SEASIDE: NEAREST BEACHES
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SEASIDE: NEAREST BEACHES

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

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Thu 24 Jul 2008 12:00 AM

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.

 

 

VIAREGGIO

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.

 

The tiny suburb of Torre dei Lago hosts 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 during the summer months, complete with gay beaches, clubs and bars.

 

 

FORTE
DEI MARMI

Forte
dei Marmi is Tuscany’s
playground for the rich and famous. Just a few miles north on the Versilia
coast, Forte dei Marmi boasts the luxuries of a modern resort town and-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 cleaner) and offers a taste of luxury uncommon on the
Tuscan seacoast. A nightlife must is La Capannina-a true Forte dei Marmi establishment,
this disco has been the place to see and be seen for decades.

 

 

MAREMMA

With
an even longer train ride of about three hours, you can reach the Tuscan
Grosseto province in the beautiful Maremma region. The beaches of the Maremma
are among the best in Italy-white
and uncrowded, with colder, cleaner water than those along the Versilia coast.
The Marina di Grosseto, about 12 km from the town of Grosseto,
is the most popular destination. These beaches are a good distance from Florence,
but in many ways they are decidedly superior to the more popular destinations
nearby.

 

Just 20 minutes past Grosseto
on the same train lie Bolgheri and Castagneto Carducci (take the Donoratico
stop). Excellent restaurants, wine tasting and 20 km of unspoiled coastline and
wildlife running all the way to the Gulf of Baratti to the south. Be sure to
book a B&B before you go since they tend to be slightly off the beaten
path.

 

 

ALTERNATIVE:
BATTELLO  TO  THE CINQUE TERRE

A train journey from Florence to one of the five towns
of the Cinque Terre, a stunning national park located along the Ligurian coast,
typically takes about three hours and requires a couple of train changes.
Travelers more inclined toward boats, however, can depart at 9:00 from Viareggio and enjoy a day excursion up the coast with one-hour
stops at Monterosso and Portovenere.  Most of the day will be spent at sea, but the
stunning views of the Maritime
Alps and the
Tuscan-Ligurian coastline are unique. Certainly anyone spending more than a few
days in the Viareggio area will be glad for the change of scenery.

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