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Viareggio is a city and comune located in northern Tuscany, Italymarker, on the coast of the Tyrrhenian Seamarker. With a population of over 63,000 it is the main centre of the northern Tuscan Riviera known as Versilia, and the second largest city within the Province of Lucca.

It is known as a seaside resort as well as being the home of the famous carnival of Viareggio (dating back to 1873), and its papier-mâché floats, which (since 1925), parade along the promenade known as "Passeggiata a mare", in the weeks preceding Easter. The symbol of the carnival of Viareggio and its official mask is Burlamacco, designed and invented by Uberto Bonetti in 1930.

The city traces its roots back to the first half of the 16th century when it became the only gate to the sea for the Republic of Lucca. The oldest building in Viareggio, known as Torre Matilde, dates back to this time and was built by the Lucchesi in 1541 as a defensive fortification to fight the constant manace of corsair incursions.

Viareggio is also an active industrial and manufacturing centre; its shipbuilding industry has long been renowned around the world and its fishing and floricultural industries are still fundamental sectors to the city’s economy.

Viareggio hosts the Premio letterario Viareggio Répaci for literature, established in 1929. Amongst the other events organized around the year, it is worth mentioning the Festival Gaber, which has been held every August since 2004 to celebrate the memory of Giorgio Gaber, and is attended by several high-profile Italian musicians.

Because of the long-lasting rivalry between Viareggio and Luccamarker, the Lucchesi refer to Viareggio as Marina di Lucca ("Lucca's Seaside"). On the other hand, the people of Viareggio have made the most out of their carnivalesque spirit by writing several songs which ridicule their neighbours from Lucca.


Ancient and medieval ages

During the 3rd century BC, the mountains of Versilia were slowly invaded by the Ligurian tribes who, coming from the north, stretched their area of influence as far south as the river Arnomarker. In 180 BC the Romans defeated the Ligurians and started colonising the Versilia (the areas known today as Massaciuccoli, Camaioremarker, Pietrasantamarker).

The most widely accepted theory recognises the city’s name as deriving from the Latin Via Regis ("Kings' Road"), the name of the Medieval road linking the fortification built on the beach to Luccamarker.

According to other historians, instead, the name derives from Vicus Regius. This theory is based on the fact that in imperial times, there was a small inhabited centre (vicus) in the area known as "Gli Ortacci" which belonged to the empire, hence regius ("Royal").

Several hillside towns started developing in the Middle Ages, several of which are still active. The area currently hosting the city of Viareggio, was still marshland and was not inhabited. Around 1000 A.D. started the first hostilities between Luccamarker and Pisamarker aimed at gaining control over the coast of the Versila which, since the High Middle Ages had been nothing more than a wood owned by feudal Lords in constant rivalry with each other.

The Burlamacca canal.

The first mention of Viareggio dates back to 1169 when a wooden tower guarding coast was built. A little over two years later, in (1172) a military building named Turris de Via Regia was erected, taking its name from the road that linked it to Lucca (known today as via Montramito). In the following years the area around Viareggio, was involved in the hostilities between Pisa and Lucca and in their attempt to gain control over the coastal area. The conflict was spurred by the desire of the Lucchesi to finally gain access to the sea, and to the Pisane fear of the economic competition of its rival city. It is during these years that the feudal Lords of Versilia were forced to abdicate in favour of Castruccio Castracani. In the following years the area upon which Viareggio would eventually be built was marked by a number of minor battles, invasions and pillages. In addition, the area was also affected by the pestilence which, recounted by Giovanni Boccaccio in his masterpiece the Decameron, spread throughout the whole of Italymarker.

15th-17th century

In these years Florencemarker expanded its control over Tuscany. Lucca, however, managed to maintain its independence in exchange for hefty financial penalties.

On September 10, 1513, Pope Leo X removed the port of Motrone from the control of Lucca. Such event will directly affect the future of Viareggio which, from that moment, became the focus of Lucca’s efforts to turn the town into its centre for commercial activities, and, in addition to the square-plan tower erected in (1534) with the aim to protect the port, several settlements started appearing.

The 17th century was perhaps one of the most difficult periods for the 300 inhabitants of Viareggio; the area was insalubrious, malaria and other deadly epidemic diseases made the lives of fishermen and farmers extremely difficult. Lucca, on the other hand, increased its efforts to drain the marshlands to improve quality of life and encouraged migration to the new town.

Slowly Viareggio changed its appearance; two small churches and as many factories were built, followed by a number of small shops. Meanwhile its port became more active, while the cultivation of the drained fields started.

