Introduction

This hugely popular sun-and-sand resort is known as much for its flamboyant Mardi Gras Carnevale, second only to Venice for party spirit, as for its dishevelled line-up of once-grand art-nouveau facades along its seafront, which recall the town's 1920s and '30s heyday.

Viareggio's vast golden-sand beachfront is laden with cafes, climbing frames and other kids' amusements and, bar the short public stretch opposite fountain-pierced Piazza Mazzini, is divided into stabilimenti (individual lots where you can hire cabins, umbrellas, loungers etc). Only a handful of waterfront buildings retain the ornate stylishness of the 1920s and '30s, notably Puccini's favourite cafe, 1929 Gran Caffè Margherita and neighbouring wooden Chalet Martini (1899).