The Apuo-versiliese territory is a natural geographical area bordered on the north by the mouth of the river Magra, on the south by the river Serchio, on the west by the Apuan Alps, and on the east by the splendid continuous stretch of beach on the Tyrrhenian sea. The environmental and climatic conditions have favoured settlements in this area since Paleolithic and Neolithic times. The primitive mountain settlements slowly expanded to the valley and the plain during the Roman and medieval periods, while the coastal settlements have relatively modern origins and their development goes back to the middle of the nineteenth century, further developing very rapidly from the post-war period on.
It is an area blessed by nature which, in only a few square kilometres, can boast of very high mountains, smooth plains, sandy beaches, a blue sea and a mild climate all year round, thanks to the natural protection from the cold north wind provided by the mountain chain. It is also very well served by a vast network of modern road, rail, air and sea links.
It is a tourist resort, a place of relaxation and entertainment, but also offers diverse naturalistic environments, places of culture, of art, of valuable architectural testimony and of first rate artisan work. The main source of wealth comes from its white marble, extracted from the Apuan mountains, which for centuries has constituted the main source of economic development for the whole area
THE COAST FROM SOUTH TO NORTH, IN SEQUENCE, WE CAN FIND
- Torre del Lago Puccini
- A small town which is part of the municipality of Viareggio and is famous for being the birth place of Giacomo Puccini, the opera Maestro. Since 1930, in his honour, there has been an open-air opera season, which exploits the charm of the place and leaves an indelible impression in the hearts of visitors. This is part of the Migliarino-San Rossore-Massaciuccoli natural park and has one of the most natural landscapes of the whole Apuo-versiliese area. This, together with its night life and illuminated walkways set against the background of the sea, make it a place of unrestrained fun and entertainment for young people.
– An elegant tourist resort well-known internationally. Primitive types of bathing establishments were set up in the early 19th century and by the early 20th century there were already 3000 bathing huts. Its time-long vocation for tourism is also seen in the presence of some splendid cafés and other reception buildings in Liberty style. It is very famous for its carnival which has been running since 1873, in which the protagonists are gigantic colourful floats made of papier-maché, which represent with typical Tuscan irony the various social and political problems; the town spends the whole year preparing for this event. Various events follow each other continually during the year and the town provides entertainment and attractions in all seasons. Other important sectors, which have a great economic impact on the area, are boat building, producing some of the world’s most beautiful yachts, and those connected to fishing.
- Lido di Camaiore
-This coastal town, part of the the municipality of Camaiore, is a modern and efficient tourist sea-side resort, with its facilities centred both around the pine wood and on the sea front.
- Marina di Pietrasanta
- This town is part of the municipality of Pietrasanta (includes Focette, Tonfano, Fiumetto e Motrone). It is an elegant sea-side resort with a very wide beach which, at some points reaches 200m in width. Visitors to these beaches can enjoy the luxury of the space on the beach even in the busiest periods. To the back of the bathing establishments, accessibile through private gardens, the pine wood and other green areas, there is the Versiliana park which covers an area of almost one million square metres. The park which houses the famous end-19th century villa in which the poet D’Annunzio stayed, is the centre of many summer events, amongst which: “Il Caffè della Versiliana” (it began in the 80s before the arrival of television talk shows) is a sought-after and prestigious show-case which, every year, hosts well-known people and celebrities from the world of cinema, culture, art, journalism, politics, entertainment…; “The Versiliana dei Piccoli" is an area dedicated to children, to creative games and story telling …; an intense cultural programme which covers musical concerts, cabaret, dance, prose…
- Forte dei Marmi
- Among the most exclusive European tourist destinations, Forte dei Marmi developed around a pier built in the 16th century for loading the Apuan marble on board ships and protected by a fortress which Leopoldo I had built. As time went by, nobles from all over Europe, diplomats, business men, industrialists, artists and celebrities elected “the Forte” as the place to be on holiday. Many of them, hidden and protected by the pine wood, built their splendid country houses here.
- A small town, part of the municipality of Montignoso, bases its modern economy above all on sea-side tourism and, very recently, also on thermal spas, which take the place of the traditional economic resources: marble working, the agicultural activities of growing grapes, olives, cereals, forage, hemp and linen. Visitors to Cinquale also have the opportunity of using the small airport there, which offers private flights and parachuting.
- Marina di Massa
- Part of the municipality of Massa (includes Ronchi, Poveromo and Partaccia) it is a well-known sea-side resort which experienced its first boom in the inter-war period. The very exclusive Ronchi (to the south), where Paola Ruffo of Calabria, today queen of Belgium, enjoyed spending her long summer holidays, continued to host important celebrities also in the post-war period. The very popular Partaccia (to the north), offers camp sites and alternative accomodation facilities especially in the ex-children’s holiday camps facing the sea which, today, are being completely renovated.
- Marina di Carrara
- Apart from being a sea-side resort with modern, well-equipped beaches and accomodation facilities, it also has an important commercial port, which developed because of the marble trade, and a well-organised tourist harbour where there is an efficient and very active sailing club. In Marina di Carrara there is a modern trade fair complex of 95.000 m2, which is among the best organised in the whole region, where events of national and international importance are held.
INLAND FROM SOUTH TO NORTH, IN SEQUENCE, WE CAN FIND
- A very large municipality (includes Bargecchia, Corsanico, Mommio Castello, Stiava, Pian del Quercione, Piano di Conca, Piano di Mommio, Bozzano, Quiesa, Pieve a Elici, Gualdo, Montigiano, Montramito) which is spread over flat land and hilly areas of rare beauty, with natural panoramic terraces looking over Lake Massaciuccoli and the sea. Here, the tourist has the choice of various itineraries which go through villages and natural green areas.