18th and 19th centuries

Principe di Piemonte Hotel
In 1701 Viareggio became a comune (municipality). In 1739, thanks to the work of hydraulics engineer Bernardino Zendrini the marshlands were finally completely drained and the town turned into a place where noblemen from Lucca would come and build their palaces.

In May 1799 Viareggio was the centre of a popular uprising against the Jacobins.

With the invasion of Italy by Napoleon the Lucchese state was turned into a principality whose sovereignty was given to Felice Baciocchi, although the real power was in the hands of Napoleon’s older sister, Elisa. Elisa’s government was characterised by unpopular measures such as those against the ecclesiastic patrimony. Similarly, most of her financial policies were of dubious effect, although some were welcomed by the locals, such as the adoption of the "Napoleonic Code", the adoption of the metric system, the introduction of mandatory vaccination against smallpox.

With the fall of Napoleon and Baciocchi, Viareggio was the centre of several acts of violence. In March 1814 the population openly protested against the French, an event which turned into acts of pure vandalism.

Viareggio remained under the control of the Austrians until 1817 when, as part of the agreements from Congress of Vienna, Mary Louis of Bourbon was assigned the new Duchy of Lucca. The years to come would wipe out any good action that had been taken during the Napoleonic rule, although the new ruler would contribute the town’s expansion by building its first marina (seaside). In 1820 Viareggio obtained the status of city.

Following the death of his mother (13 March 1824), Charles Louis of Parma took over the government of Lucca and greatly contributed to Viareggio’s expansion, by building a new church, a royal casino and two beach resorts, the first ones to be built in Viareggio.

On October 5, 1847 Lucca was acquired by the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. Viareggio, in this new scenario, developed as a seaside resort for the whole of Tuscany. In 1848 the city adopted its current coat of arms. In these years Viareggio was the destination of many exiled intellectuals of the Italian Risorgimento who were tolerated by the local sovereigns.

During these years Viareggio’s economy saw a very rapid expansion through its already recognised beach tourism and the newly expanding sailboat industry.

20th century

The beginning of the 20th century saw again a marked development of the coast and tourism industry which determined a drastic change to most of the beach. The Passeggiata or promenade was born, with its cafés and shops, contributing to turning the city into the "Pearl of the Tyrrhenian Sea". Wood was very widely used in most building and, in 1917, a large portion of the city was lost in fire in only one night. It was only during the fascist era that wood would finally be replaced by other materials.

During World War II Viareggio was subject to heavy bombings and entire suburbs of the city were destroyed.

After the war, the reconstruction could finally begin, but the city had changed its appearance dramatically. Today Viareggio is still a renowned seaside resort and is widely famous for its carnival and shipbuilding industry.

21st century

Late in the evening of 29 June 2009, a train carrying liquified petroleum gas derailed while approaching Viareggio's railway station. The ensuing explosion killed 31 people, injured many others, and destroyed a large number of homes and families near the station.

Statue of Burlamacco on Belvedere delle Maschere
War Memorial in Piazza Garibaldi, known as "Piazza delle Paure".
Grand Hotel.
Torre Matilde and the Marina of Lucca.
Liberty-style Building.
A float being towed out of the Cittadella del Carnevale.
Carnival Float, 2007.


The entire area of Viareggio extends over the coastal flooding plain of Versilia. Located on the Ligurian Seamarker (although traditionally considered to face the Tyrrhenian Seamarker), it has of sandy beaches, of which are managed by private beach resorts and the remaining are public (most of the public beach is part of the Parco Naturale Regionale Migliarino-San Rossore-Massaciuccoli. Viareggio borders the local municipalities of Camaioremarker, Massarosamarker and Vecchianomarker (PI).

The municipal area comprises the Lake of Massaciuccolimarker and several canals, the most important ones of which are known as Burlamacca, Farabola, Fossa dell'Abate (bordering the municipality of Camaioremarker), and Fosso Le Quindici.


The climate is characterised by high levels of humidity (between 60 and 80% of relative humidity in the summer months) and a yearly rainfall off as a result of the proximity of the Apuanian Alps to the coast.The main winds are those blowing from South-East, the Libeccio and the Ponente which batter the coast for two to three days in a row and cause severe storms.

  • Average temperature:
  • Average high-temperature:
  • Average low-temperature:
  • Climatic classification: zone D, 1416 GR/G
  • Atmospheric diffusivity: low, Ibimet CNR 2002


Subway at Viareggio’s Railway station.
The pier and the Burlamacca canal.
Viareggio is well connected to Tuscany’s inland as well as the rest of Italymarker.It can be reached By car, from the A11 (Firenzemarker-Mare) motorway, via the A11/"Bretella" Lucca-Viareggio link road or A12 (Genoamarker-Rosignano) motorway.

