Fun Spot in Italy

Posted on 29. Aug, 2016 by in Food and Wine, Lifestyle - General, Travel



My family and I just got back from a fun trip to Italy. The son of my agent and good friend in Florence was married, so that was the primary reason for the visit. Our kids, Charlie and Amanda, had never been to Italy. We decided to make a family trip of it and we really enjoyed ourselves. For the last five days, we ended up at a new spot to me, Viareggio. It’s an old beach town about an hour plus straight west of Florence on the Mediterranean coast. I expected it to be more crowded as I guess I’m accustomed to southern California beaches. This was approaching high season, but it wasn’t congested at all.

Apparently, June is the month when grandparents typically vacation with their families, so it was fun to see grandfathers and grandmothers walking and playing with their grandkids. The population is about 65,000, but we didn’t venture anywhere outside the seaside area, which is quite small. There’s a promenade of shops, cafes and bars between the main road and the beach. This made for fun strolling, casual shopping and relaxed dining. Most of the beach is made up of private beach clubs which charge a daily fee for an umbrella and lounge chairs, so it has a bit 0f a different feeling than a typical public beach. About ten miles north is the town of Forte dei Marmi. This is much more of a ritzy beach town, more crowded with very nice restaurants, luxury shopping and vibrant nightlife. We visited for a day, but the pace in Viareggio was much more to my taste.

We stayed at the Grand Hotel Principe di Piemonte, kind of a mouthful to say, but a lovely place. As far as I could tell, it was about the only substantial hotel near the beach, but it was really lovely. It was built in 1922 and is a four story structure with a very classic northern Italian style. There’s a beautiful rooftop pool and bar/restaurant. It’s a really special spot.

The food in Italy is hard to beat for my money and it was truffle season when we were there, so I took advantage of that. We ate a lot of pasta and veal and loved it. By the end, I was craving a hamburger or a burrito, but we had countless wonderful meals. Tuscan, sangiovese based wines are some of my favorites and my wife Tonya made a new summer cocktail discovery, the Aperol spritz. It didn’t take long to figure out that if you asked for a spritz you would get a blank look, but if you ordered a “spreetz” you would get this pretty deep orange drink on ice in a stemmed glass. Aperol is an orange bitter, sort of like Campari, but a bit easier to drink. Here’s the recipe:

3 oz. Aperol poured over ice

2 oz. Prosecco

1 oz. club soda

An orange slice

I don’t normally drink this kind of thing, but it did taste pretty good on a hot early evening. Tonya really likes them, not to paint her as a heavy drinker, and she’s been serving them to her girlfriends since we got home.

Finally, I have two restaurant recommendations for this area, both in Forte dei Marmi:

Ristorante Lorenzo and Osteria Del Mare

They’re both wonderful. Lorenzo is a bit fancier, but it’s still a beach town, so pretty relaxed.

In any case, Viareggio made a perfect ending to our trip. We and, I think a lot of visitors to Italy, tend to focus on Florence, Rome, Venice, the Tuscan countryside, etc. The beach isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when planning an Italian vacation, but this was really a nice experience and the Mediterranean Sea is very beautiful. It’s so close to Florence that it’s really easy to get to and definitely worth a side trip.

Buono viaggio!

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