Tucked in the hills behind Viareggio at the foot of the Apuan Alps, Locanda al Colle is a Tuscan treasure protected by a green grove of olive trees. A farmhouse dating to the 19th century, the locanda (which means ‘guesthouse’) offers unforgettable views of the northern coast of Tuscany.
From the beginning of the 19th century, the long sandy beaches around Viareggio attracted aristocratic families as a holiday destination, and today many families from other parts of Italy have second homes here.
The area has not yet been discovered by mass tourism and is known to few foreigners, but couldn’t be better placed: the medieval and artistic town of Pietrasanta, as well as Pisa, Florence, Lucca and Siena are all within easy reach. Alternately, Viareggio makes for a nice stopover on a car trip from cities further afield, including Rome and Milan
What’s To Love
With only 9 rooms, Locanda al Colle is a small and intimate place. “We are not a hotel, we are a home!” says owner Riccardo Barsotelli who, after 20 years in the fashion industry, wanted a different lifestyle. “I used to travel a lot. Now I can do what I want, greet the guests, entertain them, chat with them, and I still get to meet people from all over the world.” Twice a week, Riccardo hosts big dinner parties and all guests sit together around the long wooden table in the kitchen and get to know each other. There is “a spirit”, he says, “it is informal, very family-like”.
The rooms are a treat as well, filled with an eclectic mix of Riccardo’s personal collection of exquisite artwork – a mixture of ’30s, ’40s and ’50s furniture, all within the rustic shell of an old Tuscan farmhouse. The house maintains many of the classic materials of Tuscan architecture, but styled with a more contemporary cut.
Each of the rooms is individually furnished and offers views of either the surrounding olive groves, or the hills or coast below. True hedonists go for the Colle suite with its Flamant four-poster bed, 1950s chairs and Sabrina Landini lamp. The suite opens onto a generous terrace, which is a good spot to enjoy the sunset with a glass of red wine.
Riccardo Barsotelli, owner of Locanda al Colle, shares some of his personal favourites in the region.
Art & galleries
The town is full of art galleries. Riccardo is very well connected to the creative folks in the area and often organises guide to show guests around the contemporary and classic marble studios in Pietrasanta. Michelangelo used to come here to select the perfect stones for his work and, today, many international artists live or work here.
Carnival floats in Viareggio
Viareggio is famous for its outlandish carnival floats, which are made here. Carnival, of course, is in February, but the site where the floats (which can be as tall as a three-story building) are made is open to visitors year round.
Hiking & biking
Outdoorsy types can opt for a hike in the Apuan Alps behind the locanda together with a local guide. The air up here is quite clear and, on sunny days, hikers are rewarded with stunning views over the coast, even as far as Corsica.
Cycle hire is also available in Viareggio, with routes going along the beach, through pine woods on one side and sand dunes on the other. A number of small restaurants offering fresh seafood are dotted along the way, or alternately head to one of the town’s small supermarkets beforehand for a picnic of fresh panini, salami, mortadella and ham.
A slightly grander trip can be had by hiring a speedboat in La Spezia, from where it’s possible to cruise along the coast to the small island of Palmaria. Locanda Lorena is a wonderful small lunch spot serving seafood. Afterwards, the boat journey continues along the western coast of Cinque Terre, or, alternately, a Venetian taxi boat from the restaurant shuttles travellers to the island from La Spezia for free.
Trattoria Da Leo
Trattoria Da Leo in Lucca is a small Italian restaurant that offers very simple but delicious local dishes. Try the strawberry tiramisu!
Via Tegrini 1, 55100 Lucca, Italy
+39 (0)583 492236
Venanzio is a cozy restaurant situated on the town plaza of Colonnata, a town famous for its lard, a type of Italian cured meat made by aging strips of back fat with herbs in marble tins.
Piazza Palestro 3, 54033 Colonnata Carrara, Italy
+39 (0)585 758033
A 15-minute walk from the locanda is La Dogana, a restaurant surrounded by olive groves offering a delicious menu of meat and fish with great views of the sea.
Via delle Pianore 20, 55041 Capezzano Pianore, Italy
+39 (0)584 915159
Bagno Il Cavallone
During summer, eat with your feet in the sand at the Bagno Il Cavallone beach club. Guests at Locanda al Colle have free access to the club, which is located in one of the most fashionable seaside resorts in the region.
Viale S. Bernardini 722, 55041 Lido di Camaiore
+39 (0)584 610554