If you love beaches, tranquillity, architecture and spectacular events, then Viareggio could be for you! Follow me and I’ll show you how to spend perfect holidays in Viareggio Italy!
Viareggio is an Italian municipality in the province of Lucca. It offers not only the beautiful Tuscan sea but also a long list of attractions, starting with the Art Nouveau architecture and ending with the sensational annual Viareggio Carnival.
The wonderful surroundings of Viareggio and its charm make this town a popular tourist destination, frequented by VIPs since the 20th century… In short, a real gem to be considered both for a day trip and for real holidays!
The town, located in lower Versilia (a region of Tuscany in the province of Lucca), is full of things to see! And now we’re going into more detail about what to see in the historic centre, also examining the surroundings and everything you absolutely cannot miss during your holidays in Viareggio Italy!
What to see in Viareggio in one day? Here’s what you can’t miss!
I have prepared a short guide for you so that you can visit Viareggio in the best possible way. The stages are organised starting from the railway station (in Piazzale Dante Alighieri) and are designed for walking, but feel free to use any means of transport.
Let’s go! 😉
1. Torre Matilde
Starting from the train station, Torre Matilde is a one kilometre walk to the south of the town.
I chose it as my first stop because it is the oldest building in Viareggio and the symbol of the town itself. It was built to defend the warehouse and the new town and to watch out for enemies at sea. This tower has a lot of history to tell! In the course of time it has been a military garrison, a prison and, to this day, a venue for cultural events as well as art exhibitions.
Torre Matilde was the protagonist of a prodigious event: lightning struck the gunpowder storehouse next to the tower during a storm, but miraculously it did not explode. From that day on, the feast of the “Vow of the Commune” was established and is repeated every 15 April, celebrating the event.
And the last thing you need to know… A curiosity about the name: it is called Torre Matilde (Matilda’s Tower) due to an incorrect attribution of the building to Matilda of Tuscany!
2. Via Regia
Continuing our tour, just a few metres from the Tower, we find Via Regia. How could we not take a look at this street from which the town takes its name? Yes, Viareggio takes its name from this street, from Via Regis and it means “the king’s street“. In fact it was born to bring the emperor Charles V to Lucca when in 1541 he sailed to Viareggio to meet Pope Paul III.
3. Corso Garibaldi and the Church of Sant’Andrea
At this point, from the Via Regia, we cross another historical street: Corso Giuseppe Garibaldi. Here you can stop for a coffee given the large number of bars, but also ice cream parlours, pastry shops and restaurants; it is also an ideal place for shopping, if you are interested… But please stay focused because I still have a lot to show you!
Moving through the little streets, you can reach the Church of Sant’Andrea, built in 1836 at the behest of the Duke of Lucca, Carlo Ludovico di Borbone. He ordered it to be built because of the increase in population and had it dedicated to Saint Andrew.
4. Piazza Shelley and Villa Paolina
A few metres from where you are standing is Villa Paolina, which overlooks Piazza Shelley. This square has a very interesting history, because in the past the coastline was here, i.e. there was the sea! In addition, in the centre of the square there is the bust of the English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, who was found dead here.
Villa Paolina was the seaside villa of Pauline Bonaparte, Napoleon Bonaparte’s sister. It had a large panoramic garden, with trees, vineyards, a building for meetings… In short, a villa of great luxury! It is also called the “refuge of Venus“, in praise of Pauline’s beauty.
5. Piazza Garibaldi and the War Memorial
Walking along the XXV Aprile Children’s Park, we come to Piazza Garibaldi, or rather… Piazza delle Paure! Are you curious to know why this name? I’ll explain it to you straight away: the monument that stands in the middle of the square was not liked by the children, it even made them cry, and that’s why when the children had a tantrum, their mothers threatened to take them to this place!
But how did it come to this? Let’s take a step back… in 1918 a competition was held to beautify the square, more than fifty designs were presented. The winner was the one of two sailors shot down by enemy fire and a third who rises again, sowing for a better future. The feeling of suffering is therefore evident, combined with that of rebirth. The fate of the monument was uncertain for a long time as it had sparked off various controversies, but in the end it was accepted by the people and today it is considered one of the main things to see in Viareggio.
6. Politeama Cinema Theatre
As well as Piazza delle paure, the Politeama Theatre also has a nickname: Trojan Horse, due to its precarious wooden structure of the time. It was renovated several times in order to strengthen the structure and finally demolished and rebuilt in 1902. During the war, the theatre was destroyed by a bomb and rebuilt in reinforced concrete, in 2000 further renovated and brought up to technical standards, but closed in 2018.
7. The Pier and the Viareggio Promenade
You are in the right place to enjoy a characteristic fish lunch by the canal or to take away a tasty fry-up!
Now let me show you a stop that you absolutely cannot miss when visiting Viareggio: the Passeggiata Margherita (Viareggio Promenade)! This street can be considered the beating heart of the town: a harmonious union between the sea, Art Nouveau buildings, shops, restaurants and cafés!
The Passeggiata, whose real name is viale Giosuè Carducci, is a long pedestrian street that stretches for over 2 km.
A fire in 1917 almost completely destroyed the existing buildings, which were made entirely of wood. Despite this tragedy, the people of Viareggio managed to create the most monumental and artistically valuable area of the entire city!
The Viareggio Promenade allows us to admire a parade of buildings inspired by the Art Nouveau style: the SuperCinema Savoia, the Eden Theatre, the Emporio Magazzini Duilio 48, the Chalet Martini, and last but certainly not least, the Gran Caffè Margherita, which we will go into shortly.
