With its hot summers and mild winters, shady pine forest and colored Liberty-style houses, it’s little wonder that Viareggio is one of Tuscany’s most popular coastal resorts.
Relax on the beach or swim in the Mediterranean. For shade, walk through the halls of Villa Paolina, built for the sister of the French emperor Napoleon. The villa houses civic museums and a contemporary art gallery.
Nearby is Piazza Shelley, a historic square named after the Romantic-era poet Percy Bysshe Shelley who died in a shipwreck just off the coast of Viareggio. Admire the sculpture of the poet, made by the talented Italian, Urbano Lucchesi.
A short walk away from Piazza Shelley is La Passeggiata di Viareggio. The promenade’s name refers to the Italian tradition of leisurely walks with the family, so join the locals for a stroll. Enjoy a typical Italian espresso, pizza or pasta marinara in one of the bistros. On a hot summer’s day, eat a gelato and sit in the shade, just like Giacomo Puccini used to do when he composed his operas here.
Don’t miss the Statue of Burlamacco. The big clown promotes the Carnival of Viareggio, a local tradition since 1873. The elaborate annual spectacle of street parades and cabaret around February attracts large crowds from all over the world.
The Pineta Viareggio is the town’s pine forest and is divided into two areas. Explore the Western Forest, in the center of town, on foot or hop on a pony-drawn carriage. The Eastern Forest is 7 miles (12 kilometers) away and houses Villa Borbone, a historic mansion with art exhibits and cultural performances.
Viareggio is just 60 miles (100 kilometers) from Florence and 14 miles (22 kilometers) from Pisa, which has the nearest airport. If you have a car, you may want to take a short drive out to Torre del Lago, where Puccini was buried. Don’t miss the open-air theater shows of Festival Puccini if you are visiting in July or August.