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Hit Tuscany’s Best Beaches

  • Tuscan beaches deliver both romance on the rocks and the regimented lines of beach umbrellas that most Italians confuse with seaside bliss. The northern (Versilian) coast tends to be more manicured while the southern (Maremma) coast is wilder and more romantic.

    In Forte dei Marmi, the Versilian Riviera boasts the best-known resort for the chic set. Just south, Viareggio remains the most popular big beach resort in Tuscany. In the Maremma, the best beaches include family-friendly Castiglione della Pescaia, remote Marina di Alberese, and most of the chic Monte Argentario peninsula’s Silver Coast (Costa d’Argento).

    The best of the best beaches?
    For secret coves and a wilder, more dramatic coastline you need to head south to the largely undeveloped Maremma and rocky Monte Argentario. The turquoise sea is the most translucent you’ll find in Tuscany beyond the true islands of Elba and Giglio.

    The romantic, rocky cove of Cala Piccola, on Monte Argentario, arguably has the most aquamarine waters. Yachties will prefer to swim off swanky Porto Santo Stefano and glitzy Porto Ercole. The best beaches needn’t be the wildest. To see-and-be-seen, join the swish summer scene at Forte dei Marmi or the low-key luxe of Punta Ala. As for privacy and a back-to-nature remoteness, little beats Marina di Alberese, within the Parco della Maremma.

    Beach Tips
    Be ready for the deckchair-to-deckchair style of many beaches, especially in the bigger resorts on the Versilian Riviera. For most non-Italians, the beaches tend to have a regimented feel but there are huge compensations. The “ultra-organised” beaches are ultra-organised in a good way, too.

    Families can have fun, even doing their own thing, from beach volleyball to beach tennis or safely playing in a dedicated kids’ club. No one gets bored. The beaches tend to be child-friendly and well-run, with plentiful lifeguards. Not that adults are forgotten. Some beach clubs might even have a spa or a peaceful, adults-only pool, or a private pier for sunbathing without the hordes. And there’s always a profusion of Italian beach-posers to watch.

    The beach bars and seafood restaurants generally serve decent food: Tuscans wouldn’t put up with anything less. In smarter resorts or beach clubs it can extend to sushi or international favourites. And, if you’re bored, there’s often free WiFi to pass the time while topping up your tan.

    At bigger resorts, the beachfront is mostly divided into stabilmenti, or bagni, bathing establishments where you can hire cabanas, sun-loungers and parasols but are still not quite true beach clubs. In these bigger resorts, such as Viareggio, it’s often worth going in the afternoon and negotiating a discount on the sun-loungers. At the other end of the scale, for a taste of the highlife, head to Forte dei Marmi, which boasts the chicest beach clubs in Versilia.

    *Discover the Versilia Riviera (northern coast)
    In Versilia, the current resorts awarded Blue Flags include beaches close to bustling Viareggio and fashionable Forte dei Marmi. The neighbouring resorts of Massa and Carrara regularly confirm their healthy beach status. Backed by mountains, the beaches are overshadowed by elemental Tuscany, a stark contrast to cosseted Forte dei Marmi. Close to Viareggio, Torre del Lago Puccini offers clean, free beaches, wide stretches of sand fringed by pine groves.

    Other Blue Flag beaches along the Versilian Riviera include Marina di Pietrasanta and good-value Lido di Camaiore. The contemporary pier in Lido di Camaiore is perfect for promenading and taking in the sunset over a drink. Marina di Pietrasanta offers plenty of sandy beaches, a mix of free and paying, and is the resort belonging to arty Pietrasanta, a renowned sculpture capital. This is the Tuscan centre for stone sculptors, who come here in droves to work the marble, ever since the days of Henry Moore and Joan Mirò. As a result of all this artistic intensity, a fine white dust cov¬ers everything in Pietrasanta, even the wineglasses in the bars of the Piazza Carducci.

    In Versilia, the beaches tend to be wide, with sweeping sands lapped by fairly shallow water, and manned by plentiful lifeguards. As the Versilia coastline lacks rocky inlets, it’s particularly suitable for young children or unconfident swimmers. Even so, given the short-shelving Tyrrhenian coast, it can go from shallow to deep pretty fast.

    *Discover the Pisan Riviera (from Pisa to Livorno)
    If you dream of regimented beach games, then the resorts around Viareggio are for you. If, instead, you want to escape the beach-tennis and deckchair-to-deckchair intensity of typical Italian beaches, then head south. The Pisan Riviera, a short stretch of coast between Pisa and Livorno, lies just south of Viareggio. The Riviera Pisana offers a mix of low-key beach resorts and beaches framed by pine groves.  

    East of Pisa, the dunes of the Migliarino-San Rossore nature reserve (www.parcosanrossore.it) provide proof that you’ve escaped the enforced jollity of beach-tennis. On the edge of the nature reserve awaits unpretentious Marina di Pisa, the seaside escape for Pisans. Marina di Pisa is a Blue Flag beach, as are the family-friendly Tirrenia-Calambrone beaches that follow.

    *Discover the Etruscan Riviera (Livorno to Piombino)
    Known as the Riviera degli Etruschi in Italian, the clue’s in the name – this coast harks back to the times of the Etruscan metal-workers. Near Piombino, behind the sweep of Baratti Bay, lie the ruins of Populonia. This was the last of the 12 Etruscan cities to be founded. The Etruscans very considerately had them¬selves buried by a pine-fringed beach, reason enough to visit the only Etruscan city built on the coast. 

    The Etruscan Riviera runs from Livorno to the promontory of Piombino, from where you can catch a ferry to Elba. The coastline is rocky until Castiglioncello but then opens up into a seemingly endless series of sandy bays, including Marina di Cecina and Marina di Bibbona.
     

    *Discover the Maremma Coast & Monte Argentario
    South of the Etruscan Riviera lies the Maremma, the wilder, southern part of the coast. Blue Flag beaches abound, from chic Punta Ala to tiny beaches and secret coves around the Monte Argentario peninsula. Stars include Castiglione della Pescaia’s Pineta del Tombolo, a sandy beach fringed by pine groves, just south of Punta Ala. Here, swimming is optional but preening is essential, preferably at a beach club.

    North of sought-after Punta Ala, facing the island of Elba, is brash, family-friendly Follonica, with its pristine sweep of sands. Further south, beyond Castiglione della Pescaia, lies Grosseto, with its underrated, ultra-clean beaches. Two favourite Blue Flag beaches there are Marina di Grosseto and Principina a Mare. Further south, around the Orbetello lagoon and the Monte Argentario peninsula, await some of Tuscany’s best Blue Flag beaches. Get ready to bag a spot on one of the many small beaches around Porto Santo Stefano and Porto Ercole, such as Le Viste or La Feniglia. Punta Ala and Monte Argentario may be the resorts for socialising and being seen, but most Maremma beaches are for low-key nature-lovers.

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