Tuscany's Coast, North to South
The Best of the Tuscan Seaside from Viareggio to Capalbio
Tuscany is not just wine, rounded hills and cities of art. Actually, Tuscany is also a great beach holiday destination from north to south, dotted with lovely little seaside-towns. Here are four top destinations to spend your Italian-style summer at!
Viareggio, the beating heart of Versilia
The city of Viareggio is the main town of Versilia, located in northwest Tuscany at about a one hour drive from Florence and 30 minutes from Lucca. It's famous for the large beaches, its busy night-life and Viareggio's Carnival.
Viareggio has about 6 kilometers of flat sandy beaches, mainly covered by beach clubs or "bagni" as they're called in Italian. You can walk along the renowned promenade and enjoy your passeggiata al mare or go shopping in the many stores and boutiques there.
For art lovers, this is the cradle of Liberty style. Along the promenade, and all around the center, you can admire several buildings beautifully decorated with great ceramic artworks. Most of them date back to the 19th and 20th century, when Viareggio was one of the most important seaside destinations in Europe. Main sights are located in Viale Margherita, where there are some of the city's symbols like the Gran Caffè Margherita, Bagno Balena and the pavillion of Magazzini Duilio 48.
For a great experience in Viareggio, the best time of the year, apart from summer, is Carnival time. Every Sunday before Lent, generally February and the first Sunday in March, the large parade of Carnevale di Viareggio goes up and down the promenade. The giant and colorful floats in papier-machè with costumed dancers, loud music and confetti flying all over the place, as well as the magic atmosphere, will definitely leave you awestruck.
Castiglioncello, the Italian Impressionists' haunt
Located at the cliffs nearby the Livorno harbour in central Tuscany, at about 80 minutes driving from Florence, the town of Castiglioncello has always been a top destination along the Tuscan coast.
Its top qualities are the impressive dark rocks, the crystalline sea and the natural pools where you can easily spot sea urchins, starfish and crabs. There are several beach clubs, as well as lots of free bathing areas on the rocks, but there is just a tiny sandy beach.
This was the place where the Macchiaoli, often referred to as the Italian Impressionist painters, came to paint the colors and lights of Tuscany in the 19th century. Castiglioncello is also the place where the famous 1962 film "The Easy Life" by Dino Risi with Vittorio Gassman was shot.
Go for a romantic walk along the sea to reach the rocks of Punta Righini, admire the gardens and the view at Castello Pasquini and do some summer shopping at the stalls in the Pine woods filled with local arts and crafts. For the best sunset ever, go to Cala Furia and get a typically Italian aperitivo (a drink and and some snacks) at about 10 minutes driving from Castiglioncello.
Castiglione della Pescaia, the Maremman Switzerland
This stunning beach is located in the heart of Maremma, in Southern Tuscany, at about 2 hours by car from Florence and Siena. Since late 17th century, thanks to its harbor, Castiglione della Pescaia has been considered one of the wealthiest places in Maremma, as well as an internationally renowned seaside destination.
Even though the beaches are quite narrow, the sand is fine and golden and the sea is considered one of the best along the coast. There are several beach clubs, as well as large public beaches.
The city grew around the old medieval fortress, that is still partially visible in the higher part of the city, perched on top of a hill, from where you can admire the beautiful Maremman landscape and go back in time walking through its narrow streets. The lower and more modern part of Castiglione della Pescaia is full of shops, lovely restaurants and cafés.
For nature lovers there is the Diaccia Botrona Natural Reserve. This protected wetland is the ideal place for birdwatching where several rare species live and come during migration, such as flamingos, greyleg geese and different species of herons, just to name a few.
Capalbio and the mysteries of tarot
The area of Capalbio is the 'last' municipality of Tuscany, located very close to the border with Lazio, about 2 and half hours drive from Florence. It's not exactly by the sea as the aforementioned towns, but is still considered one of the top beach destinations in Italy.
The 12 kilometer-long beach is bordered by the shady pine wood and Mediterranean scrub of the WWF Natural Reserve. The sand can be both golden or black depending on the location, but the sea is magnificently clear and turquoise blue along the entire coast.
The city of Capalbio is a Medieval hamlet, located on top of a windy hill overlooking the Tyrrhenian sea. The old center, enclosed within the ancient walls, is lovely with characteristic stone houses, tiny streets and flowered balconies. The walls are partially walkable following the old patrol paths, from where you can admire the gorgeous landscape.
About 2 km far from the center, you can find one of the most impressive gardens of Tuscany, the famous Garden of Tarot. This monumental sculpture park was created by French artist Niki de Saint-Phalle in the 80s. The park hosts 22 large and accessible sculptures covered by mirrors and colorful ceramics, handmade by the artists and her collaborators. They all represent the greater Mysteries of the tarot cards. A visit absolutely worth your while!
Our Insider is Valentina Dainelli
Valentina is a 100% Tuscan freelance travel writer and social media specialist (and mom!). She loves her dolce vita in Tuscany and writes about it on TooMuchTuscany.
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