After spending a few days in Florence we decided we might take advantage of the hot weather and head to a very popular beach town Viareggio.
Viareggio is a Tuscan town on the Mediterranean Sea. Easily reached by car on the motorway or by train from anywhere in Italy or Europe. The following Tuscany towns are near a convenient distance: Florence (80 km), Siena (130 Km), Lucca and Pisa (20 Km) with an international Airport. Easily reachable are also the islands of the Tuscany Archipelago, and sights as the Apuan Alps, Le 5 Terre (5 completely secluded villages beautifully situated at the coast), lakes etc.
The reason we picked Viareggio was for the simple fact that it was accessible by train and had plenty of hotels available. Our landlady thought it was a bad idea to go to Viareggio in July because it is the time many Italians go to the beach for their annual summer holiday. But we were very lucky because it didn’t seem any busier than the beaches at home (ie. The Gold Coast, Australia).
As mentioned above Florence is only 80km from Viareggio (1hr 20mins on the train). The train cost about €20 from Florence SMN – Viareggio. We walked from Viareggio to our hotel (30mins) it cost €10 in the taxi. I would suggest either booking a hotel within 10mins walk of the train station or getting a taxi to your hotel. The beach is a 10 minute walk from the train station straight down narrow streets with beautiful terrace housing all sporting gorgeous balconies and wooden shutters to keep the heat out.
Viareggio has a big carnival once a year called Il Carnevale from mid February to mid March every year. After quite a bit of research I believe it is a wonderful time to head to Viareggio if in the area at that time of year.
Eating in Viareggio
We found that the main restaurants were quite expensive (main meal of pasta €15+).
The places that were busy were the pizza cafes and the gelaterias (gelato/ice cream). We found a great little pizza shop that had slices of pizza from €3 and bottles of coke €1.50 fantastic for lunches. Beware of the shops selling “cooked” food at the beaches (cafes on the beach where you pay for your spot on the beach), you will be served a microwaved meal. yuk. Our favourite meal at Viareggio came straight off a boat down near the main jetty. It was a tray of mixed deep fried and battered seafood (calamari, fish, octopus, prawns) with hot chips all cooked on the boat. We paid €20 for enough mixed seafood for the 4 of us (it ended up being too much, we ate it anyway because it tasted so good).
Coffee can range from 80c to €3 we found that you could enjoy a cappuccino for €1.
Beach or beaches
In Australia the beach is free everywhere. Things are different in Italy there is a strip of beach with several beaches on it each owned by a different hotel, this is how it is in Viareggio anyway. If you stay in a hotel with a beach you can use it at no extra cost, however if you stay in a hotel that doesn’t own a beach you have to pay a daily rate to sit on the beach. It costs approx. €20 for a spot on the sand with an umbrella and 2 beach chairs. €10 per day for a beach chair.
- You CANNOT put your towel down and sit on the beach without paying a fee.
- You CANNOT stand on the beach in one spot to watch your children swim without paying a fee.
- You CAN walk on a 2-3 metre wide stretch of beach where the water comes in for FREE but you must keep moving
There is a free beach in Viareggio down next to the jetty with big rocks in the water and cigarette butts and rubbish in the sand (the private pay beaches are cleaned every afternoon).
If you pay for an umbrella spot you get to use it from 10am to 10pm just leave a towel there when you go to get lunch, this is what the locals do.
GYPSIES ON THE BEACH
You will notice people walking on the beach trying to sell things and massages on the beach. Do NOT buy anything, just say no thank you (most of them speak english) or close your eyes and pretend you are asleep they normally go right on by (but hold on to your bag).
Note: I do not want any of the “warnings” I have posted to deter you from visiting these places with your family. Viareggio is really beautiful and safe there are just little things that you should know about to make your trip easier and have no “surprises”.
The mountains are just minutes from the beach. There are amazing bicycle tracks that you can take through the national parklands. There are a few places that you can hire bicycles at the entrance to the parklands.
Viareggio was a favourite place for the boys as they love the water and the sand.
We stayed at Hotel Lukas in Viareggio in the family room. It is self rated at 3 stars. The family room was clean and had an en suite bathroom, 4 single beds, a wardrobe, small tv and small fridge. At €120 per night with breakfast and an English speaking owner it was good.
If you have stayed in Viareggio please leave a comment with your thoughts.