Pisa, Lucca, and Northwest Tuscany

Lucca and Pisa are the most-visited cities of northwest Tuscany, and with good reason: Lucca has a charming historic center within its 16th-century walls, and Pisa is home to what may be the world's most famous tower. Both cities are due west of Florence, and although the landscape along the way isn't Tuscany's finest, several smaller cities offer good restaurants, a few noteworthy sights, and a taste of Italian life away from the main tourism centers.

Farther north the setting gets more impressive. Craggy, often snowcapped mountains rise above sparsely populated valleys, accessed by narrow winding roads. This is the Garfagnana, Tuscany's most mountainous territory, cut through by the majestic Alpi Apuane. The steep terrain rolls down into pine-forested hills and eventually meets the wide, sandy beaches of the Ligurian Sea. Along this stretch, known as the Versilian Coast, are the resort towns of Viareggio and Forte dei Marmi, both of which pack in Italian and other European beachgoers in the summer.

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