TUSCAN BEACHES

Brenda Dionisi
July 16, 2009

One of the best things about Florence in August is its proximity to Tuscany's beaches, which offer a unique and varied combination of sandy beaches and shaded alpine woods, as well as venues for sport and fun in the sun and a roaring party scene that can easily rival that of Spain's Ibiza or Greece's Mykonos. Looking for a low-key stroll down a palm-lined promenade? Almost every town boasts a lungomare perfect for people watching and catching a breeze. Savour a multi-flavoured gelato, take a leisurely bike ride or nature excursion through the woods just minutes from the seaside action. The seaside in Tuscany is all this and much more!

 

 

LA RIVIERA APUANA

Swim in the Mediterranean Sea against the magnificent backdrop of Tuscany's imposing Apuan Alps. The area has much to offer in terms of enogastronomy, art and history, in addition to pristine waters and a wealth of sandy beaches. Situated in northern Tuscany, just under Liguria's famed Cinque Terre, the Apuan Riviera extends south to the Versilia.

 

Marble quarries, medieval hamlets, nature excursions through lush green forests, mouth-watering Lardo di Collonnata...there are many ways to fill your days in the Apuan Riviera. Larger beach resorts are located along a 15-kilometer stretch of fine sandy beaches that extend from Partaccia, Marina di Massa, Marina di Carrara, Ronchi, Poveromo to Cinquale. The shallow waters along the coast make it a great place for kids and those scared of the deeper, bluer sea.

 

Moreover, the Apuan Riviera is a stone's throw from Liguria. Take a battello from any one of the riviera's ports (www.navigazionegolfodeipoeti.it) or three-hour train ride from Florence (www.trenitalia.it). Take a day excursion up the coast with one-hour stops at Monterosso and Portovenere, or visit any one of the five towns of the Cinque Terre.

 

 

LA VERSILIA

Locals like to divide the ‘trendy' Versilia coast into two categories: the ‘historic' Versilia, which is composed of Pietrasanta, Forte dei Marmi, Seravezza and Stazzema; and the ‘tourist' Versilia, which includes the municipalities of Camaiore, Massarosa and Viareggio. The area has much to offer both in terms of seaside fun and in-land artistic and historical treasures.

 

Viareggio. The sprawling beach at Viareggio claims the coveted title of closest beach to Florence-perhaps 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. Once you reach the Tuscan port town, rent an umbrella at one of the stabilimenti balneari and enjoy access to a shower, changing area, and a restroom, or rough it at one of the public beaches, which is typically a tiny and limited strip of shore with no facilities.

 

Not content to bask on the beach? Then, surfs up! Very few know that Viareggio is one of the Mediterranean's most popular areas for surfing and all things surf-inspired. Thanks to the mild climate along the coast and its typical ‘barrelling' waves, it is possible to surf there year round. Sign up for lessons (all levels and ages) at a variety of surf schools, among them the B2K Viareggio Surf School (tel. 0584/44045) or the Surf School at the Bagno Aloha, a local surfers' hangout (tel. 3498521666; 3294951771).

 

The tiny suburb of Torre del Lago is home to the famous Puccini Festival of opera during the summer months, a refreshing taste of high culture after a long day at the beach. Torre del Lago is also the gay nightlife capital of Tuscany, and Italy, during summer, complete with gay beaches, clubs and bars. After hours, check out Frau Marleen (www.fraumarleen.com), one of the most popular discos in the area, attracting a varied crowd.

 

 

Forte dei Marmi. Forte dei Marmi is Tuscany's playground for the rich and famous. Just a few miles north along the Versilia coast, Forte dei Marmi boasts the luxuries of a modern resort town and-especially during the summer months-a vibrant nightlife. Expensive drinks and restaurants notwithstanding, Forte dei Marmi is less grimy than Viareggio (though the water is no more pristine) and offers a taste of luxury uncommon along the Tuscan coast. Looking for discos and nightlife? A host of nightspots line the beachfront road that connects the Lido di Camaiore to Forte dei Marmi. Nightlife musts are the La Capannina (www.lacapanninadifranceschi.it) and Seven Apples (www.sevenapples.it) discos. Another hot spot is the Twiga Beach Club and Disco (www.twigabeachclub.com).

 

 

LA COSTA DEGLI ETRUSCHI

This 90-kilometer stretch of coastline begins just north of Livorno and extends south to port city of Piombino. Beaches are characterized by both fine sand and rocks; the coastline is marked by inlets and some of Tuscany's most charming Etruscan ruins and hamlets, like Bolgheri (home of one of Italy's most prized and expensive wines, the Sassicaia), Populonia, Castagneto Carducci, Bibbona, Suvereto and Campiglia Marittima.

