Versilia

How I discovered the Hidden Beauty of Versilia

Being a UK native with Italian ancestors, I have always spent my summer holidays in Italy, more precisely in Lucca, where my family owns a property amidst olive tree hills. For years, I had been told that Versilia, the seemingly VIP seaside Lucchese promenade, was exorbitantly expensive and not particularly appealing. Only recently did I discover that these assumptions were far from the truth. Versilia boasts immense beauty with its mountains, landscapes, forests, rivers, ancient routes, and villages. And yes, if you enjoy shopping, art galleries, parties, and unique experiences, you can find all of this and more there.

Basic information

Versilia is a land rich in landscapes, culture, gastronomy, with a little wine production, many events, a wonderful nature, outdoor sports, lakes, sea, mountains – a true paradise at hand, very close to major Italian cities and easy to reach.

Versilia, located along the northwest coast of Tuscany, is easily accessible by various means of transport. You can reach it by flying into Pisa International Airport, which is around 20 minutes away by car or 40 minites by bus or train. Alternatively, Florence’s Amerigo Vespucci Airport is about an hour drive. Once in Versilia, you’ll find a range of accommodations to suit every traveler, from luxurious seaside resorts and charming boutique hotels to cozy bed and breakfasts nestled in the countryside and mountain shelters in the Apuan Alps.

Versilia is a treasure trove of cultural and natural wonders. The region is home to several historic towns and villages: in Pietrasanta, you can visit the Piazza del Duomo, the Chiostro di Sant’Agostino. Seravezza boasts the stunning Medici Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, while Camaiore offers a glimpse into history with its ancient walking paths, forests, churches and monasteries. Nature enthusiasts will delight in the Apuan Alps and birdwatchers will enjoy the serene landscapes of Massarosa. For those seeking entertainment, Viareggio’s Carnival and vibrant nightlife are not to be missed. Whether you’re interested in art, history, nature, or simply relaxing on the beach, Versilia has something for everyone.

lake massaciuccoli and apuan alps from torre del lago
Lake Massaciuccoli and Apuan Alps from Torre del Lago

The Origins of the name Versilia

The term “Versilia” has evolved over time, referring to different geographical areas in the Lucca region of Tuscany, Italy. Here are the main differences between the historical Versilia, the Versilia coined by Gabriele D’Annunzio, and the contemporary Versilia:

Versilia Storica (Historical Versilia)

The historical Versiglia, as mentioned in the Leone X document dated 1513, comprised the territories of thr municipalities now called Stazzema and Seravezza. These areas are located in the hills and mountains of the Apuan Alps, northeast of the modern-day Versilia. The historical Versilia was known for its rich mineral resources, particularly marble quarries, which have been exploited since ancient Roman times. The region was also important for its strategic position, controlling the routes between the coast and the inland areas.

Versilia coined by Gabriele D’Annunzio

In the early 20th century, the famous Italian poet and writer Gabriele D’Annunzio (‘Alcyone’) popularized the term “Versilia” to refer to a broader area that included the coastal towns of Pietrasanta and Forte dei Marmi, in addition to the historical Versilia. D’Annunzio’s Versilia encompassed the fashionable seaside resorts and the thriving artistic community in Pietrasanta. This area became a popular destination for the Italian elite, artists, and intellectuals during the early 1900s. The inclusion of Pietrasanta and Forte dei Marmi expanded the concept of Versilia beyond its historical boundaries.ù

Contemporary Versilia

Today, the term “Versilia” is used to describe an even larger area, which includes all the coastal municipalities in the Lucca province, stretching from the border with the province of Massa-Carrara in the north to the municipality of Viareggio in the south. The contemporary Versilia encompasses the following main municipalities:

  • Forte dei Marmi
  • Seravezza
  • Stazzema
  • Pietrasanta
  • Camaiore
  • Massarosa
  • Viareggio

This contemporary definition of Versilia has become popular since the mid-20th century Dolce Vita, as tourism and seaside resorts have grown in importance along the entire coast. The area is now known for its beautiful beaches, vibrant nightlife, cultural events, and high-end tourism facilities. The contemporary Versilia also includes the Lake Massaciuccoli and the surrounding nature reserves, adding a significant environmental dimension to the region’s appeal.

