The most luxurious places in Northern Tuscany: Riviera-Versilia

Versilia Riviera, set on the Northern Tuscany coast, has become a favourite retreat for celebrities and wealthy vacationers. Its reputation dates to the 1960s, when industrialists made wealthy by a booming economy chose Versilia as a place to get away – followed soon thereafter by the Prince and Princess of Piedmont, who eventually chose Viareggio’s beach resorts for their summer sunbathing.

Today Versilia is well known to travellers and investors from around the world. Visitors come from Russia, Middle Eastern countries, and China, joined by American and Japanese artists who have found a “little Athens” in the small medieval village of Pietrasanta. This rustic site hosts some of the most famous workshops in the world for artisans working with Carrara white marble, bronze, and Venetian Murano glass.

The cosy village also is well equipped with charming hotels, located in luxuriously renovated historical palaces. The Albergo PIETRASANTA evokes a XVIII century Grand Tour, when noblemen and -women stayed as guests in the palaces of the aristocracy, sleeping in frescoed rooms enshrouded by silk tapestries. Modern guests might find themselves sipping a breakfast cappuccino in a winter garden, surrounded by secular palms and masterpieces by famous modern Italian painters, from Fontana to Accardi to Boetti.

Moving toward the Riviera and Forte dei Marmi, tourists enter the shopping district, populated by sleek fashion boutiques and glamorous cafes. The long stretches of palm-lined promenades open to reveal luxury beach resorts, nightclubs and gourmet seafood restaurants. The Annetta Beach Resort is a favourite among sport stars and show-business celebrities, and yet the owners maintain their straightforward and easygoing attitude, always ready to fulfil any desire. (I recommend in particular an express order of mussels and clams spaghetti, with a fresh Vernaccia wine, enjoyed under the gazebo with the waves lapping the seashore nearby.)

But all the hotels in the region consistently earn 4 to 5 stars, because they know how to provide exquisite service in exclusive venues. The Grand Hotel Imperiale is renowned for its ability to accomplish any extreme request, whatever the season, especially for demanding Russian guests who crave to uncork bottles of 2005 vintage Romanée Conti for three thousand euros to drink with pizza or spend four thousand euros for two bottles of red wine and a dessert. The Villa Roma Imperiale, nestled among both Mediterranean amenities and Forte dei Marmi’s urban texture, instead prioritises a cosy, familiar welcome in a refined and charming location.

The Versilia Riviera is enclosed between two natural reserve areas, where Tyrrhenian sea treasures are watched over by dolphins and whales. Viareggio has a long tradition of cuisine inspired by the sea; perhaps the epitome of luscious seafood fare is Ristorante Da Romano, a family-run restaurant that merges tradition, expertise, gourmet cooking and impeccable service in a perfect mix.

Even the natural aromas and flavours enhance the senses in Versilia. The environment encourages unprecedented food offerings, from the most sought after “tordello” in Camaiore, i.e. meat-stuffed fresh pasta scented with peporino (i.e. thyme), to Colonnata bacon seasoned in marble basins to savoury wine from local vineyards to the “Scarpaccia” zucchini cake made famous by the deluxe country style of Ristorante Emilio e Bona.

But the most luxurious, shining penthouse in Versilia—overlooking the entire beach as it stretches from Viareggio to the Gulf of Lerici – is the natural white marble caves in Carrara, including Fantiscritti, which ancient Romans used to decorate their villas and urban arrays, and which Michelangelo demanded as his material for La Pietà. These “white gold” slabs remain in high demand all over the world, and Versilia is the only place to see them in their natural setting.

Serena Giovannoni is a Travel Consultant at WishVersilia.

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