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Little or nothing remains of ancient Viareggio. One of the most ancient monuments is undoubtedly the so called Torre Matilde, which tradition would like have dated back to the Countess Matilde di Canossa. In reality, the structure was build at the beginning of the 15th century by the Republic of Lucca as garrison to guard the port and town. The powerful four-sided construction rises up near the dock and still maintains its regal and powerful aspect. In 1819 it became a prison, and stayed as such up until the end of the Second World War. The tower’s internal construction consists of three floors, only one of which can be discerned form the outside. It also has a large terrace form which it is possible to admire the splendid panorama overlooking the sea.
Near the fortress, in Via delle Catene, it is possible to see some 16th century houses. In distressingly poor repair, these are the oldest houses in the city.

The beautiful historical palaces are of certain architectural interest, and although it is not possible to visit the interiors, the exteriors definitely merit a visit.
The Palazzo Bernardini was build in the 18th century as a summer residence for the noble Bernardini family of Lucca. Palazzo Bernardini owes its fame to Pope Pious VII’s forced visit, having stayed there on his way to France as a prisoner of Napoleon III. The Palazzo also had a small theatre for entertaining the noble proprietors and their friends. Another important building is the Palazzo della Cittadella, build in the 18th century and now the site of the Hotel Vittoria, where Alessandro Manzoni and Giuseppe Giusti stayed. But the most famous building is the Palazzo Paolina, ordered to be build by Paolina Bonaparte and now the site of two museums.
Shelly’s monument, inn the piazza of the same name, has a romantic flavor. In fact, the great English poet drowned in a boating accident in 1822 off the coast of Viareggio. According to the laws in force at the time, any body found at sea had to be cremated for fear of contagion and eventual epidemics. Shelley had to be buried in Italy, and not in England, as his friend Lord Byron would have wished. In his honour, the citizens erected this monument.

The most interesting architectural morif in Viareggio, however, is represented by the buildings of the ‘twenties and ‘thirties, generally attributed to Liberty, although the style is rarely so pure and classifiable as that. To be more precise, these buildings are an expression of Art Decò, characterized by the vast ceramic deorations, much in vogue in the architecture of the ‘twenties.
In this context it is possible to place the work of the architect Belluomini and the painter and ceramist Galileo Chini. The oldest building, and the only one to survive the terrible fire of 1917, is the Martini store, made of wood, like all the other buildings that once adorned the sea walk. The Gran Caffè Margherita, the most exclusive meeting place in the city, with its unmistakable exotic turrets in bright yellow, blue and white majolica tiles, reproposes those wooden structures whivh were such an easy prey to fire. The curvilinear façade of Mgazzini Duilio 48, one of the most whimsical survivors in the Liberty style, and the façade of Bagni Balena, are just some of the buildings which made Viareggio world-famous. Art Deco also influenced the building of Villa Argentina, the tympanums of the Supercinema, and the panels of the Hotel Excelsior, as well as many other artistic episodes which make up the historical part of Viareggio.

Of the works of Lorenzo Viani , the paintings Il Parto and La Cava, both of 1936, should be cited. These adorn the waiting room in the railway station, while the Monumento ai Caduti (monument to those fallen in battle), in Piazza Garibaldi, represents the height of the architect’s art.