Located in a wide valley at the foot of the Apuan Alps, Camaiore is a city with historic foundations and owes its origins to the Romans; after establishing Lucca, they set up outposts on the slopes of Monte Prana. Among these was Camaiore, whose name comes from the ancient toponym Campus Major, the large plain that linked Lucca to the port in Luni.
Later, this territory came under the dominion of the Lombards, followed by the feudal lords in Lucca, who re-established the town’s original blueprint. They began to transform it into the elegant medieval town that we can still admire today.
During the Renaissance, control of Camaiore was passed to the Sforza, with little change until 1799, when the city fell into the hands of Napoleon’s troops who plundered many of its artworks.
Today the noble buildings in Camaiore’s historic center are a testament to the events of its past; among these are the beautiful Collegiate Church of Santa Maria Assunta, with a Latin cross plan, dating back to 1260; the Church of San Lazzaro and its cloister; and the austere and Lombard Badia di San Pietro, founded around the 8th century. Palazzo Tori Massoni is certainly worth a visit, home to the Archeological Museum.
Once in the village’s centre, don’t miss the Camaiore Museum of Sacred Art, founded to collect and preserve paintings, furnishings and sacred vestments dating back to sometime between the 14th and 16th centuries.
Since the post-second world war period, Camaiore has become increasingly well-known. This is primarily thanks to Lido, a gorgeous and elegant seaside resort overlooking the wide beach of Versilia, which - since the beginning of the twentieth century - has attracted significant figures such as Gabriele D'Annunzio, Eleonora Duse and Vittorio Emanuele III with its beauty.
If you’re on the hunt for a prehistoric cave with karstic origins look no further than Casoli, immersed in the Apuan Alps Park, where you can begin to explore the Grotta all’Onda. It’s also worth visiting the Montemagno Castle which is found in the same area.
Take a trip to the tomb of Villa Mansi, dating to back to between the 7th and 6th centuries BC and acting as remaining evidence of an Etruscan settlement in Camaiore.
Via Francigena passes through the town’s centre, with Leg 26 going from Massa to here and with Leg 27 arriving in Lucca.
Each year in June, the Corpus Domini parade takes place. Camaiore’s historic centre is filled with ‘carpets of sawdust’ – called “pula” in the Camaiorese dialect.
The historic tradition is continued along the streets by a group of artisans who create the breathtaking artistic works, filling the city with colour.
Don’t miss trying two of the area’s most typical products: Lard and Mortadella di maiale di Camaiore, two utterly delicious meats that are often served in Versilia.
Torta di pepe, a spicy rice pie, also deserves a mention. It’s said that every family has their own recipe, each with their own flair. The pie is particularly popular at Easter time, filling Camaiore’s restaurants and bakeries as well as being made by families themselves.