There is a train station located near the city centre, with 60 daily trains running along the Genovamarker-Romemarker line, and the Firenzemarker line, as well as the international trains.

The nearest airport is Pisa’s "Galileo Galilei" international airport, just south of Viareggio’s city centre. Florence’s "Amerigo Vespucci" airport is to the east.

The Port and the Marina

Two extensions to today’s Burlamacca canal where built in 1577. It is on its banks that the first maritime activities developed

In 1740, Bernardino Zendrini had a water-gate built in order to prevent the sea water from arriving to lake Massaciuccoli.In 1820 Maria Luisa di Borbone, duchess of Luccamarker had the first marina of Viareggio built, which was completed in 1823, and took the name of Marina of Lucca.Between 1871 and 1873 the so-called Marina of Tuscany was built, then followed by the Marina of Italy, 1907 through to 1911.In 1938 the Marina of the Empire was also built, which was followed in the 1970s by the Marina of Viareggio (also known as the New Marina), the Marina of the Madonnina, and the new lighthouse.The Madonnina can host up to 500 vessels.

The city hosts the local Capitaneria di Porto, and all vessels registered here bear the marking VG.


The primary sectors of Vieraggio's economy after tourism, commerce and services, include fishing and floriculture (the flowers of Versilia).

The city also houses prolific shipyards.

At the beginning of the 19th century the craftsmen from Viareggio used to build small fishing vessels along the banks of the Burlamacca canal. As the century moved on, however, this small shipbuilding activity prospered until it became an internationally acclaimed centre. Nowadays, this is a very important sector the city and the neighbouring communities.



Unanimously considered the most important carnival celebration of Italymarker and Europe. It was born in 1873, and the now ever-present papier mâché - used to build the famous floats - was first introduced in 1925. The official masks of the Carnival are Burlamacco and Ondina, drawn for the first time in 1930.Since 1954, RAI broadcasts the entire event on national TV. Since 2001, the craftsmen of the carnival have moved to the Cittadella del Carnevale or, literally, Carnival Town.


  • Premio letterario Viareggio Repaci, a literary award founded in 1929 by Leonida Rèpaci, Alberto Colantuoni and Carlo Salsa.
  • Premio internazionale Artiglio.
  • Premio Sport Città di Viareggio.
  • Premio Viareggio Sport.

Musical events

  • Festival Puccini (held in Torre del Lago Puccini). It takes place every summer since 1930, between July and August, in an open-air theatre with 3,200 seats on the shore of lake Massaciuccolimarker. A new theatre is currently being built.
  • Jazz and more..., music festival held since 2002 at the City of Carnival.
  • Festival teatro canzone - Giorgio Gaber, since 2004 has been held at the City of Carnival.

Cultural events

  • Viareggio Incontri, at "Il Principino", on the Promenade.

Festival EuropaCinema

EuropaCinema is an international film festival reserved to the European film industry. It has been founded in 1984 in Riminimarker, it was then moved to Barimarker in 1988, and finally to Viareggio in 1989.

Main sights

  • Villa Orlandi
  • Villa Borbone (between Viareggio and Torre del Lago Puccini).
  • Villa Puccini, Museum.
  • Monument to the Resistance and to Peace, (largo Risorgimento). The monument is made of columns taken from the old City Hall, destroyed by the aerial bombardments of World War II, and two walls running perpendicular to each other. On one of these a mosaic from Folon can be found together with a quote from Quasimodo: "E come potevamo noi cantare con i piedi stranieri sopra il cuore?"/"And how could we sing with foreign feet trampling onto our hearts?", 1998, Bruno Belluomini.

Administrative subdivisions

Viareggio has a single frazione, Torre del Lago Puccini, having a population of around 11,000.

The city itself is subdivided into four Circoscrizioni:
  • Circoscrizione no. 1: Torre del Lago Puccini.
  • Circoscrizione no. 2: Centro Marco Polo.
  • Circoscrizione no. 3: Darsena/ex Campo d'Aviazione.
  • Circoscrizione no. 4: Viareggio Nuova.

Coat of arms

The current coat of arms was chosen in 1848 and replaces the previous one dating back to 1752, which showed an image of Saint Anthony from Padua, the first patron saint of the city.

The current coat of arms consists of an anchor with a hawser placed on top of a white, red and green shield. Viareggio was one of the first municipalities to adopt the tricolore (later to become the official flag of the unified Italy) for its coat of arm; even before Italy was officially unified.

