The temperatures have dropped today to a chilly 28 celsius, so it’s time to head out if Pisa and to the coast. Once again, the train is our friend and in just 20 minutes takes us to the seaside resort of Viareggio. It’s famous for its annual carnival – and while the Pandemic has put paid to that, it hasn’t stopped the appearance of its mascot, Burlamacco. Which is frankly terrifying.
A wide promenade gives way to a succession of beaches. While it’s immediately obvious they are all privately run, it’s less clear to us how the system works. We stride out towards a set of sun loungers, only to be called back by an elderly woman at the cafe, who in turn escorts us back to a small kiosk. The fee for the day is €8 per person, which seems entirely reasonable since the beach is pristine, well managed and only has around half a dozen people on it. All of which makes for a happy Mutt.
There’s an end of season feel to the place, but the high end shops and restaurants along the sea front tell you that this is a town made of money. A small inlet from the sea leads to a marina containing luxury yachts, but again there’s little sign of life. Perhaps the billionaires have gone elsewhere to launder their cash.
There’s only so much lounging about to be done before you work up an appetite. From the outside, Luigi’s looks just like any of the other cafes along the promenade. Inside, a small courtyard with a god menu of sandwiches and snacks. Behind the counter, one of the most miserable people we’ve met so far. We don’t know if he was actually Luigi, but he was on his own – and clearly annoyed that two tourists should dare to ask him for lunch. Not that it takes much effort to shove a slice of cheese and ham into a panini and squash it together on the grill.
So thank goodness for our evening dining choice – the Hostaria Le Repubbliche Marinare – tucked away on a small street to the south of the Arno in Pisa.
It’s by no means the cheapest place to eat, but the food and service was amazing. Although the specialty is seafood, it’s something I can’t stand. I was slightly nervous at ordering a meat dish – but it didn’t disappoint.
This was described as “Beef with the Five Salts”. A more qualified food writer may be able to assist here, but I’m struggling beyond “sea” and “bath”. My palette isn’t sophisticated enough to distinguish between the quintet of seasonings, but they all went down very well with the meat. And if you don’t think this looks like a very big portion, don’t worry. I had chips on the side.
I am such a Brit.