Guida Alla Versilia

An outline of the history of Viareggio

An outline of the history of Viareggio

The toponym originates in 1172 from a Lucchese blockhouse called “Torre di Via Regia” (Tower of the Regia way) because it had been built on the road covered by Barbarossa. Having lost the port of call of Motrone, Lucca maintained the Burlamacca channel as the  only access to the sea. Because the old blockhouse was not in a position to defend the coast, in 1534, Lucchesi built a new one, more massive, the still existing Matilde Tower.

Matilde TowerThe worsening of the environmental conditions due to the unsuccessful attempts of the marsh reclamation pushed Lucca to emanate urgent provisions, like free land cessions, tax exemptions, even pain reductions.

At the end of the 18-th century, the construction of special cataracts on the channel reclaimed the area and put an end  to the malaria danger. Furthermore, the construction on the coast of the pine forest, still living, as an artificial barrier, improved environmental conditions and the population increased quickly with the fishing and sailing navy development.

In the 19-th century the Borbone constructed the dock and  Nottolini architect defined the urban plan basing it on a net of long roads and tree-lined avenues parallel and perpendicular to the sea intersecting at a right angle. The first bathing establishments were inaugurated (some on pile works) with a division between men and women and the first edition of the Carnival took place.
The beginning the 20-th century marked the boom of the bathing tourism; the Walk on the tree-lined avenue Queen Margherita was inaugurated, with wooden buildings as coffee shops, stores and bathing establishments, that unfortunately had been destroyed in the fire in 1917, except the Martini chalet, which is still existing. Viareggio was the “Pearl of the Tyrrhenian Sea”, a fashionable, cultural and tourist center  appreciated in Italy and in Europe.

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