- This town is situated in a wide geographical basin, at the foot of the first spurs of the Apuan Alps and has been inhabited since the Roman period. There are many buildings which bear witness to the past and which can be visited, such as: Badia di S. Pietro St. Peter’s Abbey), founded by the Benedictine monks (8th-13th century); Pieve dei SS. Giovanni e Stefano (Parish church of St. John and St. Stephen), built in the 12th century, which houses a valuable christening font made from a Roman sarcophagus of the 3rd century A.D.
- A town with an incredibile architectural and artistic patrimony, both past and present, such as the cathedral with its red-brick bell tower, the Moroni building, the golden facade of St. Augustine, the Tower of the Hours, the “big-bellied warrior” by Fernando Boterò. This is a part of Tuscany where the art of sculpture has been important since the time of Michelangelo, who came here to choose the best marble for his works of art. Also today there is a fertile artistic and artisan production specialised in marble, mosaic and in metal casting, and for this reason it is a point of reference for many artists of international fame. Since 1984, the monumental building of St. Augustine (16th century ex-convent) houses an original and unique museum, the Museum of Sculptors’ Models, where one can see the models (either reduced to scale or of life-like size) of many famous works of art by the great names in art of the 20th century, such as H. G.Adam, A. Bloc, F. Botero, P. Cascella, César, P. Consagra, N. Finotti, J.M. Folon, G. Fonseca, R. Gilardi, E. Gilioli, J.R. Ipousteguy, I. Mitoraj, R. Murabito, C. Nivola, I. Noguchi, A. Penalba, Gio’ Pomodoro, C.S. Signori, Kan Yasuda, etc.
- Lies at the foot of the Apuan Alps and developed around the area where the rivers Serra and Vezza meet. It is spread over mountainous land, valley and plain (includes Azzano, Fabiano, Giustagnana, Minazzana, Basati, Cerreta S. Antonio, Cerreta S. Nicola, Riomagno, Ruosina, Corva, Ripa, Pozzi. Corvaia) and is divided into seven historical districts which, in spring time, all compete in a traditional donkey race.
– It is the smallest town in the area, situated on the first slopes of the Apuans, 443m above sea level, with a population of about 600. It includes several small villages (Cardoso, Levigliani, Arni, Terrinca, Pontestazzemese, Farnocchia, Sant'Anna, Pomezzana, Retignano, Pruno, Volegno, Ruosina, Palagnana, Mulina, Gallena, La Culla, Campagrina) spread over the sea-facing slopes of the Apuan Alps at altitudes of between 160 and 916m above sea level. In the small village of Stazzema there is an Ossuary which houses the bones of 560 martyrs, killed by the Nazis on 12 August 1944, and bears witness to the terribile price these people paid during the second world war.
- An inland town (comprising Cinquale, Pasquilio, Capanne, Piazza, Prato, Cerreto, San Eustachio, Vietina…) with a population of about 10.000. Its development goes back to the medieval period when the Longobardo king, Astolfo, gave his brother-in-law a large olive grove near Castle Aghinolfi, in order to make enough oil to keep the church lamps lit. Castle Aghinolfi, called the “fortress” by the local people, is a bastion of even older origins, built to defend the coast and the canal of Montignoso from pirate attacks. Today it is an important centre for marble working and trade. From the village Pasquilio, 800-900m above sea level, there is a charming view over the whole Versilia area and, on the clearest of days, it is possibile to see the largest islands of the Tuscan archipelago and also Corsica!
- Coupled with Carrara, it is the provincial capital and has been famous since Roman times for its connection with marble. In 1442, after a tormented period of conflict over territorial control, the marquis of Malaspina settled there and maintained control up to the Unification of Italy in 1860. During the inter-war period of the 20th century, the main industrial groups built factories here, transforming it into an important hub of production. Today, after the period of industrial crisis, it still excels as a very modern industrial area, especially in the services sector and in tourism.
- Coupled with Massa, it is the provincial capital and world leader in the extraction, working and trade of marble, to which the town also owes its name (from the Ligurian word “Kar” = stone). Its white marble deposits were already widely known and exploited in the Roman period, using primitive extraction techniques, which evolved through time and are documented in the Marble Museum, divided into six sectors, which tells the story of marble extraction and working through the centuries. By exploiting this precious resource, the whole area developed and Carrara has always been its religious and administrative centre, as confirmed by many important buildings, particularly the magnificent cathedral (11th-14th century).
FURTHER INLAND FROM SOUTH TO NORTH, STAND THE MAJESTIC APUAN ALPS
- Alpi Apuane
- An impressive, natural treasure (includes all the towns in the Upper-Versilia area, the towns in Massa Carrara and all the marble deposits), protected by a “natural regional park”, which all adds up to an extraordinary and unique alpine landscape, rich in vegetation and rare flowers, facing the sea. Both the sea-facing side and the inland-facing side offer wonderful walking or riding trips along woodland paths and fascinating speleological excursions in natural caves (for example, the “Grotta dell’antro del Corchia” or the “Grotte del Vento”). The favourable environmental conditions enabled people to settle in this area even in prehistoric times and later gave rise to the primitive necropoles of the “Liguri-Apuan” populations.
The whole area, from the hill tops above lake Masaciuccoli, to Campo Cecina above Carrara (which reaches a height of almost 2000m), offers breathtaking views on the coast below and on the Tyrrhenian Sea.