Versilia, off the beaten path: alternative things to do this summer

The area of Tuscany called Versilia is known for its endless beaches of fine sand, its well-equipped resorts full of colored umbrellas arranged in straight lines, and for its nighttime entertainment in the summertime. But the Versilia is much more than this and the area offers many alternative itineraries off the beaten bath. So, shun the stereotypes and follow our alternative itinerary in the Versilia! Follow the footsteps of the Versilia Blog Tour, the press-trip that took place from May 6 to 10. Day 1: Puccini and Massaciuccoli lake Places: Torre del Lago, Massaciuccoli, Massarosa, Pieve a Elici, Corsanico What to do: Visit the new theatre near the Massaciuccoli Lake, dedicated to the Maestro Giacomo Puccini and then the House-Museum Villa Puccini, where Puccini composed most of his operas and where you can see the piano he used and all of the things conserved in his former home in their original locations. You can also arrange a visit to Villa Orlando, where civil weddings are celebrated. Take a boat ride on the lake and reach the other side, where you'll find Roman ruins. In this old hamlet, you can visit not only the lush LIPU Oasis, but also the “Guglielmo” Lera Pavilion and the “Massaciuccoli Romana” archeological area. The journey continues to Pieve a Elici, situated on the hill top of Massarosa; there, you can visit the parish church of San Pantaleone, rebuilt in the 12th century upon the remains of an earlier medieval building. Then, go to Corsanico and visit its church: let your eyes adjust to the Rococo style inside; then look up to admire Vincenzo Colonna’s “Monumental” organ, built between 1602 and 1606. If you want to hear it work, come to the music festival in July and August.
Lago di Massaciuccoli seen from Villa Orlando in Torre del Lago
Lago di Massaciuccoli seen from Villa Orlando in Torre del Lago
Day 2: Viareggio, seaside and liberty architecture Places: Viareggio (seaside, villas, the promenade, and the pinewoods) What to do: Visit Villa Borbone, an extensive palazzo with stalls, staff quarters, store rooms and a mausoleum, in which the members of the Borbone royal family from Lucca are buried. Then take a walk through the pinewoods and reach a wild, naturalistic beach covered in Mediterranean scrub. You can also go on a walking tour around the harbor, which is frequented by fishermen. In the afternoon, I suggest a Liberty-style itinerary in the city center in order to discover the heterogeneous silhouettes of the façades, the polychrome ceramic decorations, wrought iron balusters and marble ornaments. In Viareggio, you can find varied styles as a result of a range of architectural experiments in the early 1900s. Among them are Villino Flora; Villa il Guscio; Villino “Amor Vincit Omnia”; Villino Chizzolini; and more. For a perfect end to the day, go to the Hotel Principe di Piemonte for an aperitif on the terrace, where you'll have a stunning view of both the seaside and the mountains.
Viareggio and Lido di Camaiore seen from the terrace of the Hotel Principe di Piemonte
Viareggio and Lido di Camaiore seen from the terrace of the Hotel Principe di Piemonte
Day 3: Camaiore, gourmet foods and and the hills of the Versilia Places: Camaiore, Gombitelli, Montemagno, Pontemazzori What to do: Take a walk into the centre of this small town with Roman origins that lies at the foot of the Apuan Alps. Visit the Museum of sacred art and the many historically important buildings there, including the Collegiata di Santa Maria Assunta, which has the shape of a Latin cross that dates back to 1260. Visit the Church of San Lazzaro with its beautiful cloister and the austere Badia di San Pietro, founded around the 8th century. Then go to Gombitelli, a small hamlet that boasts scenic landscapes and gastronomic delicacies, such as the “pink lard” of Salumificio Gombitelli. Now it's time to digest: walk along the paths of the Via Francigena from Montemagno to Pontemazzori.
Collegiata di Santa Maria Assunta in Camaiore
Collegiata di Santa Maria Assunta in Camaiore
Day 4: Alta Versilia and Seravezza Places: Seravezza, Querceta, Levigliani, Azzano What to do: This is the “highest” itinerary, so be sure to wear proper clothes for a mountain trip. The first stage is a visit to the Henraux marble quarries on the Cervaiole hills along the northern slopes of Monte Altissimo in the Apuan Alps. Workers still quarry the marble and the views from there are stunning. Then, you can have lunch in Azzano and visit the School of Sculpture Monte Altissimo. End the journey with a visit to the Palazzo Mediceo in Seravezza, today home to the public library, the Museum of Work and Popular Traditions of Historic Versilia and a space for important contemporary and modern art exhibitions.
Cava delle Cervaiole
Cava delle Cervaiole
Day 5: Shopping in Versilia, Pietrasanta and Forte dei Marmi Places: Pietrasanta, Forte dei Marmi What to do: Visit some of the artisan workshops that have remained in the area: shoemakers, jewelery makers, pastry shops, and cosmetics makers. Visit the centre of Pietrasanta and walk up to Rocca di Sala for a fantastic view. Then, go to Forte dei Marmi for an hour or two of luxury shopping. End the day with a plunge into the sea and and aperitif in one of the numerous beach resorts.