Viareggio and Versilia: An Off-the-Beaten-Path Gem in Tuscany, Part II

View from Pieve a Elici

Spectacular views from Pieve a Elici

Versilia in Tuscany boasts an extraordinary, unique mix of sights—and while we uncovered some stunning gems in our previous post on Versilia, it was just the beginning!

From Roman ruins to Romanesque churches to stunning beaches, here are more sights you can’t miss in Versilia.

Massaciuccoli Romana

Mosaic at Massaciuccoli Romana

Black and white mosaic at Massaciuccoli Romana

Discovered in 1931, the archaeological site of Massaciuccoli Romana includes a Roman villa, thermal baths, and mosaics dating back to the 1st century A.D.

Excavations are still ongoing at the site. So far, archaeologists have found everything from bread pans to an image of the Medusa, used to ward off evil! The site is thought to have been a farmer’s dwelling that doubled as a rest-stop for travelers. You can see one of the dwelling’s mosaics, a very well-preserved black and white floor depicting marine animals, in the site’s museum.

Another significant ruin nearby is an incredible Roman villa. Built on a mountainside by a prominent family from Pisa known as the Venulei, the villa originally extended over two terraces. The position offers a stunning view of the area. On a clear day, you can even see the unmistakable Leaning Tower of Pisa in the distance! Today, only the ruins of the villa on the lower terrace have been uncovered—but with a bit of imagination, it’s easy to visualize the home’s original splendor.

Hidden gems in the hill towns

Romanesque Church at Pieve a Elici

Romanesque church at Pieve a Elici

Pieve a Elici

In the tranquil town of Pieve a Elici, it’s impossible to miss the imposing Romanesque church. Built in the 13th century, its origins date back to 4th and 5th centuries. Situated on a hilltop, the church boasts a panoramic view extending all the way to Lake Massaciuccoli.

Even with its sober, bare façade (a common characteristic of the Romanesque style), the church—and its 95-foot bell tower—make for an impressive sight. While the interior is also simple, it includes frescoes and a striking Gothic marble masterpiece at the altar.

Corsanico

Organ in Corsanico, Versilia

Organ of the Church of San Michele Arcangelo in Corsanico

In search of a truly authentic Tuscan experience? Then head to Corsanico! Despite having only some 1,000 inhabitants, this small town is rich in art and history, and hosts plenty of musical and sporting activities.

Corsanico is also known for the impressive organ in the Church of San Michele Arcangelo. Built in the early 17th century, it’s a masterpiece that has attracted famous musicians, thanks to its incredible sound quality. It’s made up of more than 800 pipes—making it able to produce an amazing variety of instrumental sounds!

Viareggio’s beaches and seafood
Seafood in Viareggio

Fresh seafood in Viareggio

Boasting miles and miles of sandy beaches, Viareggio is the largest beach town in Tuscany. (No surprise that it’s very popular with Italians in summer!).

As is common throughout Italy, the beaches are mainly private, requiring you to pay to use their facilities. But there’s a section of free beach, too. And the long stretch of promenade offers everything from restaurants to art galleries, making it perfect for a seafront stroll.

Another perk of Viareggio? Fish! Head to the pier to buy seafood fresh off the fishermen’s boats. Or enjoy a meal at a restaurant like La Posteria, which makes their pasta, bread and desserts in-house. Rare for Italy, they also have gluten-free and vegetarian options. (Find out more about eating gluten-free or vegetarian in Italy!).

Architecture in Viareggio

But there’s more to Viareggio than the seaside. Some of the town’s architectural gems include…

Villa Borbone

Villa Borbone in Viareggio

Villa Borbone

The remarkable Villa Borbone, surrounded by a beautiful park, lies just outside of the town center. Commissioned in 1820 by Maria Luisa di Borbone, the Duchess of Lucca, it was meant to be a palace with an attached hunting lodge. But the Duchess’ son had no interest in such grandeur—so those elaborate plans weren’t quite realized.

Which isn’t to say the complex isn’t still over-the-top! Villa Borbone includes a mansion, chapel, and areas that were once the stables and residences of the staff. The chapel is especially important—it serves as the mausoleum of the Borbone family’s Parma branch.

Viareggio’s Liberty-style buildings

The Liberty style (also known as Art Nouveau) became wildly popular in Viareggio in the early 1900’s. Walk down the town’s main streets to take in the stunning Liberty buildings, many of them designed jointly by architect Alfredo Belluomini and the painter Chini.

Liberty style architecture in Viareggio

Liberty style architecture in Viareggio

Once residences for wealthy families, some of these buildings have been converted to hotels, museums, even apartments. And they’re every bit as stunning as they were a century ago.

We’d again like to thank Serena Giovannoni of WishVersilia, the support from sponsors and towns in the Province of Lucca for a wonderful experience during the Versilia Blog Tour.

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