Hiring a car at the airport is the best way to explore the entire region; Avis (www.avis.co.uk) lends cars from Florence, Pisa and Genoa to most big towns in Versilia.
Pisa's Galileo Galilei International Airport is half an hour's drive from Versilia. Most low-cost UK airlines land here, including Easyjet (www.easyjet.com) and Ryanair (www.ryanair.com). Alternatively, fly into Florence Airport or Genoa Airport with Alitalia Airlines (www.alitalia.com) or British Airways (www.britishairways.com).
Pisa station is linked by rail to Viareggio, Pietrasanta, Forte Dei Marmi, Lucca and several major cities. There is also a direct service from Florence's central station, Firenze Santa Maria Novella, to Lucca and Viareggio; check Trenitalia (www.trenitalia.it) for timetables and fares.
Italy: 39. Versilia: 0584.
Gabriele D'Annunzio was a rebellious Italian poet and dramatist who lived out his last days in Pietrasanta; read about his life in Gabriele D'Annunzio: Defiant Archangel by J.R. Woodhouse; published posthumously, Catch as Catch Can by Joseph Heller touches upon the author's time in Versilia; Michelangelo risked his life on dangerous expeditions, stocking up on marble for his masterpieces - read about the artist's adventures Michelangelo's Mountain: The Quest for Perfection in the Marble Quarries of Carrara by Eric Scigliano.
Do go / Don't Go
Beware August - it's the peak holiday season for Italians and Versilia's beaches and hotels are always jam-packed. May-June and July-September are ideal times to hit the coast or countryside; a little cooler, and a lot less busy.
Travelling by taxi in Versilia is not recommended (there is a dearth of cabs and they're not known for reliability) so hop on a bike like a local. If you're not the two-wheel type, give Radiotaxi a go (+39 (0)584 45454).
Service charge (coperto) is normally included in the bill, but if in doubt, leave a smattering of extra euro in the name of international relations.
Bodycon and blazers for nights out in Forte Dei Marmi,a glamorous sea town; trustworthy shoes for hikes in the Alpi Apuane; your culinary curiousity for sampling the local specialties.
You can't visit the land of Michelangelo without admiring his works at the museum of Pietrasanta (www.museodeibozzetti.it). Numerous artists have fallen for this picturesque region, so indulge in some art and culture at the Galleria d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea (+39 (0)584 5811118; www.gamc.it) in Viareggio; closed on Mondays. Gallery hounds and music lovers will also find satisfaction wandering around the elegant, Renaissance-honouring Museo Villa Puccini (+39 (0)584 341445; www.giacomopuccini.it), once the home of Puccini.
Forte dei Marmi is a high-end wonderland; luxury boutique Fiacchini (www.fiacchini.it) owns seven stores between Viareggio and Forte dei Marmi, so head over for some Marc Jacobs, Chloè, Valentino and Juicy Couture retail therapy. For flawless embroidery including sheets, towels, pyjamas and lingerie, visit Loretta Caponi's enticing shop (www.lorettacaponi.com) at 10 Viale Morin. Stroll a little further to discover Carla Castellana's Galleria Uno, specialising in 20th-century European art and design. Don't leave without visiting the local markets of Versilia, where you'll find everything from food and clothes to antiques and handicrafts (mornings only).
Trek up the Alpi Apuane mountains for views of Versilia's marble quarries, steep limestone cliffs and moorlands. Visit the beautiful old church of San Martino di Azzano on Mount Capella and admire its walls, made entirely of marble. Ramble up the path on the west side of the building for dazzling views of the Tuscan coast.
All beach clubs charge day and evening rates to rent deck chairs and cabanas, but by Italian law, the last few metres of beach between one club and another should be entirely free; this area is known as spiaggia libera (free beach). Try to get there early in the morning or late in the afternoon so you can pick the best sunbathing spots.
January The festivities continue after Christmas with the Castiglione Garfagnana market; buy local specialities and unique handicrafts. February and March Join the colourful street parades drinking local wine, eating fresh seafood and dancing during the lively Carnevale di Viareggio; if you plan on visiting Viareggio during this period book your hotel well in advance. July and August The town gathers in memory of composer Giacomo Puccini at the Puccini Festival, with six days of operatic theatrical and musical performances (+39 (0)584 350567; www.puccinifestival.it). October Celebrate Italy's cinematographic history at the Lucca Film Festival (+39 (0)583 583204; www.vistanova.it). December Lucca is famous for its folklore events at Christmas so keep yourself busy exploring the candlelit markets before trekking up to light a bonfire on the valley of the river Serchio on Christmas Eve.