The Versilia is that part of Tuscany in the Lucca area located between the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Apuan Alps. It is a land of endless sand beaches, hills cultivated with olives and vineyards, and beautiful cities along the coastline and at the foot of steep mountains.
In summer, it’s a particularly popular destination for its swimming facilities, the Puccini Opera festival and its intense nightlife. But Versilia is also synonymous with art and craftsmanship. Pietrasanta is its artistic capital. It has a long-standing tradition of marble workers: "even the great Michelangelo came to Versilia in search of marble for his works". Camaiore is famous for wrought iron craftsmanship and Viareggio hosts one of the most famous Carnivals in Italy. But an important part (maybe one of the best parts) of its cultural heritage lies in its culinary tradition.
Write down these 8 foodie things to do: there’s something for any season you might visit!
1. Sweet afternoon snack: Indulge in a soft Bombolone
One of the classic foodie things to do in summer is enjoying a very Tuscan bombolone by the beach. You can find them promptly at 4pm in all beach establishments, but also in the pinewood area of Viareggio.
2. Stay warm: Carnival and Cacciucco alla Viareggina
Throughout the month of February, tourists from all over Italy come to Viareggio to admire the most famous allegorical floats in the world. It’s also a good time to taste something warm and hearty, such as the local seafood soup, or Cacciucco alla Viareggina. This amazing dish is made with octopus, cuttlefish, trash fish, mantis shrimp and mussels, plus a few spoonfuls of tomato paste.
3. Lunch or dinner by the beach
Do not miss the opportunity to enjoy a unique meal by the sea. There are many beach establishments or stabilimenti balneari offering local specialties like spaghetti trabaccolara, cuttlefish with chards and other dishes made exclusively with fresh fish.
4. Fishing tourism: Experience the sea
Spend a full day aboard a fishing boat and take part in the various stages of sea fishing. After a morning of hard work, enjoy lunch on board made with the freshest fish ever. Pescaturismo (fishing tourism) boat tours organized by Evolution, for example, usually depart from Viareggio's dock.
5. Freshest impossible: Visit the fish market on Viareggio's harbour
The freshest fish in Viareggio is sold on the dock. Every morning fishermen unload the catch of the night and sell it directly from ships or at kiosks located along the dock. You can find them every morning in the harbour area, between via Coppino and the pedestrian bridge crossing the Burlamacca channel.
6. Do you like spicy food? Take a peperoncino tour
Hot pepper is native to the Americas, but in modern times, it’s become a key element in many regional cuisines. In Tuscany, it has so many fans that some farms are devoted almost exclusively to its production. In Torre del Lago Puccini, Carmazzi has been producing peperoncino plants for the last 30 years. It boasts more than 1000 varieties (the biggest peperoncino collection in Europe) thanks to an active partnership between the Pisa University and the Accademia Nazionale del Peperoncino. If you want to know everything about this fruit or simply sample its pungency, you can book a walking tour among the colourful hot pepper nurseries. At Carmazzi, you can also discover the fabulous world of edible flowers: flowers for frying or for making salads, sauces and desserts.
7. Viareggio’s street food: Fish and chips, Tuscan style
Forget about London's iconic dish. Viareggio's fish and chips are made with freshly caught cuttlefish and shrimp. Find it at “La barchina del Fish and Chips” and "Friggitoria Gastronomia dei Mari": two small fishing boats moored at Burlamacca channel.
8. Food and Fun all year round
Best food festivals
During the summer the area comes to life with a multitude of festivals where local recipes based on fish, meat and vegetables take center stage. Here are some of them:
In the Massarosa area, from the middle of July and the beginning of August, the Festival of Ranocchiocciola takes place. As its name suggests, the festival specialties are frogs (rane) and snails (chiocciole), but you can find other local products as well, such as grilled meat and fish.
In Montramito area (near Massarosa), don't miss the “pallette con i funghi” festival, i.e. porcini mushrooms with cornmeal polenta.
In Bozzano, between the end of July and mid-August, it's held the “Sagra della pupporina and tordello”. The “pupporina” is a sweet round-shaped cake, made of fried dough topped with caster sugar and made with flour, eggs, sugar, butter, baking powder, anise seeds, a little pebble of marsala liquor and lemon peel. The “tordello” is the piece de resistance of all fashionable food in Camaiore area, and this homemade stuffed pasta with veal sauce ragu dates back to medieval times.
In Quiesa at the end of August, don’t miss the Festival of “Bruschetta”, a toasted slice of home bread with extra virgin olive oil, fresh chopped tomatoes and basil.
Read more here Food and wine eventsEnolia (April at Palazzo Mediceo in Seravezza), the festival dedicated to high quality Italian extra virgin olive oil.
Terre di Toscana (March, Lido di Camaiore) one of the most important events showcasing the best Tuscan wines.
Special thanks to Serena Puosi for her insider tips :)