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Combine the Versilia Coast and Apuan Alps

  • Tuscany’s northern corner is one of its wildest, loveliest, yet least explored areas from the Versilia Riviera to a dramatic landscape of pine-covered mountains, craggy ravines, remote villages and marble peaks. It’s hard to get more than a glimpse of this wilderness on a day trip but it’s still worthwhile as it’s such a contrast to the coast. And all this with the famous beach resorts of Forte dei Marmi and Viareggio attached.

    Versilia is renowned for its sociable beach resorts, which range from sophisticated Forte dei Marmi to fun-loving Viareggio. Whereas Forte dei Marmi is the resort for socialising and being seen, Viareggio is for everyone. This coastal region lies west of Lucca, squeezed between the Apuan Alps in the east, and Lake Massaciuccoli in the south.

    Leave the coast at Marina di Massa, a popular resort, with fine wide sandy beaches, pine groves and a promenade of pastel-shaded villas. Towering over the coastal lowlands are snow-capped mountains and terraced hillsides, an untamed terrain riven by deep gorges. Michelangelo built a road from the marble quarries to load the marble on waiting ships – and inadvertently created a summer playground. Once pine-covered, the coast is largely built-up but in place of rustic charm it offers fine seafood, a sense of fun, and beach entertainment, Italian-style – all against the backdrop of the Apuan Alps.

    Massa is only 12km north of Forte dei Marmi, with Carrara just 3 km further. both are working towns, not monuments to marble. Even so, Marina di Carrara still ships marble all over the world. Although mainly modern, Massa has a well-preserved medieval centre, with a cluster of narrow winding streets. At its heart stands the medieval Duomo, which boasts a baroque in¬te¬ri¬or and, of course, a modern marble façade. Carrara is more overtly carved out of marble but has little to offer beyond the marble museum. The Museo del Marmo recounts the story of marble from Roman times to today. Displays include varieties of ¬marble and granite, plus explain the great leap from hammer-and-chisel quarrying to a high-tech industry. Otherwise, the main evidence of the famous marble quarries in Carrara is the river of white mud that flows through the town, which has a dusty, disaffected air about it.

    If feeling adventurous, explore the marble quarries in Carrara’s Marble Mountains (in Forte dei Marmi guide). This is Tuscany at its most wild. If in search of cultural stimulation, leave the coast for the closest art cities. Foremost among these are Pisa, Lucca, Pistoia or Florence.

    Address: Museo del Marmo, Viale XX Settembre 85, Localita Stadio, Carrara
    Tel: 0585 845746

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