My decision to spend more time there

After my very first visit, I was already sure I would soon rent a house in Versilia in order to be able to spend more time there exploring around while working remotely – to say it all, it was in that moment that I made the decision not only to rent, but to buy a house in Versilia). I had fallen in love with the region’s natural beauty, rich culture, and warm-hearted people.. In order to decide which place to choose for my Versilia vacation house, I started exploring the major towns and cities, taking some notes (you find’em below) and receiving useful tips. Being inside the art world since the beginning of my professional journey, I found myself completely intrigued by the proximity to everything – from galleries with international guests and high-society events to village festivals.


The Artistic Heart of Pietrasanta

My journey of discovery began in Pietrasanta, a charming town renowned for its artistic heritage. As I wandered through the narrow streets, I stumbled upon numerous art galleries and workshops where skilled artisans were creating magnificent sculptures. The town’s main square, Piazza del Duomo, took my breath away with contemporary art oper-air installations, a nice cathedral and the imposing bell tower. The creative energy that flowed through Pietrasanta was palpable, and I couldn’t help but feel inspired by it.


Seravezza: A Hidden Gem in the Apuan Alps

Next, I ventured to Seravezza, a hidden gem nestled in the Apuan Alps. The town’s picturesque setting, with its lush green forests and crystal-clear streams, made me feel as if I had stepped into a fairy tale. I visited the beautiful Medici Palace and learned about the region’s rich history of marble quarrying. There are some very beautiful rivers in these parts with clear and icy waters in which to cool off in the summer. The tranquility and natural beauty of Seravezza left a lasting impression on me.


The Warm Hospitality of Querceta

Querceta, a small village with a big heart, was my next stop. I was captivated by the warm hospitality of the locals, who welcomed me with open arms. The village’s main square was a hub of activity, with people gathering to enjoy delicious Italian cuisine and engage in lively conversations. I felt a strong sense of community here, which made me feel right at home. Only here I ate some excellent sheep meat cooked on the embers and drank a divine white wine, coming from the hills above Ripa.


Exploring Historic Camaiore

mount prana camaiore

The territory of Camaiore is very vast and includes mountains (Mt Prana, Mt Gabberi), small villages on the hills like Monteggiori, Montemagno, Casoli, Gombitelli which are real gems. Camaiore, a town steeped in history, was a true delight. I explored the ancient churches and monasteries, marveling at their architectural beauty. The town’s vibrant weekly market was a feast for the senses, with colorful stalls selling fresh produce, handcrafted goods, and local delicacies. I couldn’t resist trying the famous local Mortadella, the tasty Scarpaccia and Torta di Pepe pies.

 


Nature’s Paradise in Massarosa

massarosa lake

Massarosa, with its rolling hills and picturesque countryside, was a nature lover’s paradise. I went on long hikes through the lush landscapes, discovering hidden waterfalls and ancient ruins along the way. The town’s extended network of avant-garde agriturismos were a welcome respite after a day of exploration, and I found myself fully immersed in the rejuvenating atmosphere.

 


The Excitement of Viareggio

Viareggio, the largest city in Versilia, was a hub of excitement and entertainment. I strolled along the bustling promenade, admiring the Art Nouveau buildings and the fashionable boutiques. The city’s famous Carnival, with its elaborate floats and lively atmosphere, was an unforgettable experience. I danced the night away at the beachside clubs and savored the delicious gelato while people-watching. Viareggio is convenient because it’s all flat, easily explored on foot or by bike. Almost a third of the city to the east and west is covered with pine forests, airy and accessible places to do sports, relax, and take children to play.

viareggio coast seaside statue rocks


The Serenity of Torre del Lago

Finally, I arrived in Torre del Lago, a place that captured my heart. The town’s serene lake, surrounded by pine forests, was a haven of tranquility. I attended an open-air opera performance at the famous Puccini Festival, where the music of the great composer filled the night air.

Being located within the municipality of Viareggio, Torre del Lago piqued my interest due to the attractive prices in the real estate market. My long-term plan was to invest here and spend my summers in the area while renting out my property during the winters. This town, favored by Puccini, offers convenience and leisure; that’s why I finally chose to rent a holiday house here.

As I sat there, under the stars, I realized that Versilia had stolen a piece of my heart.

One of the most delightful aspects of life in Versilia is the rich culinary heritage. From fresh seafood dishes to hearty Tuscan fare, the region offers a gastronomic adventure at every meal. I have become particularly fond of “cacciucco,” a traditional fish stew from Viareggio, and “tordelli,” the beloved pasta. The local markets are a treasure trove of fresh produce, cheeses, and meats, making cooking at home a joy.