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Lucca & Viareggio

The beach town Viareggio and, further inland, chi-chi Lucca, couldn’t be more different at first glance. In fact, they’re an excellent pairing, not only to explore Italy’s architectural history but also live la dolce vita. Viareggio is one of Italy’s most elegant beach resorts, with grand Art Nouveau palaces and retro beach clubs along the perfectly raked sands. It’s also the location of one of Italy’s best-known carnivals (kids will love the Carnival Museum and the vast Cittadella, where the floats are made). Lucca, meanwhile, rolls back the centuries. Its oval main square takes the form of the Roman amphitheatre that once stood here, and the city walls are Europe’s second largest, fortified in the Renaissance. Scratch the surface and you’ll find Roman villas lurking beneath, including one mosaic-filled home below the church of Saints Giovanni and Reparata. This area was the stomping ground of the opera composer Giacomo Puccini – his birthplace is a museum in Lucca, and there’s a popular annual opera festival at Torre del Lago, just below Viareggio, where he later lived and was laid to rest.

Lucca & Viareggio

Lucca

Lucca is a classic Tuscan city on a human scale, with just enough cultural attractions to beguile but not bewilder. Often bypassed by fans intent on ticking off the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Lucca is Tuscany’s self-deprecating star. It is a mellow city of seductive charms, with ramparts encircling the city, which were transformed into a tree-lined promenade in the 19th century. Lucca has more than its fair share of splendid Pisan-Romanesque churches, with ornate facades of green, grey and white marble. Its perfectly-preserved walled heart, quiet sophistication and peaceful pace of life are all credited with winning over sceptical fans. That’s before talking about its pinky-gold palaces, pedestrian-friendly bastions, crowd-pleasing concerts, enchanting shops and its renowned olive oil and wine estates. In summer, outdoor concerts add to Lucca’s appeal, as do the discreet wine bars and cosy inns. To jaded urbanities, Lucca represents life as it should be led.

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Viareggio

Easy-going Viareggio is a boisterous, sun-and-sand resort that is especially popular with Italian families. This friendly resort is more family-minded than most on this coast and is well-equipped with climbing frames and child-friendly cafes. The resort’s appeal lies in its endless stretch of golden sands, its air of faded elegance and its good-value seafood restaurants. Viareggio is the oldest of the coastal towns in Versilia. Its origins are Roman, and in the Middle Ages it was an important sea port. In the 19th century it reputedly built some of the best boats ever launched on the Tyrrhenian Sea, and the boatyards are still active. Its heyday was the 1920s and 1930s but only a handful of Art Deco and Art Nouveau waterfront buildings recall this era. Today, Viareggio is more famous for its February Carnival, proof that, unlike most resorts in Versilia, it doesn’t close down completely out of season.

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Camaiore

The Village of Camaiore is located in a valley surrounded by hills and the northern Appennins mountains. Camaiore has Roman origins as one of the largest encampments near to the city of Lucca and an important station along the Via Cassia. The origins of its name "Campus Maior" come from this.

In the Middle Ages, the town grew considerably thanks to the old Via Francigena. The city represented the Twenty–seventh stage during the journey of Sigerico Canterbury, and was called Campmaior by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Now Camaiore is filled with many artistic treasures which include the Collegiate Church, Saint Peter's which is a Benedectine Abbey and in the village of Pieve of Camaiore there is a church which is an excellent example of a Romanic church and dates back to about 817 d.C.        

The territory of Camaiore is beautiful and known for its landscape and its small medieval villages like Monteggiori, Casoli, Gombitelli e Montebello. From their hillside positions there is a fantastic view over the sea and surrounding hills, while time seems to have stopped centuries ago.

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Castelnuovo di Garfagnana

Castelnuovo di Garfagnana is a bustling town with road and rail links to Lucca, Pisa, Florence and the Versilia coast by Viareggio. National parks of the Apuan Alps and Appenines are an easy drive away and open up a whole host of walks, nature and sports for your enjoyment.

The history small village of Castelnuovo can be traced back to as early as 740AD but within a century, the village had become an important town with defensive walls and castles. Its location enabled it to establish itself as a transit point for traders and visitors travelling to the northern areas of Italy. Over the centuries, the defensive walls and castles were enlarged and improved. In 1924, Castelnuovo became part of the Province of Lucca.

Even today, the defensive walls of Castelnuovo di Garfagnana play an important role in everyday life in Castelnuovo di Garfagnana. The town walls contain the oldest parts of the town along with winding roads and small artisan shops. The more modern offices, residences, bars, restaurants and train station are outside of the walls.

Many local residents commute to work in Lucca, Pisa or Florence whilst a growing number are able to make a comfortable living from tourism or from the sale of artisan gifts and paintings.

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