Italy! (again)

Hello, everyone! I hope you are well and having fun! I may be late, but I was finally able to visit Italy again and my friend in Viareggio, in particular! It may not be during the Carnival season (and I can promise that I will be back sometime next February-March), but I had a lot of fun nonetheless.

For those of you not familiar with the region, Viareggio is a city, between the sea and the mountains, very close to Pisa. Actually when I say very close, I mean only 15-20 minutes by train to Pisa Centrale. This is very convenient for summer I guess, as one can go visit Pisa in the morning and then spend the rest of the day in one of the wonderful beaches in Viareggio. In fact, Viareggio is considered a beachside resort since the 19th century, while very famous people come from or have stayed in the area, such as Paolina Bonaparte, Giacomo Puccini and others.

When I first booked the ticket to Galileo Galilei Airport in Pisa, I wanted to have the full experience of Tuscany. This is why, after my friend Cristina convinced me, I booked a hotel in Viareggio. I wanted to explore Pisa, Viareggio and everything in between! And so I did! I have to say after I left dreary and cold London, I received such a warm welcome in Pisa I was left astonished! And when I say warm I mean it! At 18:10 the temperature was 22°C! So, after landing, I went on Pisamover, which is the train shuttle service between the airport and Pisa Centrale that lasts for about 5 minutes and costs €2.70. After checking-in at my hotel, called Villa Adriana, and chilling for an hour, I met with my friend and went to eat dinner at a fantastic place very close to the marina. It is called Ristorante La Baracchina and it was simply amazing! We had fish and seafood; everything was excellent and well-cooked, while the service was fantastic! I can still remember probably the manager greeting me and speaking to me in Greek (!). As you can imagine I cannot recommend the place enough.

After a good night’s sleep, I woke up partly hangover and partly refreshed if that’s possible. After a breakfast on the go, I caught a train to Pisa to visit the Leaning Tower (of course) and everything else that would catch my fancy. I had already put down some of the sights I wanted to see, so with a help from Google Maps, I started exploring. First stop, the mural of Keith Haring, Tutomondo. I heard that it is often overlooked, so for me it was a good place to start. After that, I walked down Corso Italia, which is like our Oxford Street, did a little shopping, and then finally (finally!) arrived at one of the bridges across river Arno. From there, the Piazza del Duomo (the Cathedral square) was a short walk. Visiting the square is fascinating. You can see tourists from all over the world trying to take a photo with their hand and the Leaning Tower. The day was great (28°C, but who is counting??), however one of the museums – The Museo dell’Opera del Duomo – was closed.

I booked a free pass to visit the Duomo and it was amazing! The paintings, the atmosphere, the whole cultural experience was unbelievable for me. Opposite the Duomo is the Baptistry, a beautiful building, where Galileo himself was baptised! Isn’t it fascinating? Next to it, you can also find the cemetery, which I had no need to visit. After enjoying a light lunch close to the Piazza I had to return to my hotel, as my friend had promised me something great! What it was you may ask and the answer is… pizza of course! In Pietrasanta, a town very close to Viareggio, we found a great place to eat pizza, called La Buca. The great part in that was that locals eat there, and you can guess that the food is out of this world!

On Sunday, I had to visit two towns, the Torre del Lago and Lucca, the first because it had Puccini’s villa and the second because actually Cristina insisted and OMG was she right! Torre del Lago is very, very close to Viareggio, 5 minutes with the train and 20 minutes with the bus. Walking towards Puccini’s vila, you will find a surprise, but I will not say anything more! The history of the place is huge, while it is important to mention that now his remains, along with his family, lie here forever. The villa is immaculate, while you can listen to English or German as you are guided in each room. Lucca, on the other hand, I have no words to describe! First of all, I would like to congratulate the Italians, as they haven’t destroyed an inch of the medieval walls, instead restored them and allowed, the city to grow outside of them. Secondly, as soon as you step foot into these walls you are transported into a different time. I loved the cobblestone little streets, the buildings and the overall atmosphere of Lucca! What I didn’t exactly like is Torre Guinigi (the Guinigi Tower)! Great view, but didn’t enjoy it much, due to my fear of heights!

After returning to Viareggio, I did a little bit of exploring in the promenade and had aperitivo-cena with Cristina. Aperitivo-cena for those of you who don’t know is aperitivo with dinner, i.e. you can have a drink (I recommend prosecco of course) with a buffet of all you can eat. In the end, you are stuffed, but not drunk at all!

As my trip came to a close, I cannot recommend the area enough! Carnival season is a good period to visit undoubtedly, however during summer is also great. There are several festivals in the area at that time, for example the Puccini festival in Torre del Lago and the Lucca festival, which has an impressive line-up this year, like the Hollywood Vampires, Queens of Stone Age, Roger Waters, Nick Cave and Lenny Cravitz! Can someone buy me some tickets please?? For next time though, I would have to visit the Palazzo Blu in Pisa, which runs an exhibition about Marco Polo until the 1st July, and Teatro Verdi (of course!) for some Opera!

The transport is inexpensive (a single ticket from Viareggio to Pisa or to Lucca) costs €3.50 and a light lunch would be around €7-8. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the best gelateria in Viareggio, the Laboratorio del gelato, where the couple behind it were working in a lab before coming to Viareggio and opening a gelateria! I paid for my hotel around £80, so you can find good-value accommodation during off-season. The only things you have to factor in is how much you want to spend on shopping and sightseeing. As I said before though, I will definitely try to visit during next Carnival!

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