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Inhabitants in 1991: 57.514

The Viareggio territory extends for 31,88 square kilometres, along the Versilia coast. It reached its present day aspect in 1869 when the districts of Bargecchia, Bozzano, Campignano, Corsanico, Gualdo, Massaciuccoli, Massarosa, Mommio, Montignoso, Pieve a Elci, Quiesa and Stiava were detached from it to constitute the new municipality of Massarosa.

The first news of Viareggio - whose name derives from the Medieval Via Regia, drawn out along the coast – goes back to 1170 in the times when Lucca became patron of this locality. The following year as is referred to in Tolomeo’s Annuls of Lucca, Lucca acquired the territory which extends from Montramito to the sea, from Truffa Messolombardi and, in 1172, took it away from Pisa and then destroyed the castle of Viareggio. The object of frequent conflicts between Lucca and Pisa, it seems that in 1221 the centre was ceded in feudal by intervention of Federico II to a certain Pagano di Baldovino, citizen of Lucca, and remained with his descendants until 1283 when Lucca re-obtained it definitively.

Viareggio began to acquire a certain importance after Lucca, having been constrained to abandon the Port of Motrone to the Fiorentini (1441), decided to establish their marine port there. In this perspective in 1463 the land reclaim works were started in the hinterland and in 1534 a fort was built to defend the settlement from the frequent attacks by the corsairs. In 1548 Viareggio became Seat of a Commissariat and, from 1617, capital of the Vicariate. Despite this, the territory remained scarcely populated for a long time because of the merciless malaria fevers; until thanks to a new plan of land reclaim designed by the Zendrini and which was started in 1740, the scourge died away and the inhabitants grew, also by virtue of the concessions of immigration.

The development of Viareggio was heightened under Maria Luisa di Borbone, who had drawn up a town plan and conferred on it the title of city in 1823. After the arrival of the Grand Duchy (1847), in 1850 the first dockyard was opened and the fishing activity developed The modern vocation of the centre began in 1861, with the building a several bathing establishments, the first in Italy; and already by the end of the 1800s and the first years of the 1900 Viareggio had become a well known tourist resort, with large hotels and luxurious villas; in the meantime the new dockyard was completed (1905) and work begun to remedy the progressive sanding up of the slipway. The city saw grave episodes of political intolerance with the coming of Fascism, with devastation of the working man’s clubs and, in May 1921, with the killing of two ship workers. But the democratic tradition of Viareggio was confirmed during the liberation war with an intense participation in the partisan struggles. Viareggio was the birthplace of the artist and writer Lorenzo Viani (1882-1936).

Places to visit:
Civic Museum of Prehistory and Archaeology “A.C. Blanc”, in the building which Paolina Bonaparte Borghese had built in 1820, it exhibits finds coming from the north east of Toscana.
Pinacoteca “L. Viani”, where there is a collection of works of artists from Viareggio, together with the “Lucarelli Collection” composed of paintings of famous artists of the 1900s.
Passaggiata a mare or Lungomare (sea front or Promenade) principal thoroughfare of the town, which crosses it from south to north, on which face elegant Liberty buildings.
The Citadel, begun in 2001, it is a modern architectural complex with a theatre and the hangers where the wonderful floats which parade in the famous Viareggio carnival are made.

Historical info reproduced upon authorization of Regione Toscana - Dipartimento della Presidenza E Affari Legislativi e Giuridici
Picture by Sandro Santioli
Translated by Ann Mountford

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