The marble quarries
In Versilia a few kilometers away from the sea you can reach the beautiful Apuan Alps, also visible from the beaches; the Park of the Apuan Alps is an excellent opportunity for those who like to practice trekking, climbing or walking in the open air. The Apuan Alps are also famous all over the world because of the "Marble Quarries", which can be visited by contacting the local guides for a reservation. The white marble of Carrara is considered one of the finest in the world and the ancient Romans already learned the art of marble extraction and processing. Used as a covering in numerous historic buildings in different historical periods, the Carrara Marble has been the preferred raw material used by some of the most famous artists of the past, such as Michelangelo Buonarroti and Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Inside the quarries it is possible to admire the "Marble Cathedral", one of the most peculiar quarry galleries to be found today all over the world.
About 30 kms from Lido di Camaiore you will find Lucca, one of Italy's most important art cities. It is known worldwide for its famous and majestic Renaissance walls (15th-17th centuries), perfectly preserved to this day. The large walls are completely walkable on the top, run for about 4,450 kms and surround the historical centre of Lucca: a gallery of art treasures to be discovered. The renowned Piazza dell'Anfiteatro is built on the ruins of the Ancient Roman Arena which is the reason for its oval shape, almost calling to mind the typical cake from Lucca - the Buccellato. A walk down the ancient Via Fillungo allows visitors to photograph picturesque views of the ancient Church of San Frediano and its famous mosaic, as well as of the Guinigi Tower, on the top of which two large oak trees stand out. As you leave Via Fillungo you will reach Piazza San Michele, built on the ancient Piazza del Foro Romano but now dominated by the church of San Michele, a jewel of Romanesque architecture. You can not miss a visit to the Cathedral of San Martino, with its unique facade full of decorations: inside you can admire the Cappella del Volto Santo (Chapel of the Holy Face), linked to an ancient legend and center of the Holy Cross celebrations that take place each year on the 13th and 14th of September. Before leaving the church do not forget to admire the sarcophagus of Ilaria del Carretto, by the sculptor Jacopo della Quercia, created in 1403 upon request of Ilaria's husband, Paolo Guinigi. The city of Lucca was also home to Elisa Bonaparte, sister of Napoleon, to whom the homonymous square is dedicated, while in the age of the Duchy of Lucca (1815) it became the scenery of the events of the Borboni family who have lived there for a long time. The countless historical events of the city won’t make us forget the great wine and oil production heritage of the city, one of Italy’s most important in these two areas. Among the major events, which every year attract thousands of visitors within the walls of Lucca, it’s worth remembering the "Summer Festival", a musical event that every summer offers numerous pop music concerts, as well as the famous "Lucca Comics & Games", that is one of the most important exhibitions dedicated to comics, animation and games.
Florence, home of the Renaissance, is about 90 kms from Viareggio and can be reached either by car or by train or by bus. A day through streets and squares of the regional capital of the Region of Tuscany is more than a visit, it is an unforgettable experience. Nothing is missing in this city, as it’s rich in art, museums, shops and entertainment. A go-to destination for every tourist is Piazza del Duomo, Santa Maria del Fiore, with its gigantic historic dome (visitable) created by Brunelleschi side by side with the Baptistery of San Giovanni where you can admire the wonderful Porta del Paradiso (Gates of Paradise; the original is now exhibited in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo). Take a walk along Via Calzaiuoli, a street famous for its fancy shops, just a short stop to visit the Church of San Michele before reaching the famous Piazza della Signoria, a real open-air museum exhibiting masterpieces of Renaissance sculpture such as Michelangelo's "David" (a copy, as the original is kept in the Museo dell’Accademia), and other sculptures such as the "Giuditta e Oloferne" by Donatello, the "Perseus" by Benvenuto Cellini and monuments like the "Fontana del Nettuno" by Bartolomeo Ammannati. The current City Hall, the imposing Palazzo Vecchio, the seat of power during the age of the Medici family, dominates the square. From here you can easily reach Piazza degli Uffizi, along the sides of the homonymous Museum (the visits should be preferably booked), whose facade houses, in special niches, 28 statues of the most famous figures of Florentine history, like Amerigo Vespucci, Benvenuto Cellini, Donatello, Dante Alighieri, Francesco Petrarca, Galileo Galilei, Giotto, Giovanni Boccaccio, Leon Battista Alberti, Leonardo da Vinci, Lorenzo il Magnifico, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Niccolò Machiavelli and others. By walking under the Galleria you will reach the Lungarno, or one of the other avenues streching along the Arno river, which crosses the center of the city on one side. Stop here for a must-have photo of the Ponte Vecchio, which crosses the river and leads to the Oltrarno, the other side of the river where the historic home of the Medici was built, the well-known "Palazzo Pitti", nowadays National Gallery, whose background is the Boboli Gardens, which is the park of the Palace and a typical example of Italian-style garden. The last wonderful and unforgettable stop is Piazzale Michelangelo, the famous belvedere overlooking the city and offering breathtaking views over the city. From here, a hilly walk leads to the wonderful Church of San Miniato al Monte, where our tour of the wonders of Florence reaches its end.
