Over the course of my Three Month Tuscan Adventure earlier in the year I came to know the charming, slightly crumbling, warm and friendly city of Viareggio very well indeed. I can’t quite recall just how many times I stepped off the train and wound my way through the maze of slightly confusing narrow streets that lead to the harbor but I enjoyed the experience on each occasion.
With a population of around 64,000 souls Viareggio provides all the bustle and hustle of a genuine, successful, thriving Italian city… just the sort of place I love to poke about and really get to know. The people seem remarkably friendly and I was given a warm welcome wherever I went. Given the fact that my visit took place over the months of April, May and June I found the city’s beautiful promenade and fabled pier almost idyllically sparse and uncrowded. The feeling in the air seemed to be one of relief that the long winter was finally gone for good, mingled with a budding excitement at the prospect of the long, warm summer poised to begin.
People were strolling, relaxing, bumping into old friends, laughing, joking and catching up on the gossip of the day. It just felt wonderful to be a part of it all. While I’m sure the city has its share of problems, as do all cities, I’m equally sure that deep down inside each one of its citizens will grudgingly admit that, given the freshness of their seafood, their thriving maritime industry, the lovely weather, proximity to the Mediterranean, the nearness of the gorgeous Apuane Mountains, the wine country, you name it; they really have it pretty good.
Viareggio may be an acquired taste by today’s international tourist standards, given the almost complete lack of foreign visitors I encountered on practically every visit, but if wandering around the lingering vestige of a city that, if slightly flaking and worn in parts, at one time held its own during the era of the Grand Tour… is your idea of a splendid time then it’s my guess you’re going to love the unsung gem that is Viareggio.
As an interesting footnote to history the poet P. B. Shelly was cremated somewhere on Viareggio’s vast wide sandy beach by his good friend Lord Byron after the former had perished aboard a schooner while returning from a visit to Byron at Livorno. The ‘Ariel’ was caught in a freak summer storm and Shelly was presumed drowned, however it took several days for his body to wash ashore prompting Byron to arrange an immediate cremation. Having drowned however his heart refused to burn and so ended up, quite literally, in the hands of Frankenstein author Mary Shelly.
And so, I present my Postcard from Viareggio. If you know the place may it stir some lovely memories, if not may it spur you to give it a visit and help boost the local economy, and if you have never, and will never set eyes on the place may give you a glimpse of a town seemingly quite at peace with itself (at least from what I could gather).
The Burlamacca Canal
Of the several canals draining nearby lake Massaciuccoli across Viareggio’s wide sandy beaches, and on into the Ligurian Sea, the Burlamacca is by far the most prominent, serving to surgically dissect the waterfront community with blade-like precision. To one side the marina, the yachts, the shipyards, the money. To the other, well, everything and everyone else.
No trip to Viareggio is complete without a stroll along the promenade and onto the magnificent pier, a wonderfully robust fortification that provides the harbor’s northern seawall.
There can be little doubting the affection the locals have for their lovely promenade. A more relaxed, contented and comfortable slice of humanity it would be difficult to conjure.
From the humblest inshore fishing skiff to the biggest, most brash private yachts… to almost everything in between, it’s all on display, with many a shipshape vessel ploughing up and down the canal in order to get to, and return from, the sea.
Ultimately the vast, wide, seemingly endless boardwalk promenade is really what Viareggio is all about. Here you can shop, window shop, eat, drink and generally be merry. Good old fashioned seaside giddiness seems to take a-hold of young and old alike as they file their way up and down the lively the seafront boulevard.
All in all I think you’d find it difficult not to have yourselves a grand old time in this wonderful little time capsule of a genuine seaside holiday town… “just like the ones we used to know “
Until next time, thanks for stopping by.
Hello and welcome to this the first of my new series of picture postcards depicting the sights, cities and regions I came to know and admire during my Three Month Tuscan Adventure earlier in the year.
During the months of April, May and June I gained immense pleasure by roaming the northwest corner of Tuscany at great length… and roam I certainly did. Consequently there is barely a nook or cranny of the territory stretching between Florence, Pontremoli, Pisa and Sienna that did not at some point play host to me and my ever curious eyes. Over such a length of time I accumulated a huge number of photographs, some of which I posted in their raw format with my ‘Rogue Carver on the Loose’ dispatches when still out their ‘on the road’, but many have remained largely ignored… deep in the bowels of my computer’s vast memory. That is… until Christmas came along!
I had long since made the decision to curtail all activity on the Autumn of 14 Collection on or before the evening of Friday, December 19th in order to clear the path for an indulgent feast-of-a-Christmas with my family, and that’s precisely how things panned out. With Curvilinear Campfire’s final finishing touches applied a day or two ahead of the cut-off date it actually came as something as a shock not to be carving marble all day, which meant of course I found myself with the first real opportunity finally delve deep into the photo library and take the time to revisit the remarkable places tucked away in northwestern Tuscany that had so enthralled me only a few month ago.
How lovely it was to see all my favorite places appear before my eyes once again! The names alone were enough to spark a pang in my heart: Garafangana, Lunigiana, Lucca, Pontremoli, Ripafratta; so many lovely memories came flooding back into my mind.
It was while I was wallowing in such unabashed sentimentalism that I made the decision to put out a series of ‘postcard’ photographs in the manner so ubiquitous around the time of my first world-shattering tours of Europe back in the early 1970s, in particular those long folding scroll-type postcard packets containing multiple images of the same place. These are not meant to be slavish representations of the places but canvasses on which you may allow your imagination to roam. You may or may not visit any or all of these places for yourself but, given this chosen format, it is my hope that the rosy-glow 20th Century postcard style in which I present these photographs will leave the towns and cities themselves fresh, new and open for discoveries of your own, as did their colorful counterparts prior to the onset of the smartphone revolution.
(In short, and in all honesty, I perhaps should let you into a little secret at this point – this postcard thing is really, actually, how I see the world.)
I owe a great deal of thanks to each of the places you will see depicted by my postcard series. Together they revived a truly flagging soul, and so if I am able to return the favor by showcasing some of their abundant beauty then it will hopefully go some way in redressing the balance.
I hope you will stop by from time to time… in fact, whenever the urge to spend a few minutes gazing at Tuscany should grip you.
Cheers Again ! !