Not only beach and sea: the nature of Versilia has much more to offer its visitors. And once in a while, you can escape from your holiday routine with a short trip ‘out of town’. What we propose in this article are three destinations not far from the sea, capable of surprising you with their beauty and uniqueness. Just three among many, but perhaps capable of arousing your curiosity and
desire to discover a different Versilia.
The Lipu Oasis of Massaciuccoli
Lake Massaciuccoli is most famous for Torre del Lago, with the villa where Giacomo Puccini lived and the large open-air theatre dedicated to the maestro. But on the opposite shore, the climate is completely different.
Here, in the Chiarone Nature Reserve (part of the Park of Migliarino, San Rossore and Massaciuccoli) lies the Oasis that has been managed for over 30 years by Lipu, the Italian League for the Protection of Birds. The lake is in fact a precious habitat for many species of birds, which live here or stop here during their long journeys: herons, storks, cranes, kingfishers, coots,
moorhens, little bitterns, and of course mallards, blackbirds, robins and nightingales.
The reserve areas are always open: there are no gates, no timetables, no tickets to pay. At any time, it is possible to walk along the wooden walkway through the reed and sedge thicket. It is a circular path, about two kilometres long, for a large part suspended above the waters of the lake, which then enters the damp forest, returning to the Oasis and the small harbour.
Along the walk, one can stop at the sighting huts, much appreciated by birdwatchers, with their cameras equipped with super-powerful zooms. In summer, the lake also offers the spectacle of aquatic plant blooms. The marsh irises, with their vivid yellow, and above all the very rare pink marsh irises, which have now disappeared throughout Italy and only survive in Lake Massaciuccoli.
The Oasis also offers the possibility of renting canoes or small boats, either rowing or motor (electric), to navigate the waters of the lake.
Not far from the Oasis are also the vestiges of the Roman Massaciuccoli, with the remains of the sumptuous villa that the noble Venulei family had built in the 1st century A.D. on the most scenic spot: the oldest evidence of the area’s tourist vocation.
The Antro del Corchia
It is one of the largest underground environments in Europe, so vast that, although the first opening was discovered in 1847, it has not yet been fully explored.
But the Antro del Corchia is above all an environment of spectacular beauty, today perfectly equipped for visits also suitable for non-experts and children: “a complex of tunnels, shafts and halls excavated by water over millions of years, in the marble heart of Monte Corchia”, stalactites and stalagmites creating extraordinary natural structures.
It is located in Alta Versilia, in the village of Levigliani, 600 metres above sea level and in the heart of the Apuan Alps. In the summer, and until mid-September, the Antro is open every day, and it is possible to participate in guided tours, which run from the morning until late afternoon (thereafter, openings are limited to weekends and group bookings).
The visits last a couple of hours, during which you walk about two kilometres along a wide steel footbridge, for relaxed and safe walks.
In the summer, it is also possible to participate in the ‘highest and coolest of all Versilia’ tastings: on the terrace at the entrance to the cave, with a splendid view of the valley and the sea, one can taste ‘hypogeo’ wine, i.e. wine refined inside the cave, produced by small local wineries, together with local products, cold meats and cheeses.
The Candalla waterfalls
Finally, we move on to the municipality of Camaiore, with a destination that will appeal especially to those who love walking in the woods. Following the road signs, we easily reach Casoli, a small village characteristic for the graffiti decorating the walls of the houses: works created over the years by numerous artists.
From here you can continue by following the signs for the old Barsi ironworks. It is advisable to park the car before arriving at your destination, because the road is narrow and parking is difficult.
The first icy, crystal-clear pools are reserved for the more daring, who dive from the six-metre high rock. Also suitable for children are the ‘pools’ next to the ruins of the old Candalla mill: but the spectacle of the waterfall plunging from the rock is a pleasure for all.
A short distance away are rock walls famous among climbers for their ‘climbing routes’ (there are no less than 785 in the municipality of Camaiore) from which the view of the sea can be enjoyed.
A walk in the woods and along the torrent instead offers the spectacle of a succession of small waterfalls and puddles and of a luxuriant nature that is regaining the space occupied by the many activities (mills, oil mills and pasta factories) that, between the 16th and 19th centuries, exploited the driving force of water.
Four villas surrounded by nature
Right in the hills of Camaiore is Villa Sauvignon, a historic building, built at the end of the 18th century and renovated in the 1980s while preserving the splendid frescoes and original Venetian floors.
The villa, measuring 900 square metres on three levels, offers a breathtaking view, from Livorno to the Gulf of Poets in Liguria. It is surrounded by 15 thousand square metres of land, with a centuries-old olive grove and a large Italian-style garden.
The outdoor spaces include a large covered terrace and a 40-square-metre swimming pool, as well as a small chapel, still consecrated and used for private ceremonies.
The former granary, in which the old machinery is preserved, has been converted into an independent flat.
Another historic residence is the even older Villa Leopoldina. Located in the Pisan countryside, 10 kilometres from the centre of the capital, it dates back to 1600. And it too is set in the middle of a private park, some 9,500 square metres in size, with exotic tall trees including palms and banana trees, and then camellias, peonies, magnolias, palms, antique roses and rare plants that create a habitat suitable for parrots, peacocks, butterflies and birds of prey.
The large swimming pool simulates an ancient fishpond, blending into the environment.
The villa is on three floors, with an independent flat on the attic floor and a large outbuilding. It was renovated in the mid-19th century, when the frescoes decorating the high ceilings were also created.
A splendid view of the Apuan Alps and a garden of 8,000 square metres make Villa Titan an ideal choice for nature lovers. The villa is located in a strategic position, only three kilometres from the beach of Forte dei Marmi and five minutes from the centre of Pietrasanta.
It was completed in 2022, with luxury finishes and using natural and precious materials, such as parquet, ceramics, mosaics and various types of coloured marble.
Finally, a stone’s throw from the walls of Lucca stands Villa Diana, a splendid early 20th-century building, one of the most important examples of Art Nouveau architecture preserved in the capital, with its rich and refined decorations and splendid original finishes.
The villa is surrounded by a park of over 5,600 square metres with an enormous red beech tree, camellias, magnolias, medlar trees, rose gardens and fish ponds: a green paradise, just a few minutes from the centre.