But the Viareggio Promenade is not “limited” to this. It is also the street where the parade of floats takes place in February during the Viareggio Carnival, one of Viareggio’s main tourist attractions.
8. The Caffè Margherita
This café dates back to 1929 and has an arabesque style, with two symmetrical towers with a dome, on each of which yellow and green ceramics shine. At the front, there is a terrace with green ceramic columns, while inside, the refined furnishings create the ambience of today’s café and restaurant.
In short, if you ask yourself what to see in Viareggio, Caffè Margherita is definitely at the top of the list!
9. Viareggio Beaches
Obviously, among the best things to do, we find a stop at Viareggio beaches to enjoy the wonderful local sea. They are suitable for all your needs: for singles or families, free or equipped, with sports activities or quiet.
Noteworthy are the beaches included in the natural park, where you can enjoy the view of the sea with a vast pine forest behind you. It makes the whole thing very suggestive (the most beautiful Viareggio beach is the Lecciona beach).
10. The Palazzo Delle Muse and the Church of San Paolino
Continuing along the Viareggio Promenade, we come to Piazza Mazzini where we find the GAMC (the Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art). It was built in 1861 thanks to the voluntary donations of local artists and it is to this gesture of goodwill that the building owes its name!
Its original function was that of a “marine hospice“, where children were sent to breathe the sea air. Then it was used as a school and library and finally today it is a museum.
In addition, a few steps from Piazza Mazzini, there is the Church of San Paolino, built in 1861. Its façade features a mosaic on a golden background with several statues on the sides. The building also has a bell tower, destroyed during the war and rebuilt during the last century.
11. Pineta di Ponente and Villa Argentina
One of the best things to see in Viareggio is undoubtedly Villa Argentina, a few steps from Pineta di Ponente, the green lung of the town.
The Pineta di Ponente is a beautiful place to visit because, in addition to its beauty, it offers a range of activities: bike rides, miniature golf, the swan pond, the delicious doughnut kiosk, tennis and five-a-side football! In short, a place where there is no lack of activities!
As for Villa Argentina, it is certainly one of the most beautiful examples of Art Nouveau in Italy. The building was constructed in 1868 and officially became Villa Argentina in 1926, when it was decided to expand the structure. It survived the war unscathed and in the 1950s it was converted into a guesthouse, but this failed and led to its abandonment for thirty years. Only in 2015, after a period of restoration, did it return to its splendour and today it is a venue for cultural events.
12. The Cittadella & the Museum of the Carnival
As the last stop on the tour, I chose the carnival citadel with its characteristic carnival museum. You can choose whether to reach it on foot (it is 2.5km from Villa Argentina), by bus, line 4 or by car.
The citadel is a large space dedicated to masks and their manufacture. Visitors are greeted by the statue of Burlamacco, the mask of the Viareggio Carnival and a true symbol of the town. Arriving at the square we find sixteen hangars, where the masters work the papier-mâché. On the days of the parades, the hangar doors open and visitors can appreciate the beauty of the floats.
Inside the citadel we also find the Carnival Museum, where you can follow a didactic path to discover all the stages of mask making. You can also have a creative experience, working on the masks and getting your hands dirty with plaster and papier-mâché.
10 Top Things to See in Viareggio
In case you’re short of time, I’ll list what to see in Viareggio in one day so you don’t miss out on the most exciting things:
- Viareggio Promenade
- Gran Caffè Margherita
- Pineta di Ponente
- Villa Argentina
- The citadel
- The Carnival Museum
- Church of Saint Andrew
- Villa Paolina
- The War Memorial
- The Palace of the Muses
Viareggio and Surroundings
If you have more than one day available, I recommend that you also take a look at the surroundings of Viareggio, which are certainly worth visiting. Here are some of them:
- The hills of Massarosa
- The Lipu Oasis of Massaciuccoli
- Forte dei Marmi
- Torre del Lago Puccini – where the villa in which Giacomo Puccini lived and is still buried is located
- The Versiliana Park
What to do, if you spend your holidays in Viareggio Italy?
I’ve shown you what to see in and around Viareggio and I hope I’ve made you want to visit this amazing Tuscan town! We just have to talk a little bit about the more traditional activities and events that take place in this town.
As well as strolling, activities in the Pineta or shopping, there is definitely the Viareggio Market, with great shops and historic fishmongers, the best place to breathe in the tradition of the place.
In addition, there is also the typical local cuisine. Although little known, it offers some typical dishes such as Cacciucco, pasta alla trabaccolara and scarpaccia… A must try!
Viareggio Tourism & Events
Viareggio also hosts several events, first of all the Carnival, but also many festivals, shows and sporting events.
The Viareggio Carnival is held from mid-February to around April, a period in which the floats animate the town in the name of recycling… Yes, the floats are made entirely of newspapers and glue made from water and flour! An extraordinarily scenic event not to be missed.
Sporting events include the “Coppa Carnevale” World Youth Football Tournament, the most important youth football tournament in the world.
In short, there is clearly no shortage of activities!
How to get to and around the city
To reach the town you can use different means: train, car, bus or plane. As far as trains are concerned, Viareggio can be reached by local trains from Rome and La Spezia. Or there are several buses from the surrounding areas.
The Tuscan town can be visited entirely on foot, or if you prefer by bicycle, but alternatively you can also travel by car, bus or train of your choice.
My guide through Viareggio and its surroundings ends here… I hope I have managed to arouse your curiosity and make you want to savour a little of the magical air you breathe in this place. So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to organise beautiful holidays in Viareggio Italy and get the best of Tuscany! 🧐