In recent years, Viareggio has earned the name of "perla del Tirreno" or pearl of the Tyrrhenian Sea, for its beauty and for the sweetness of the surrounding area. And yet, originally this land had nothing welcoming about it. Up until the end of the Medieval period the entire area consisted of an enormous marsh upon which building any kind of dwelling would have been almost impossible. Here, however, was the outlet to the sea for the people of Lucca, who built a castle to defend it from the Pisans.The road which leads to the sea was called Viam Regiam, from which the name Viareggio comes, even if some maintain that the exact root of the place's name is Vicus Regis. In 1460, the people of Lucca did their utmost to drain the land and offered it to those who would take part in the drainage work. As a result, the town was expanded and a second fortification built, the famous Torre Matilde. Drainage work was not completed until the 18th century, during which time the town was expanded further and new economic activities developed. In the following century the town became part of the Kingdom of Italy and is now a tourist resort.
The town does not have much old architecture, apart from the Torre Matilde which dates back to 1534. The typical architecture of Viareggio is linked with late 19th century style. The current urban plan has many buildings from this period: Art Deco with ceramic Art Nouveau decorations. The most representative of these, which are worth a visit, are the Gran Caffè Margherita, a real "town institution", the Magazzini Duilio, Villa Argentina and the Hotel Excelsior. Other buildings of artistic interest are the Palazzo Bernardini, built in the 1700s as the summer residence of a noble family by that name; Palazzo Belluomini, famous as the place where Pope Pio VII once lodged;Palazzo Paolina, built at the request of Paolina Bonaparte and today the site of two museums, and the Palazzo della Cittadella where Alessandro Manzoni stayed. For art lovers, there are two paintings in the station's waiting room by Lorenzo Viani, who also designed the monument of those killed during the battle in Piazza Garibaldi.
The most noted and characteristic event in Viareggio is surely the Carnival, which has now reached its 129 th edition. During the festivities, which last several days, there is the traditional procession of allegorical floats by papier-mâché craftsmen. For theatre-lovers, there is the Teatro Politeama, which every year offers numerous events of remarkable depth.