppa Lucchese.
Via Padre Eugenio Barsanti 52-54, 55045 Pietrasanta, +39 058 47 15114, osteriabarsanti54.com
Habitués claim this restaurant serves the best fish in Italy. In the words of its owner, Lorenzo Viani, "A fish has 24 virtues, but loses one with each hour that passes."
Via Giosuè Carducci 61, 55042 Forte dei Marmi, +39 058 48 74030, ristorantelorenzo.com
Mercato del Forte
With craft, pottery, objets d'art, napery and designer fashion, Forte dei Marmi's Wednesday morning market is tantamount to Milan by the sea.
Parco di Migliarino, San Rossore, Massaciuccoli
This nature park, which spreads south from Lake Massaciuccoli, spans wetlands and Mediterranean scrub, and features Roman ruins, baths and a museum of antiquities.
+39 050 53 9111, parcosanrossore.org
The annual summer festival in Torre del Lago is dedicated to the operas of Puccini. You can also visit the villa where the great man wrote them.
+39 058 43 59322, puccinifestival.it/en/
Carnevale di Viareggio
Without doubt, Italy's most rowdy but good-natured "politicised" carnival.
+39 058 45 8071, viareggio.ilcarnevale.com