Many tourists choose a villa for rent on the Versilia coast, because this part of Tuscany is well known in Italy since the 60s, when many famous Italian people spent here their holidays. However the hills of this area have been revalued during the last decade because of its natural and striking panoramic view over the coastline and the Tuscan Archipelago, so that many owners have decided to refurbish their houses. Now there is a large choice of apartments for rent in Versilia, thanks to the increased request of accommodations, where people can spend a relaxing holiday.
Thanks to its position, hemmed in by the sea and the white marble mountains of the Apuan Alps, the Versilia is today a fertile and densely populated coastal plain, lined with seaside resorts that have by now joined up to form a sort of uninterrupted conurbation. A few centuries ago the area was a coastal marshland discouraging any form of settlement. The systematic work of reclamation commenced in the 18th century and continued incessantly up until the beginning of the last century, creating an environment of great natural beauty. The so-called "Historical Versilia" includes Viareggio, Pietrasanta, Forte dei Marmi, Seravezza and Stazzema.
Viareggio, the main centre, has remained constantly in the orbit of Lucca. In the 19th century the port began to expand rapidly and from a small town it was elevated to the rank of city by Marie-Louise of Bourbon who organized the urban layout, characterized by a regular grid that is still visible. The 19th century saw the creation of the first bathing establishments that turned Viareggio into an important seaside resort, characterized by a refined Art Noveau architecture still admired such as in the Grand Cafè Margherita, the Bagno Balena, the Duilio 48. We cannot fail to mention the Principe di Piemonte with its own bathing establishment, the Grand Hotel & Royal and in the Pineta di Levante, the Villa Borbone, a hunting lodge for Marie-Louise of Bourbon.
Nowadays, Viareggio has maintained much of its cultural vivacity. Exhibitions, annual cinema festivals, literary prizes and significant musical performances at the nearby Torre del Lago, homeland of Giacomo Puccini, form an interesting cultural programme. Not to be missed the famous Carnival with its gigantic papier-mâché floats, to which a special citadel has been dedicated.
Straddling the last foothills of the Apuan Alps is Pietrasanta, founded in 1255 by Guiscardo Pietrasanta, the podestà of Lucca. It still preserves the features of a Roman colony in its orthogonal urban layout with long blocks and parallel streets inside a rectangular perimeter, and part of the original Roman wall still exists. The central square, in line with the fortress above, is an elongated rectangle representing the civil and religious fulcrum with its 14th century San Martino Cathedral, the Palazzo Pretorio, the Torre delle Ore (Watch Tower), and the Romanesque Church of Saint Augustine, now seat of art exhibitions. A considerable artistic centre, Pietrasanta has long enjoyed the patronage of artists: starting from Michelangelo, continuing with the late Henry Moore, and today with Mitoraj, Botero and Adami. Here the craft tradition of marble working follows the long established practice dating back to Michelangelo who used to come here to personally choose from the local quarries the marble for his works.
A mention to Forte dei Marmi, a fashionable seaside resort, much loved by international tourism. It takes its name from the fortress that rises in the centre of the main square, built under Grand Duke Peter Leopold, who was to become Leopold II, Holy Roman Emperor, in 1788. The fortress was built to defend the coast from outer attacks, but in the 19th and 20th centuries it became the place where the marble quarried from the Alpi Apuane was stocked before being sent to the pier for shipping.
Versilia, a place rich in history, poetry and art.