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May 1827. The first bathing establishment of Viareggio - By Paolo Fornaciari

From the site of the Town of Viareggio


These documents are kept at the Municipal Archive of Viareggio.

Viareggio was surely one of the first cities in Italy, if not the first ever, which undertook to facilitate and encourage the seaside tourism.

In archive documents can be learned that the practice of bathing in the sea dates back to the early years of the Nineteenth Century. In February 1812, in fact, the Maire of Viareggio (the then Mayor) wrote to the Minister of the interior of the State of Lucca to protest against a sanitary disposal that forbade the frequentation of the beach because the ban was "hateful for holidaymakers and for the bathing season".

In July 1814, in a letter of Maire says that "the sea is calm and the holidaymakers have done the usual bagnature". A regulation of the municipal police of 1820 informs that during sea bathings men had to be separated from women.

Then in 1822 were enacted precise norms that regolamentavano, in obedience to the morals of the time, the bathing activity. The Poniente beach was destined for the bathrooms of women and that of Levante for men and "in time of bagnature is prohibited to men to walk on the beach of women and vice versa; and stronger terms is prohibited to men to bathe from part of women and women from part of men".

From these first documents is not possible to detect the existence of any specific equipment used to bagnature if not rudimentary straw huts and sedge that served to undress away from prying eyes and to provide shelter from the rays of the sun.

Then, soon arose a little everywhere the first bathing establishments on the example of those built in 1822 in Dieppe, France. In fact, in May 1827 the Gonfalonier of Viareggio, Alfonso Citadel, asked the Ministry of the interior of the Duchy of Lucca the authorisation for the construction of a true and own bathing establishment so that the wet "can find yourself therein of comfortable enough waves, indoor dalli glances of others, is freely spoglino and promoted, with all those concerns that you must to decency".

The Minister declared itself favorable immediately because, as he wrote in the reply of 5 June, the project "could be of benefit to this city and to the Duchy".

One of the symbols of the holiday resort of Viareggio at the height of its splendour: the Hotel Excelsior

These documents are kept at the Municipal Archive of Viareggio

- follows from the first part -

28 June 1827 the Duke Carlo Lodovico authorized the Gonfalonier of Viareggio to "build the factory de the baths according to the drawing exhibited at the expense of the Community", ordering at the cashier of the duchy of anticipating the sum of two hundred shields, from restuire in followed by part of the municipal cash of Viareggio and also granted permission to cut a hundred plants of the pineta to obtain the necessary timber construction. A few days after the Gonfalonire Alfonso Citadel published the notification which stipulated that "as soon as possible, it will allow the sea, will be placed in activity on the Poniente beach two separate sea baths, one intended for women and the other for men".

With the same act the Citadel appointed a deputation, composed by Giuseppe Moscheni, Francesco Pacini and Bonifazio Of Beccaro, who was responsible for overseeing the management of the bathing establishment and to the observance of a special regulation that established the criteria for the exercise of the bagnature.

It was expected that the bathrooms, in function from July to September, opened at 8 in the morning and chiudessero at 13 to reopen then to "three afternoon and up to a quarter of an hour before the Ave Maria".

For each wetting was established a tax money ten with the possibility of subscriptions, for a minimum of fifteen bathrooms, with a reduction of one third of the expected amount. The first was made the bathroom for men, the "Nereo", and then in the course of the month of July also that for women, the "Dori".

​Dal "Accounting Ledger of the Administration of the Baths" it is observed that the structure of the plant was decorated by the painter Giacomo Benedetti who asked for a compensation of lire 20.

Were small wooden buildings on stilts at sea, reachable from the beach by a long jetty. Giuseppe Giannelli in "Manual for the sea baths", published in 1833 by typography Bertini of Lucca, describes them as "two comfortable and elegant factories of wood distant among loto 65 arms, one for women and one for men. Savio and useful divisamento: perciocché while who gets wet is sheltered from the sun and from the glances of those walking along the beach, can water pervenirgli with the same motion, with which this would be the case where s'bathed aal the open air.

For the middle of the two side ladders descends to the two special toilets located under the Camerini, closed around with tele and stoje.

Then all the building is surrounded by tele and covered by a large tent to prevent the spokes searing sunshine come up to those that are wet". However were to be other constructions indeed in a document of 1828 we read that was granted to Domenico Maffei, said "Ampolletta", the authorization to build along the beach of "small crowds for use of wetting agents as in years expired".

At the end of the summer season of 1827 were 1029 Entrance tickets detached from the two municipal baths, for an amount of ITL 359, in 1828 were collected 510 lire, 521 lire in 1829, increasing in the years that followed. The summer tourism was soon one of the poles in growth of the economy of the city, causing considerable changes in urban fabric of small village: were widened the streets and embellished squares, they increased the inns and hotels and rose new and elegant shops.

After some decades, also the equipment of the beach was improved aesthetically and the first huts of straw, Nereo and Dori were replaced by large establishments on stilts into the sea, the "Felice Barsella", the "Nettuno", the "Oceano", the "Balena", the "Quilghini" and all others who suffered characterize Viareggio as one of the main summer trendy centers.

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