You can see it all from my boat – the stunning Carrara mountains where the blinding white marble has been in constant use by artists like Henry Moore and Michelangelo. You see the shimmering sweep of it for miles and miles providing a dreamy backdrop to nonstop Italian beaches.
Let’s start in Viareggio. For too long it has been one of those Italian beach towns with an Italian art nouveau flavor where you had a summer home that was sweetly middle class, not very expensive, not upper-upper like Forte dei Marmi or Portofino. Viareggio developed strings of shops and bars along the sea highway and packed people onto the beach and in traditional Italian beach clubs. You can see those clubs from the boat in these pictures but they are a work of art when you see them from a plane. Different owners line those miles of beach with sun lounges in their own choice of fabrics; some are orange and purple stripes, some are red and yellow stripes, some are cool beige with white little squares as if Hermes made them. There are few beach restaurants — you could die for a hot dog — but there are lots of places selling cool lemon drinks and there are lots of Tyrrhenian Sea boys available to help you do anything at all.
When the sea highway reaches Forte dei Marmi, you know it. Expensive casual chic hits your windshield with a cool wand and you turn a sharp right off the sea highway into the pretty town and walk around those manicured Palm Beach-y streets of shops. Attention! That is what you did before the Russians bought up half of Forte dei Marmi, as they are buying up everything civilized that is beautiful and chic. Now, Forte dei Marmi is too rich for a lot of Italians and they are rediscovering Viareggio. Warren Buffett would recommend Viareggio as a good buy today if he knew the coast of Italy. You might take a look.
Leaving Forte dei Marmi with shopping bags hanging all over us, we head for La Spezia and the big Bay of Lerici. La Spezia has been an important port since the very early days, and, if you like to study the past, there are arsenals and museums galore to do that in there. Or you can go a few miles more to Portovenere – one of those little port towns you imagine when you dream of the south of Italy. It is becoming a younger sister to Portofino and there are always picturesque boats in the bay. Lively at night, the port has a terrific restaurant at the tip, called Le Boccha.