The gem of Versilia, the city of Carnival

Timeless charm: culture and lifestyle, literature and music, exhibitions and events

On one side, a gently sloping sea bed. On the other, the white marble of the Apuan Alps. A long (and famous) walk parallel to a wide sandy beach. Intact Art Nouveau buildings.
The main advantage of staying on Viale Daniele Manin – a part of the long promenade and the real city center of Viareggio – is that from here I can fill my eyes with the blue color of the sea and I can easily reach all the landmarks of the city.

The key points of the compass that guides me every day here are beauty, art, nature and good food: they are the very essence of the city.

My map consists of some iconic spots such as the Municipal Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art (GAMC) in the historic Palazzo delle Muse. Next to it, there’s the Matteucci Foundation for Modern Art, inside Villino Caprotti, a beautiful liberty-style villa that is just the perfect location for exhibitions by Italian artists, especially the Macchiaioli.

A few steps from there, Villa Argentina is another liberty-style gem, a stately home within a large garden in the residential area known as “the four winds”.

As I keep walking along the promenade, from Viale Daniele Manin to Viale Carducci, I reach the historic Grand Hotel Principi di Piemonte, where I decide to stop for a classy aperitivo.

For lunch, there’s a wide variety of local eateries to choose from in the area of the port, beyond the Burlamacchi canal and La Madonnina. My favorite is Da Rizieri, especially for the delicious Tuscan chickpea flatbread they serve for lunch or as an afternoon snack. A quick alternative? Just turn around the corner and pick a table at the legendary Adone, where you can have some excellent sandwiches. The combinations of flavors are never random or banal.

If you are looking for the right spot for a coffee break, a pampering breakfast or a sweet treat, the Gambalunga pastry shop is where you want to be.

For dinner, I’ll play it safe and go to Da Giorgio, on Via Zanardelli, near home and next to a beautiful villa that belonged to Napoleon’s sister Paolina Bonaparte and currently hosts events and exhibitions. I already know want I will have: the catch of the day. It has never disappointed me.

Going inland, you can see the symbol of Viareggio along the canal: Torre Matilda, a watchtower at the time of the Maritime Republics, it is now used for art exhibitions and book presentations.

Viareggio is also synonymous with Carnival. The main character is Burlamacco, the iconic mask created by Uberto Bonetti in 1930. His partner is lady Ondina; her name, meaning “little wave” in Italian, probably derives from the waves of the canal. The floats parade along on the promenade in front of my home every Sunday in February.

The celebrations continue in the town’s districts (Darsena, Marco Polo, Torre del Lago, Croce Verde): closed to traffic, the streets of each district are filled with masks, music and dancing. Carnival has its own hub throughout the year: it is called Cittadella del Carnevale and it’s a big city park with the workshops of papier-mâché masters, the local craftsmen who build the giant allegorical floats by hand.
Oh, there’s even the sea in Viareggio. But that’s another story.

Blue as the sea, white as marble.