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The Charms of Quiet Viareggio 17/12/2010

Posted by florencecapital in Uncategorized.
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c. 1900

Any one in search of tranquillity, complete repose from social duties, leisure to do whatever he or she likes best, from the not necessarily early hour of rising until bedtime, to such a man or woman let me recommend Viareggio in the dull season. This aspect of Viareggio is the only one I know; and though to others the little town may wear a deserted look in early spring, to me it is a haunt of peace, which induces that charming feeling one has when there are no duties waiting to be performed— only long sunny hours in which to enjoy mornings, afternoons, and evenings, of dolce far niente. To appreciate all that is meant by this delightful Italian expression, one thing is necessary at Viareggio – either to have a sympathetic companion, or to be alone. Otherwise one might find oneself in a trying position. It is impossible to lose any one here, and short of locking oneself into the hotel bedroom, which is home for the time being, one could not shake off an uncongenial associate.

Viareggio is situated on a beautiful corner of the Mediterranean coast, which here forms a series of shallow bays. All along the sandy beach are vast stretches of pine-woods, and behind them rise the great ranges of the Carrara mountains. The tall umbrella pines catch the sunlight on their spreading tops in a thousand different tones. It reddens their wind-bent trunks, and touches with gold the gorse and the vivid green of the young grass at their feet. In spring-time the Carrara mountains are still snow-sprinkled, and their jagged peaks stand boldly up against the deep blue of the sky. Drifting clouds wreath them, and on their slopes white red-roofed villages perch, each clustering about a tall church tower, and making a patch of light on the amethystcoloured mountain-side. The pictures framed by the tall pine-stems are for ever changing. Here, on the one hand, are the mysterious mountains; and on the other is the sea, glittering and sparkling, beyond the golden sands, through the gloom of the woods – sometimes blue, and sometimes purple, and sometimes green, while the rhythm of the plash of  the waves on the sea-shore answers the sigh of the breeze in the tree-tops.

Viareggio proper, which lies away from the pine woods, is a small fishing town with a population highly reputed for honesty, theft being unknown. The town is composed of rows of straight streets with low green-shuttered houses, bounded on the north by the railway line that runs to Genoa, and on the south by the sea. Those quiet little houses in the broad sunny streets wear a homelike attractive air, though most commonplace in architecture and with little variety about them. All show the same peculiar features—a large door with a window on either side, three windows above, and a flat roof. The ground-floor windows go down to the street pavement, and are thrown wide open all day long in fine weather; no precautions are taken to keep people out. Once I saw a low wooden barrier fitted inside an open window; but it looked a very inadequate protection, and easy to be stepped across. It appeared to me that the only reason for its presence must be a desire to keep out the Viareggio dogs.


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