Reasons to visit the pretty north-western Italian town of Viareggio in 2018 are numerous. For starters there’s its 20km of sandy beaches, many of which are nestled within a beautiful natural park. Visitors are drawn from far and wide as they always have been by the famed Carnival, an explosion of sound and colour, masked parades, fireworks and floats. Travellers embarking on a Viareggio holiday look forward to the romantic liberty-style architecture, beachfront gelato stores, buzzing Italian bars and seafood restaurants. Active types come to forage through dense green pines at Pineta di Ponente or di Levante, both of which offer bike trails and areas for scenic picnics. Equally revered are Viareggio’s outdoor baths, most notably Bagno Balena, and their early 1920s architecture. Being a seaside town, there’s also opportunities for walks across sleepy rivers, through the sparkling harbour and along the picturesque promenade. A Viareggio holiday is Italian time well spent.
Most popular hotels in Viareggio
Grand Hotel Principe di Piemonte
At a glance
- Currency: Euro
- Language: Italian
- Time Zone: GMT +1
- Average flight time: 2h 5m
When to go
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The town’s star attraction is undoubtedly it’s atmospheric promenade. A wide pedestrianised stretch is a perfect place for a stroll and to take in the sights, including the dazzling blue Mediterranean Sea, white sands, and attractive architecture. The poet, Shelley spent much of his time here, inspired by the lush green palms, quaint little cafes and beautiful buildings.
Learn about the region’s famous Carevale at the Museo Cittadella del Carnevale. Here you’ll find memorabilia from across the years, hear about its heritage and learn about how the giant heads worn in the masked parade are constructed. If you want to relax then there’s nowhere better to do so than Pineta di Ponente. Just a short walk from the beach, this large pinewood park makes for a great summertime retreat. A gentle walk or shady picnic are the favoured activities here, however for something a little more active you can hire a bike and explore its hidden nooks and crannies.
Wine and Dine
As with most Italian adventures, Viareggio holidays are synonymous with good food, good wine and good times. Indulge in a spot of liberty-architecture whilst tucking into a cocktail lunch at Gran Café Margherita. A refined, sophisticated ambience resonates through the room, a sort of 1920s country club vibe, and there’s plenty of outdoor seating. Join up with the locals and take a stroll along the prom, stopping for a glass of chilled local wine at a chic piano bar, or wait till a little later for something a bit livelier as the waterfront clubs start to get busy around midnight.
Italian favourites are everywhere you turn, so there’ll be no shortage of pizza and pasta here. Being influenced by Tuscan culture though, things are a little richer around these parts, so expect to find hearty wild mushroom risottos, earthy vegetable soups and fish stews aplenty.
You can’t go far wrong with a holiday of international food, white sandy beaches and friendly, welcoming locals when it comes to keeping families happy on their travels. Cavallino Matto amusement park provides added thrills and spills, with rides for all ages. A carousel, log flume and white knuckle rollercoasters are waiting to be ridden and enjoyed, with plenty of shaded areas and well-priced refreshment facilities for little ones.
San Vincenzo beach is a popular one for swimming and watersports such as paddle boarding and snorkelling, whereas on dry land you can take a train through copper and lead mines at the San Silvestro architectural park. And a trip to Viareggio wouldn’t be complete without exploring Torre Matilde, the tower built in the 16th century to defend the port. Once a prison and now a cultural arts centre, it makes for a great exploration point for adventurous kids.
Action and Adventure
Viareggio is, admittedly, not known for its adventurous side. Away from the warm coastal breeze you’ll experience on the beaches and romantic charm of the town’s backstreets and squares, you’ll need to get a little further away to experience a bit of action. The aforementioned natural park at San Rossore offers up the chance to jump in the saddle (both bike and horse) and go for an adventure through dunes, forest and wetland. Get a little further out of town still and you’ll arrive at the Tenuta Argentiera winery, a majestic vineyard that allows you to get up close and personal with the winemaking process, explore the cellars and sample the wines for yourself.
Life's a Beach
With over 20km of sandy beach, you’re spoilt for choice on your Viareggio holiday. Whilst the beaches here can get quite busy, owing to their spectacular and enviable vantage points, there are ways to create space and elegance on the sands. Bagno Maurizio is a paid-for beach, however it’s worth it for the friendly service, use of sun loungers, parasols and showers. Join in the volleyball, enjoy a tasty ice cream, invigorating coffee or simply relax in the sun or shade.
For something a little more on the wild side, head south to the natural park of Migliarino. San Rossore beach is a windswept stretch of sand dunes, tall grasses and shrubs and is usually deserted, perfect for that family picnic or romantic getaway. You won’t find too many mod cons here, so for that ease of access to cafes and bars, your best bet is to stick around Viareggio where the facilities are generally excellent.
Much of the good stuff is centred on the promenade. It’s an addictive place to be, as bright and beautiful locals dressed up for a night on the town waltz from place to place, sipping on wine and cocktails and chatting with friends. Chic piano bars and lively discos are the order of the day here, and you’ll be spoilt for choice. Restaurants remain open well into the night too, and such is the Mediterranean way that you should expect to sit down to dinner at around 10pm; all the more reason for letting your hair down!
Of course much has been said about Carnival season here, where all night street parties are very much the order of the day (or should we say night).
The atmospheric charm of this part of Italy means that a holiday spent in Viareggio is full of romance and intimacy. Lovers will find solace on the secluded and windswept beaches of San Rossore, a great place to take a sunset stroll through the rolling waters or to enjoy a Tuscan picnic of wine, cheese and olives. Art lovers will enjoy the Viareggio art museum, with its 3,000 works and outdoor events. The lighthouse on the seafront promenade is a great panoramic spot for tender moments, where you can gaze upon the blue Mediterranean.
A little further up the coast is the magical area of Cinque Terre, famous amongst couples for its incredibly vibrant coastal architecture set into the rock. Here you’ll find many a secluded seafood restaurant in which to enjoy wine, fish and sweet nothings.
It’s all about Carnival in Viareggio. Over a million people flock to the Italian coast for the events, held throughout February and March, with its origins in the 19th century. Parades draw thousands at a time, of all ages, who come to see spectacular floats, masked parades and live musical performances. The Burlamacco, a giant clown-like character, is the symbol of the carnival, with a giant model passing through the town centre. Many of the floats are inspired by Italian politics in satirical form. It’s a sight to behold that truly has to be seen in person. Things get pretty busy around this time of year, so it’s recommended to book well in advance if you want to stay close by. Thankfully with loveholidays, you can secure a hotel in Viareggio with a low deposit, leaving you plenty of time to get prepping for Carnival!