Viareggio is another flat city with a striking beachfront promenade. Given its summer-vacation vibes, you may ask, why winter? One word: Carnevale! Carnevale (Carnival) is a nearly month-long series of parades, masquerade balls, and raucous revelry in the days leading up to the Christian season of Lent. It culminates with “Martedi’ Grasso” (Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday), the day before Ash Wednesday. Typically Carnival runs through much of February but it all depends on where Easter, and therefore Lent, fall in a given year.
Italy’s big-name destination for all this masked madness is Venice, but Viareggio is Tuscany’s Carnival capital, and a huge attraction in its own right. Each year world-class floats, designed down to the last detail, parade through the (flat) streets on Sundays in a spectacle that’s easy to feel part of from the sidelines. Biting cultural commentary and caricatures of figures from the political and entertainment worlds always make appearances on the floats, delighting the crowds.
A short train ride away, Florence is far less crowded in winter than at other times of year—it’s an excellent season to take in the Tuscan capital’s treasures. You may even luck out and not have to wait in line, or get some precious moments in front of a world-famous painting by yourself! The Uffizi Gallery, home to countless artistic masterpieces, is 100 percent wheelchair accessible as of December 2017, with a ramp leading inside from via della Ninna, the small street separating the museum from the neighboring Palazzo Vecchio. The latter, Florence’s longtime seat of civic power, is accessible from via dei Gondi on the opposite side.
Slightly less strenuous (due to its size and constant lack of crowds) is the Museo Stefano Bardini, named for an antiquarian and art dealer and home to a cabinet of collected curiosities. Visitors with disabilities have a special entrance from Piazza de’ Mozzi 1.