When people think of Tuscany, they usually think of its rolling hills, lush vineyards, and green countryside. These are all wonderful aspects of one of Italy’s most popular tourist areas – but there’s a hidden Tuscany that the typical traveler doesn’t hear much about. Native Italians flock to this area, as well as in-the-know tourists. It’s an area that is relatively uncrowded, accessible, and quite beautiful.
Give up? It’s the gorgeous Tuscan coastline! In addition to its lovely inland areas, Tuscan also has hundreds of miles of coastline. The variety of beach locales is remarkable, depending on what part of the coast you visit. The coast of Tuscany includes lengthy stretches of sandy beaches, along with rocky promontories, large dunes, pinewood groves reaching almost to the water, quaint seaside villages, and coral reefs.
At last count, 17 beaches in Tuscany received the prestigious Bandiera Blue (Blue Flag) in 2013, a sign of quality recognized in approximately 60 countries. Beaches are awarded the Blue Flag based on shore and water quality, access, and nearby amenities. To receive the designation, awarded by the Foundation for Environmental Education, beaches must maintain high environmental standards. The fact that the small region of Tuscany annually receives 15-20 such designations is a tribute to the quality of its beaches.
Let’s travel from north to south along the coast to learn more about the region’s best beach areas.
La Riviera Apuana. The beaches in this northernmost coastal area lie in the shadow of the Apuan Alps. Beautiful sandy beaches and clear blue waters draw discerning visitors to the area, but it also captivating for its lush forests and nearby medieval hamlets and marble quarries. Its relatively shallow coastal waters make it popular with families of young children. Some large beach resorts can be found in the area, but less crowded areas are also available.
Versilia – This northern Tuscan area lies about an hour from Florence. For decades, wealthy Italians have visited this area, considered the most upscale coastal area in Tuscany. Beaches here are long and wide, with soft yellow sand, and temperatures are balmy. If you’re looking for a free beach area, it’s not to be found here easily. But if you would like to experience a few days of luxurious sunbathing and sophisticated nightlife, head for Forte dei Marmi. This beach town is the place for aggressive shopping and clubbing, but it also set in a gorgeous setting of palms and pine trees, red-roofed cottages, and Alpine peaks. Viareggio, a nearby beach area, is one of the most popular surfing sites in the Mediterranean. The largest beach town in Tuscany, it contains striking art nouveau buildings and a bustling seafront promenade.
Pisa. Heading south, the beaches narrow, and it’s not uncommon to see woods stretching right to the beach. Currents in Pisan waters tend to be strong. But large rock walls have been constructed along several beaches, protecting them from the open sea. Marina di Pisa is one such beach that is popular with families.
Etruscan Coast. This 55-mile stretch of coast is characterized by many inlets, fine sand beaches, and rocky areas. Nearby are some of Tuscany’s most picturesque hamlets and Etruscan ruins. Several of Tuscany’s most popular beaches are located in this area, including Rosignano, Cecina, and Castiglioncello. Many of the beaches actually consist of more reef than sand, but visitors become adept at navigating these areas, which do provide for calmer waters. Beach towns along this stretch of coast have boardwalks filled with shops, but travel just a few paces, and you’ll find yourself in a nature park or ancient coastal village.
Maremma. The Maremma coastal area is Tuscany’s most popular beach destination for native Italians, but it’s more understated than the Versilia area and includes some free beaches. Maremma offers many long stretches of very clean, sandy shorelines, overlooking cold, crystal blue waters. It stretches over nearly 100 miles of coastline, some of which are fringed with pines or oak woodlands. Beaches are not crowded here, generally, and they have a rustic feel, with winding natural trails and rocky beach coves. Castiglione della Pescaia is a beach town that is popular for windsurfing and sailing, and it is affordable as well. Looking for something more remote? The Cala Violina is a quiet and lovely beach that is found at the end of a 15-minute trail walk through a grove of pines – part of a protected nature reserve that enfolds the sliver of beach.
Tuscan Archipelago. Italy’s largest marine reserve is composed of six islands that lie off the coast of Tuscany, directly across from Maremma. The most famous of the islands is Elba, noted for its most famous visitor, the Emperor Napoleon. Elba’s interior is largely green mountains, while its coast is lined with beaches, coves, and rocky cliffs. The road are adequate to get around the island, but parts of Elba remain wild and undeveloped – which only adds to its charm. The waters off the Tuscan Archipelago are quite pristine, and they are protected from ocean buffeting by their proximity to the mainland.
As you can see, the diversity of Tuscany’s beaches is remarkable. Located in Italy’s most historically and culturally rich region, the Tuscan coastal area makes for the perfect vacation spot, regardless of your interests or budget. Please contact us if you would like additional information on planning a beach tour of Tuscany.