 

The area's fine, sandy beaches and clear waters are worth the journey. Among the area's coastal treasures is the four-kilometer ‘white beach' in Vada (Rosignano Marittimo). Although this beach is a must-see for its singularity and Caribbean-like feel, it is the result of a nearby factory that produces bicarbonate just one kilometre away. Before diving in, first consider that chemicals have been dumped into the water for decades. Swim at your own risk!

 

If you are vacationing with pets, the Dog Beach in the municipality of San Vincenzo is the place for Fido, which boasts an adjoining park for man's favourite four-legged friend. The most popular summer sports practised along the Costa degli Etruschi are surfing, windsurfing, sailing, scuba diving and fishing.

 

 

ARCHIPELAGO TOSCANO-MAREMMA

The Tuscan Archipelago is Italy's largest Marine Natural Reserve. It is composed of six islands that boast some of the most pristine, ‘protected' waters in Italy. The islands are Elba (the largest and most visited of the whole group; ferry boats leave from Piombino almost every hour, see www.traghetto-elba.it, Pianosa, Capraia, Montecristo, Giglio, Gorgona and Giannutri. Each island is unique and worth a visit at least once; however some may be more difficult to see than others. Those who are interested in discovering these unspoilt island treasures can consult www.arcipelagotoscano.com.

 

The lush green coastline facing the Tuscan Archipelago is the celebrated Tuscan Maremma region. Slightly farther from Florence than other seaside areas (a train ride from Florence to  Grosseto will take about three hours), the beaches in the Maremma are among the best and cleanest in Italy-white and uncrowded, with colder, cleaner water than those along the Versilia coast.

 

Popular beach destinations with both free and private beaches include Follonica and Scarlino in the north, followed southwards by Castiglione della Pescaia and Marina di Grosseto and the Costa d'Argento, in the municipality of Monte Argentario. Watch wind and skysurfers test their talents and the elements just north of Marina di Grosseto, or check out the black sandy beach, called Chiarone, along the Costa d'Argento, near Capalbio. These beaches are a good distance from Florence, but in many ways they are decidedly superior to the more popular destinations nearby.

 

For after-dinner drinks, go to the trendy historical centre of Castiglione della Pescaia or one of the discos in Punta Ala, like Black Sun (tel. 0564/922456) and La Capannina (tel. 0564/939245).

 

 

 

SEASIDE EVENTS

 

Effetto Venezia

July 31 - August 9, Fossi Medicei, Livorno

Nine days of music to soothe your soul take place in Livorno in early August. This year's edition of Effetto Venezia explores ‘voice' in all of its many forms: from singing and song to body expression and social protest. An interesting line-up of national and international artists performs in one of Livorno's most charming districts, the ‘New Venezia'.  Concerts, theatre representations, street performances, open-air markets, restaurants, cafés and much more. Get the Livornocard (3 euro one day; 5 euro three days) and ride public transport for free; also includes free entrance to the Museo Civico Giovanni Fattori, the Museo di Storia Naturale del Mediterraneo, the Mascagnani Itineraries at the Teatro Goldoni; discounts for the Battello nei Fossi Medicei tour and at shops that have adhered to the initiative.

 

Call 0586/820204 or see  www.livornoeffettovenezia.it for more information.

 

 

Festival Puccini

Torre del Lago - Until August 30

The city that gave birth to the great composer hosts a festival in his honour every summer. This year's works are La Boheme, Tosca, Turandot, Manon Lescaut, Swan Lake (ballet), Giselle (ballet) and the Gala Lirico, directed by Alberto Veronesi. Check out concerts by the Pooh (Aug 5), Claudio Baglioni (Aug 16) or Lucio Dalla's version of Tosca (Aug 27 to 30) organized by Festival Puccini Off.

 

For show times, ticket sales and general information, see www.puccinifestival.it.

 

 

Versiliana Festival

Marina di Pietrasanta  - Until August 30

Celebrating its 30th edition, the Versiliana Festival aims to renew the long-standing tradition of the Versilia. From concerts, cabaret, theatre performances to art exhibits and afternoon appointments and encounters exploring local and national culture, this festival will give you the culture you crave during your beach holiday. Workshops for children. Don't miss Ludovico Einaudi on July 21 and Momix dancers in ‘Bothanica' from Aug 11 to 13.

 

See www.laversilianafestival.it  for a complete calendar of events.

 

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