Perhaps one of the best things about Florence in August is its proximity to the beach. The Versilia coastline, running from Massa Carrara to the north and Lago Massaciuccoli to the south, is a unique combination of sandy beaches and shaded alpine woods. Nightlife is abundant as seaside discos and clubs spell summer as much as the beach itself. If a low-key stroll down a palm-lined promenade is what you're after, not to worry-each town boasts a lungomare perfect for people watching and catching a breeze. Tasty focaccine (focaccia sandwiches) filled with local goodies are the perfect dinner-you'll save a buck and fit right in with the locals, who prefer a light dinner while at the beach.
The sprawling beach at Viareggio claims the coveted title of closest beach to Florence-certainly a mixed blessing considering that it is also among the most crowded and expensive in Tuscany. Trains depart for Viareggio almost every half hour from the Santa Maria Novella train station, making reaching the shore a breeze. Once you reach the Tuscan port town-famous as much for its Winter Carnival (a wilder, more entertaining caricature of the Venetian Carnevale) as for its white, sandy beaches-you can rent an umbrella at one of the stabilimenti balneari and enjoy access to a shower, changing area, and a bathroom. Alternatively you can choose to rough it at one of the public beaches, which is typically a tiny and limited strip of shore with no facilities.