A siren’s call: Tuscany’s most beautiful beach

A siren’s call: Tuscany’s most beautiful beach

Tuscany isn’t just about food and culture; it’s also home to Italy’s most beautiful beach for 2015.   When it comes to travel destinations, Tuscany is a bucket-list perennial, a siren’s call in the back of our minds. We cannot—

Thu 16 Jul 2015 12:00 AM

Tuscany isn’t just about food and culture; it’s also home to Italy’s most beautiful beach for 2015.

When it comes to travel destinations, Tuscany is a bucket-list perennial, a siren’s call in the back of our minds. We cannot—underline cannot—go to our graves without having, at least once, experienced her food, culture, history and way of life: the embodiment of la dolce vita. But what about her beaches?

The sophisticated streets of Florence and shell-shaped magnificence of Siena’s piazza del Campo are so far removed from the sound of waves and lines of brightly coloured deckchairs that a beach trip in the region is almost unthinkable. Seaside soirees are better left to southern Italy where the tomatoes are sold on their vines and everything, from the food to the locals, seems more vibrant and alive.

But Tuscany is big and I live in its south, in a part of the region that bears no similarity to the bright lights of its Renaissance cities. This is the Maremma, a storybook name for a collection of towns that has endured everything from malaria to Napoleon Bonaparte, and a destination that is quickly becoming known for its natural beauty and unpretentious attitude.

When Legambiente and the Italian Touring Club announced their favourite beaches for 2015, the Maremma’s Castiglione della Pescaia took out top spot for the second year in a row.

Castiglione della Pescaia dips its feet in the Tyrrhenian Sea, a body of water the oldest locals still treat with a mixture of fear and diffidence. Tall Turkish pirate ships spill from their stories, commandeered by Hayreddin Barbarossa, a 15th-century beast who kidnapped young and beautiful maremmani for the slave markets of Africa.

More than five centuries have passed and Castiglione della Pescaia’s impeccable environmental and tourism pedigree has earned it the nickname Svizzera della Maremma, or ‘Switzerland of the Maremma’.

Almost all of the area’s 20 kilometres of beaches have been mentioned in Guida Blu, Italy’s foremost environmental travel guide, at one time or another, but this year’s crown holder is Le Rocchette: a beach so captivating it made the judges forget all about the wonders of Sicily.

With big expectations comes big disappointment, and if there had been a soundtrack playing when I walked onto Le Rocchette it would have come to a screeching halt. Where were the ‘pastures of a different green under a different sky’ that Italo Calvino used as his muse for Mr. Palomar? All I could see were three metres of overcrowded public beach jammed between a cliff face and a very nasty, but multilingual, sign marking the beginning of the private beach: no sandcastles, no swimming and no standing unless you’ve handed over the requisite cash.

As an Australian, I despise private beaches. They are an eyesore, spoiling the undulating waves of sand with their umbrellas, pumping music and tacky tiki bars. (On a side note, if you have no qualms, the average daily price for two sunbeds, an umbrella, parking and shower/toilets at Le Rocchette is 30 euro.)

Spotting another stretch of ‘free beach’ in the far-off distance, I ran to it like a desert wanderer to a mirage, dragging my unwilling husband along with me.

Once the initial shock wears off, Le Rocchette does win you over with its placid beauty. Guida Blu is a stickler for cleanliness both in and out of the water and the beach is impeccable. The view is natural and pleasant; the atmosphere unsullied with a sense of intimacy that comes from the imposing rocky cliffs standing off to one side.

This is no hidden gem, so you can’t get away with pretending you’re on a deserted island, unless that fantasy comes complete with a hundred screaming Italian children and a handful of far more reserved German tourists. But it is a lovely place to bring the family. Regardless of whether you fork out the dough, there is always a lifeguard on duty and the water is reasonably shallow, albeit far from calm. The bay is one of Tuscany’s windsurfing capitals, with even the crown prince of Spain getting in on the action.

I’d argue that it’s not Italy’s most aesthetically beautiful beach, but like much of the Maremma, it has an instinctive allure that is quite enchanting.

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