- Naturally gifted
- City life
- Hikes, bikes and sea dips
This stretch of northern Tuscany is a natural charmer; its winding coastline spans rust-coloured hills, dense pine forests, moorlands, and beaches graced with sand as white as Carrara's famous marble.
Versilia is named after its river, but there's no doubt that this destination has the sea at its heart. Celebrities have been lured to its beaches since Shelley and Byron first donned bathing suits and dipped their toes in Tuscan waters. There's a brashness to some seaside resorts, but refreshingly, Versilia seems unaware of its own beauty: though the landscape makes for an intoxicating natural cocktail – the coast is a playboy's playground – a relaxed spirit prevails. Locals travel everywhere by bike (canny tourists do too), and the coastal glitz is tempered by generous doses of culture, history and hospitality.
The Alpi Apuane mountain range is home to the marble quarries of Colonnata and Carrara, made famous by the carvings of Michelangelo. Visit Carrara's open-cast mines and experience a traditional lunch with the miners in the nearby village of Colonnata (www.artexcursiontuscany.it). While you're here, wander around the small, historic towns that inspired some of the world's greatest artists, including painter Lorenzo Viani and composer Giacomo Puccini.
- Travelling by taxi in Versilia is not recommended (there is a dearth of cabs and they're not known for reliability) so hop on a bike like a local. If you're not the two-wheel type, give Radiotaxi a go (+39 (0)584 45454).
- Siesta and fiesta
- Go shopping in the morning, or late in the afternoo , as most shops close between noon and half four for a leisurely lunch. Locals don't make dinner reservations before 9pm; nights start to look lively around 11.30pm, and bars don't close before 3am (clubs stay open for longer).
- Packing tips
- Bodycon and blazers for nights out in Forte Dei Marmi, a glamorous sea town; trustworthy shoes for hikes in the Alpi Apuane; your culinary curiousity for sampling the local specialties.
- Recommended reads
- Gabriele D'Annunzio was a rebellious Italian poet and dramatist who lived out his last days in Pietrasanta; read about his life in Gabriele D'Annunzio: Defiant Archangel by J.R. Woodhouse; published posthumously, Catch as Catch Can by Joseph Heller touches upon the author's time in Versilia; Michelangelo risked his life on dangerous expeditions, stocking up on marble for his masterpieces – read about the artist's adventures Michelangelo's Mountain: The Quest for Perfection in the Marble Quarries of Carrara by Eric Scigliano.
- Euro (€).
- Time zone
- GMT +1.
- Dialling codes
- Italy: 39. Versilia: 0584.
- Do go/don't go
- Beware August – it's the peak holiday season for Italians and Versilia's beaches and hotels are always jam-packed. May–June and July–September are ideal times to hit the coast or countryside; a little cooler, and a lot less busy.