Twinned cities

Viareggio is twinned with the following cities:

Famous people linked to Viareggio



  • Francesco Bergamini - Le mille e una...notizia di vita viareggina 1169/1940 - Pezzini Editore, Viareggio 1995
  • a cura di Paolo Fornaciari - I quaderni del Centro Documentario Storico (Cenni di storia viareggina) - Various prints
  • AA:VV: - I quaderni della torre - Pezzini Editore, Viareggio 1994
  • a cura di Paolo Fornaciari - Quaderni di storia e cultura - Pezzini Editore, Vireggio (Various editions)
  • Quinto Del Carlo, a cura di Ruggero Righini - L'antica magione...storia preromana di Viareggio e Versilia - Edizioni Dedalus
  • Francesco Bergamini - Viareggio e la sua Storia 1000-1800 - Pezzini Editore, Viareggio 2000


  • Giorgio Polleschi - Viareggio capitale dell'architettura eclettica. "Le opere dell'ingegnere architetto Alfredo Belluomini" - Edizioni della Fontana, Viareggio 1994
  • Luigi Gravina - Viareggio Illustrata (con oltre 160 incisioni nel testo) - Arti Grafiche G. Pezzini, Viareggio
  • Raffaello Martinelli - Tipi di barche piroscafi battelli 1892-1928 - Pezzini Editore, Viareggio 1996
  • Istituto Professionale di Stato per i servizi commerciali e turistici "G. Marconi" Viareggio - L'Istituto dei "Poveri Vecchi" - Edizione della Fontana, Viareggio 1994.
  • AA. VV. - La Passeggiata (architetture) - Electa, Martellago (VE) 1997
  • Flavia Franceschini, Giovanni Levantini, Maria Gabrielle Maestri e i ragazzi della IIB ('94/'95) dell'Istituto Professionale Marconi di Viareggio - Il Marconi (una scuola alla ricerca di una sede - Annuario) - Pezzini Editore, Viareggio 1997.


  • C. Menchini, G. Pratesi - La Basilica di Sant'Andrea di Viareggio - Grafiche L'ancora, Viareggio 1996
  • AA.VV. - La Basilica di San Paolino - Grafiche L'ancora, Viareggio 1996
  • AA:VV: - 38 anni di vita pastorale (Mons. Roberto Picchi Canonico Onorario) - Tipografia L'ancora A. Bertolozzi, Viareggio 1994
  • AA.VV. (regione Toscana, Touring Club Italiano) - Luoghi ebraici in Toscana - Grafiche Mazzucchelli, Settimo Milanese (MI) 2004
  • a cura di Maria Grazia Galimberti - Sirio (Don Sirio Politi - una viata tra lavoro e profezia 1920-1988) - Tipografia Grafica 77, 1998
  • Don G. Boninsegna, C. Vettori - Chiesa S. Cuore di Gesù Viareggio (affreschi e tempere su tavola di Massimo Micheli)
  • AA. VV. - Misericordia di Viareggio - Grafiche Offset A. Bertolozzi & figli, Viareggio 1983
  • AA. VV. (Scuola Elementare Santa Dorotea) - 1897-1997 Cento anni di presenza in Viareggio - 1997


  • Mario Tobino - Sulla spiaggia e di là dal molo - Mondadori
  • Materiale divulgativo turistico dell'A.P.T. (Azienda di Promozione Turistica) Versilia
  • AA.VV., a cura di Daniele Palchetti - "Viareggio" - Idea Books, Milano 2003
  • AA.VV., a cura di Isaliana Lazzerini - D'incanto (attraverso Viareggio tra natura, storia, cultura e sogno) - Maschietto Editore, Firenze 2003
  • AA.VV. a cua dell'Istituto Storico Lucchese sezione di Viareggio - Iniziativa per il restauro del Moletto Sanità - Tipografia La Darsena, Viareggio 2000
  • a cura di Federica Battilani - Misericordia di Viareggio (note di cronaca e storia 1826-1986) - Litografia Varo, Ghezzano (PI) 2001
  • Enrico Vettori - La Croce Verde nell'800 - Grafiche A. Bertolozzi & figli, Viareggio 1978

See also

Photographic Gallery

Image:06-08-12 Viareggio dar.jpgImage:Viareggio, chiesa di sant'andrea, veduta.JPGImage:Viareggio, chiesa di sant'andrea, vetrata di sant'antonio maria pucci.JPGImage:Faro-della-Darsena.jpg

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