An ancient village of Medieval origins, Pietrasanta owes its name to its founder, Giuscardo da Pietrasanta, who founded this small town at the foot of the historic Rocca di Sala. Located on the border between Tuscany and Liguria, it has been the scene of numerous wars in the past centuries. In the historical center you can still admire the Collegiata di San Martino and the Church of Sant'Abate. Walking through its narrow streets you can go shopping or just stop and look at the artisans working the marble in their workshops, as well as the small art galleries, a peculiarity of Pietrasanta, thanks also to the artists such as Fernando Botero and Igor Mitoraj who made this town famous all over the world.
Volterra is a small town of Etruscan origins, well known for the extraction and processing of Alabaster. Plunging yourself into a pleasant and unspoiled nature you can visit the Cathedral, the Palazzo dei Priori, the Roman Theater and the Medici Fortress with the adjoining Parco Fiuni, where it is possible to stop for a break or a picnic in the open air. Very interesting are the views and perspectives over the surrounding landscape and in particular over the so called "balze", a particular rock formation typical of the area. You cannot avoid purchasing a typical souvenir... obviously made of Volterra alabaster.
Immersed in the Tuscan countryside and surrounded by the beautiful landscape of the "crete", Siena is a small jewel of Tuscan architecture and art, which has become famous all over the world not only thanks to its splendid Romanesque-Gothic Cathedral, but also for the "Palio" which takes place every year in the historic Piazza del Campo during the summer months. After visiting the Church of San Domenico, with the flags of the various "contrade" (city districts), you can walk along the Via dei Banchi having some shopping, stopping to enjoy the typical Sienese delicacies such as the "pici", which might be dressed in a walnut sauce, the wild boar and cakes like the "Panforte" or the "Ricciarelli", all accompanied by Montalcino, Montepulciano or Chianti wines. From Via dei Banchi, through one of the arches below the buildings that flank the street, you go to Piazza del Campo, built in the form of a "shell" to adapt to the shape of the hilly terrain: in this square you can admire the Palazzo Comunale with the high "Torre del Mangia", while in the center of the square is the Fonte Gaia. Going up again you reach the Duomo, with its magnificent facade embellished with spires, arches and sculptures, largely due to Giovanni Pisano, while to the son Nicola Pisano we owe the splendid "pulpit" inside the church.
After visiting Siena, a must for every tourist is a walk in the small town of San Gimignano, with its tall towers and typical shops. It is just impossible to get lost: a single main road crosses the village and runs along the principal stops of the visit. The historical center has been declared a Human Heritage Site by UNESCO, and preserves the 13th/14th Century appearance typical of the municipal age. Founded by the Etruscans, in the Middle Ages San Gimignano stood on one of the routes of the Via Francigena, as well as being an intermediate stage along the road connecting Pisa with Siena, both very important sites for the ancient Archbishoprics. Of the 72 towers that originally existed, only 14 still remain, easily visible even beyond the walls, when you are driving along the road which leads to the city centre. The village is completely closed to traffic, but easily accessed on foot. Among the artists who worked in this small town we remember Benozzo Gozzoli, Domenico Ghirlandaio and Piero del Pollaiolo. Some works by these artists can be admired inside the Duomo, whose walls are completely frescoed with sacred representations taken from the Old and New Testament. Before leaving San Gimignano, do not forget to buy a typical souvenir of the area, such as the terracotta items or various leather goods made by local craftsmen.
Forte dei Marmi
A few kilometers from Lido di Camaiore you will find Forte dei Marmi (Fortress of the Marbles), whose name derives from the combination of a "Fortress", commissioned by the Grand Duke of Tuscany Pietro Leopoldo, and the "Marmi" (marbles) extracted from the nearby quarries on the Apuan Alps. This small town became particularly known during the 60’s, when it became one of the centers of the Italian "Bella Vita", becoming a favorite destination of many national and international vips and actors who chose "Il Forte" to spend their holidays with their families, enjoying at the same time some high-society life. The "Capannina di Franceschi" became the hub of local nightlife and many films set in the glorious sixties were shot inside this club. Even today Forte dei Marmi remains one of the most expensive resorts on the Versilia coast, where you can find, for example, fashion designer shops such as those of Armani, Cavalli, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, Valentino and others. Many well-known personalities still choose Forte dei Marmi as a destination for their holidays or as a status symbol. During the night this quiet center also becomes one of the favorite destinations for young people from all over the region, attracted by the famous and numerous beach discos and clubs.
The beating heart of the life in Viareggio is certainly the seaside promenade, where all the most important events of the year take place, such as the great New Year's Day Celebration and the Carnival. Flanked on one side by the historic beach resorts and protected by the greenery running along the bicycle lane, the promenade is a pleasant path, dotted with shops and clubs, which leads to the Port of Viareggio; do not miss the opportunity to walk along the pier, which stretches to the sea and is the typical destination for families, young people and couples. While walking through the streets of Viareggio you will immediately notice the great variety of Liberty style buildings enriching the center and this is one of the main characteristics of the "Pearl of the Tyrrhenian Sea". In the city centre you can find new streets and squares, ideal for quiet walks and for shopping, such as Via Battisti and Via Fratti where a real natural market takes place. Especially during the summer the city of Viareggio is animated by exhibitions and shows of all kinds, cultural events and also proposals for children. The nightlife of Viareggio can not leave you unmoved. Viareggio and the Versilia are in fact the main destination for the youthful "movida" of all Tuscany, so much so that young people come here every evening from Pisa, Lucca and Florence, to go to the major nightclubs and discos of the area. This region, still today a destination for VIPs coming from every part of Italy, has gained particular prominence during the 60’s, as well described in numerous comedy films set in these places.