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Sep 2012

Viareggio Coat of Arms

You should know the drill by now in these Tuscan-hillside towns? Persevere with trying to park at the bottom then lug it up, on foot, straight to the top.

That way, the inevitable church or cattedrale up there provides a calming sanctuary and after 20 minutes you'll have steamed off, all ready for a fair-minded mooch on the way back down.

Except, there's no need for none of that today. The hillsides have been tired of so the flip-flops are being donned to be down by the beach and Viareggio is to Tuscany what South Shields is to Tyne & Wear[1].

Just like the one in Chelsea, this ' King's Road' is packed with poseurs, styled and preened to be seen and paying a premium for ordinarily, standard Euro-fayre.

Just not today.

[1] Haddaway with your Whitley Bays and Tynemouths.

Thankfully, this place isn't the ugly looking port you passed over on your way into Pisa. That'll be Livorno, 20 miles south and is to Tuscany what Blyth is to Northumberland. Port-wise, that is, but beach-wise, Livorno doesn't have much suitable sand so people flock here for the four-mile stretch that runs north of town.

In that fine, European tradition, you'll have to pay for the privately operated pleasure of a plodge and skinflints have to head south to the Parco naturale Migliarino  San Rossore Massaciuccoli to get the old toes wet in the Tyrrhenian Sea for free.

The middle two weeks in August are still the traditional time for Italians to head to the coast to cool off when, presumably, there are more takers than today although that deluge earlier won't have helped.

  Ufficio Informazione Turistiche sovracomunale (Viale Giosuè Carducci)

The port and the promenade might occupy you for half an afternoon but apart from paying to sit on one of the many bagni in summer, even these guys might struggle with suggestions.

This didn't really take off as a resort until the early 20th century with the creation of the promenade and the Art Nouveau suddenly started to make an appearance.

This used to be all fields round here, marshland, actually. That was all drained to make way for a new, watery gateway to Lucca who'd had their previous port nicked by Florence in a series of territorial ding-dongs.

Enticements were made for people to move here meaning this place was once the Milton Keynes with mosquitos of the region but without the concrete vacche, of course.

No such enticements today to get the numbers up, they're not even offering a discount on the sun loungers.

The area around the old port is where you'll end up parking, probably.

Although most of what you can see wasn't, the Burlamacca Canal was carved out back in the 16th century around the same time they drained the marshes.

  Benetti Yachts (Via Michele Coppino)

They build ships down in the docks but not just any old ships, super-yacht ships! Benetti Yachts are big fabricators of the fibreglass with some units shipping northwards of £100m. It looks like you can wander around although those tatty flip-flops are unlikely to convince that you're a potential customer.

This is to Tuscany what  Swan Hunter once was to Tyneside and  Sting and Jimmy Nail will remind you of that.

They've an annual, four-week festival in February whose floats are the best known in Italy, nay Europe, they say. The main mascot is the clown Burlamacco who, after some gender reassignment, nicked his name from the canal.

As you'd expect, the floats are imaginatively designed and adorned but, I dunno? Just looks like someone here is not long back from Falkirk?