The seaside, Italian style

Trip Start Jun 23, 2012
Trip End Jun 30, 2012

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Flag of Italy  , Tuscany,
Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Liz and I made an early morning (well, pre-lunch) sortie into Lucca for a wander around the city and a coffee. We managed to park in our previously discovered spot, which appears to be the only car park within the city walls where non-residents are allowed. We were slightly put off by a strange guy who seemed to "guarding" the vehicles, but as it happened I had no change so I couldn't give him anything anyway.

Chris and Katie also went off exploring, and discovered the chocolate shops of Monsummano, to the east of Lucca. Meanwhile, Olivia and Lydia appeared to do nothing but sleep and sit by the pool!

After various requests we had decided to make an outing to the seaside, although due to the heat we left our departure time until mid-afternoon. Viareggio, about 20 miles north of Pisa, looked like a good bet, and we set Chris's satnav to take us there on a route which avoided the motorway. And an interesting route it was, too! On several occasions we were taken down side roads that certainly didn't appear on the map, but each time we emerged into glorious countryside. One road took us past a huge, glorious field of sunflowers, over which the views to the mountains in the north were impressive. Here at various intervals we spotted young women sat by the corner of the immediate guess was that they must be employed by the farmer to guard the crops (there being no fences or gates to any of the vast fields). However, it soon became apparent that, in fact, they were prostitutes! It seemed completely surreal, although presumably the relative proximity of the motorway must go some way to explaing it.

We were trying to enter Viareggio on the Viale dei Tigli, which (according to our guide book) is a beautiful 6km long avenue of limes on the entrance to the town. Unfortunately we couldn't find it, and ended up getting slightly lost searching for the centre....the accidental diversion, however, took us around the port district which housed dozens of huge "sheds" dedicated to the manufacture of giant motorised yachts, of the type that Roman Abramovich would be proud.

Despite a confusing entry into the town we managed to park easily, and close to the beach. The long promenade stretched out before us, with hundreds of buildings of various descriptions separating the prom from the beach. The modus operandi here was to select your "establishment", go in, and pay.....which then gave you access to the beach. Each establishment effectively owned a small strip of the sand, although because the beach was very deep the individual strips were able to house a large number of umbrellas and deck chairs. I had feared a relatively daunting price, but we were charged 15 Euros for an hour for all of us, which entiled us to one umbrella and the adjacent three seats. However, as it was now gone 5.30, the beach was emptying and we had no problem commandeering two umbrellas and the required six deckchairs.

Everyone ventured into the sea (except Liz and I, who limited ourselves to a stroll along the shore). The whole experience was slightly bizarre....almost every square inch of the huge beach, stretching miles up the coast, was covered in well-ordered rows of sun umbrellas and deck-chairs. There was a small strip of sand, about 5m wide, at the sea-edge, along which throngs of people were walking....although it was a little tricky to get anywhere, as inevitably there were kids mucking around building sand castles, plus every establishment seemed to have its own life guard, complete with boat and little area for the lifeguards to sit and chat.

After our hour was up we repaired to a cafe for a drink - the guidebook recommended the Gran Caffe Margherita, directions to which I duly asked as we left the beach....only to find it was right next door! In other words, it was not that "grand" - albeit it offered just what we needed (drinks in the shade, plus decent toilets!).

Our day ended in Lucca, where we stopped on our homeward drive. We are now getting to grips with the tiny streets and one-way system in the city, and were able to park in our usual spot (thankfully now without its "minder"), and sat outside at a very pleasant restaurant in a small square just within the city walls.
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R&J on

Jim, it all sounds wonderful. We (R&J) have the desire to return to Lucca: we love the city and its environs. Good photos.

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