Versilia, Tuscany: An Off-the-Beaten-Path Gem, Part I

Lake_Massaciuccoli
Lake Massaciuccoli in Versilia, Tuscany

This is Tuscany too!

When you think of travel to Italy, Versilia, in the region of Tuscany, might not be the first destination that comes to mind. Located in the shadow of the well-renowned areas of Chianti and the Val d’Orcia, Versilia is definitely off the beaten path. But Versilia has it all, including the rolling hills and lovely vineyards that have made Tuscany so famous—not to mention plenty of beautiful beaches.

Over the next few posts, we’ll #takewalks in Versilia and uncover some of the Tuscan district’s best hidden gems.

Versilia, Tuscany: A Hidden Gem

With its lively seaside resorts and stretches of sand beaches, Versilia is a well-known summer destination to Italians. But as well as beaches, Versilia boasts charming hill towns, Roman ruins, the Apuan Alps (where famous Carrara marble is quarried—Michelangelo’s David was carved from Carrara marble), hiking trails, the dazzling Lake Massaciuccoli, and gorgeous villas… just to name a few of Versilia’s finest gems.

On the banks of Lake Massaciuccoli, Versilia, Tuscany

Along the banks of Lake Massaciuccoli in Versilia

Thousands of travelers have been drawn to Versilia over the years—including Giacomo Puccini, the brilliant Italian composer whose operas included La Bohème and La Tosca. When Puccini first visited Torre del Lago, he was overwhelmed by its beauty and described it as “paradise.” He wound up making his home, and composing many of his masterpieces, in the lakeside town!

Want to make like Puccini and head to Lake Massaciuccioli? Some of the lake’s attractions include…

The Torre del Lago Opera Festival and Puccini Theater

If you love the opera, you can’t miss experiencing one of Puccini’s masterpieces during the Torre del Lago Opera Festival. The Festival, which takes place each July and August, was founded in 1930 to fulfill Puccini’s wishes. As he wrote in a letter, “I always come out here and take a boat to go and shoot snipes … but once I would like to come here and listen to one of my operas in the open air.” That year, a makeshift theater was built. The first performance of La Bohème was conducted there by Pietro Mascagni, a classmate of Puccini.

Puccini_Theater

Open-air theater with an amazing backdrop

The festival’s operas are performed in the modern open-air Puccini theater, with the stunning Lake Massaciuccoli as their backdrop. If experiencing Puccini’s operas in such a lovely venue weren’t striking enough, it’s even better knowing you’re only a stone’s throw away from where the maestro composed these masterpieces!

Villa Puccini

Puccini’s home for 30 years and now his mausoleum, Villa Puccini was an ancient watch tower after which the town Torre del Lago was named. With the lake only a few steps from the villa, Puccini bought it in 1899 as it allowed him to devote time to his two passions: music and hunting.

After Puccini’s death, his son Antonio converted the villa to a museum, keeping the home’s original decor. It’s managed today by Puccini’s granddaughter, Simonetta. Visiting the Puccini museum, you get a real feel for Puccini’s life and works. In the living room, you still find the pianos where he composed his masterpieces, memorabilia from his accomplishments, and portraits of Puccini at different stages of his life. Other items on display include his handwritten notes to his wife when he wasn’t able to speak after his throat surgery, his hunting boots and gear , and one of his 15 driver’s licenses (at the time, you needed to get a new license each time you changed cars!).

Villa Puccini, Torre del Lago, Versilia, Tuscany

Puccini’s home where he composed most of his masterpieces

When Puccini died in Brussels after complications from his throat surgery, he was first buried in Milan. Later, he was laid to rest in the villa’s chapel.

Villa Orlando

Only a short walk from Villa Puccini, you come to the gates of Villa Orlando. Walking down the endless tree-lined path leading up to the villa, there’s no doubt that it’ll be something to behold!

Tree-lined path in Villa Orlando

Tree-lined path leading to the Villa

Built in 1869 as a hunting lodge, the property was later bought by Salvatore Orlando, a friend (and hunting companion) of Puccini.  Villa Orlando covers an area of  more than 40,000sq meters (approximately 430,000sq ft), complete with a boat house and private access to the lake.

Three floors and topped with a tower, all of the villa’s rooms are beautifully decorated. But the East Drawing room is especially striking: The ceiling is adorned with a beautiful fresco of a flight of wild ducks. And the view of the lake is breathtaking.

View of Lake Massaciuccoli from Villa Orlando, Versilia

Breathtaking view of Lake Massaciuccoli from the East Drawing room

La Piaggetta and Boat Cruise

La Piaggetta is a stunning historic dwelling on the edge of Lake Massaciuccoli in the town of Massarosa. Like many villas on the banks of the lake, the property originally was bought as a hunting lodge by the great-grandfather of the current owners.

La Piaggetta, Massarosa, Versilia

Beautiful grounds of La Piaggetta

Renovated and converted to a bed-and-breakfast five years ago, the well-kept grounds of this Art Noveau villa and the tranquility of its location make it a perfect getaway. For an unforgettable experience, take a sunset boat cruise from here. With the music of Puccini in the background, you couldn’t ask for a more perfect ending to your day in Versilia!

Have you been to Versilia? What did you think? Let us know in the comments!

Huge thanks to Serena Giovannoni of WishVersilia for the invitation to the Versilia Blog Tour and the hospitality that was extended to us during our stay. We’d also like to thank DonnaeWeb, the Province of Lucca and the various towns that supported this initiative, as well as the many generous small businesses that made this possible.

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