The Tuscan coastline’s a dream

Portoferraio, Elba

Under, over or next to the water (IT,FR)

by Eva Stelzer

Central Italy’s Tuscany attracts locals and travelers thanks to all it has to offer – a diverse and breathtaking coastline along the Tyrrhenian Sea showcasing rocky cliffs, clear blue seas, white sandy beaches and an amazing underwater world.

The Maremma coast, an area that stretches from Livorno to Grosseto, offers endless opportunities for a beach getaway. It’s a continuous succession of rocky coast, isolated coves and long stretches of sandy shores protected by lush pinewoods and wilderness. The northern part of the Maremma is more wooded and contains some isolated beaches while the southern section has that beach-resort vibe.

Livorno

No conversation about the Tuscan coastline is complete without mentioning Livorno, one of the country’s most important ports. Between April and October, cruise ships arrive daily as thousands of tourists pour into Tuscany. Renting a bike or a Segway is a great choice to cover long distances while making your way from the famous Terrazza Mascagni (the terrace with the checkered pavement) to Antignano, eight and a half kilometres south of Livorno. The ride is along coastal roads – albeit a bit busy during high season – that travel through some of the most awesome coastal villas. There is also a naval training school along the route and some of the best sea views on the Tuscan mainland.

Beach Clubs

One of the coast’s most sought-after pleasures is the beach club. The best ones offer excellent seafood restaurants, comfy daybeds and lifeguards. From mid-June through September, reservations are recommended. My picks are Rosso e Vino alla Dogana (Località Graticciaia or Al Cartello Via della Spiaggia, 22).

Shopping in Forte dei Marmi Forte dei Marmi is famed for high-fashion “made in Italy” boutiques. This enchanting resort town along the Mediterranean Sea is also known for its nightlife, akin to an Italian version of San Tropez. My favourite activity is a visit to the Piazza Guglielmo market on Wednesday mornings, open year-round from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. If you go just before or just after the high season, you can find some bargains – but I use the word “bargains” loosely. The market is one of the most high-end I’ve ever seen and features designer clothes, cashmere, leather goods and household items.

Monte Argentario

Travelling south, the coastline’s personality changes entirely. This area is wild, less crowded and ruggedly serene, even during the summer tourist season. I have been lucky enough to enjoy some beach towns that still have a laid-back charm. My suggestion is to take an inspiring journey to the western-most coast of Monte Argentario – a rugged, heavily wooded promontory connected to Tuscany’s mainland by three sandy isthmuses. Here you will find more secluded beaches like Cala Piccola and Cala del Gesso, only accessible by narrow cliff-side paths. These waters are not for divers but they are great for snorkeling. I like Giannella Beach for the warm, shallow turquoise waters and pristine sand. It’s the perfect location for an Italian picnic. Don’t forget your beach towels and sunscreen!

Finally, I recommend the archipelago just off the Tuscan coastline. According to my friend and colleague Alexis Vincent of Dive Butler, this Tuscan coastal area has “some of the best scuba diving in the Mediterranean.

Elba

Elba is the largest island in the Tuscan archipelago and looks more like the lush French island of Corsica than its rocky sister islands. Best known for its beautiful hidden beaches, it owes its year-round greenery to underground springs and dense vegetation. The subtropical island is famous for having been home to the exiled Napoleon Bonaparte (see more). Visitors are welcome to view his beautiful summer house Villa San Martino.

Pianosa

A smaller island called Pianosa boasts Caribbean-blue waters and abundant, unspoiled white-sand beaches. This Tuscan island was a penal colony that housed dozens of Mafia bosses from 1856 to 1998, which explains why it’s an underdeveloped tourist area. A wonderful outcome is that it became a protected wildlife sanctuary of unspoiled natural beauty. The island caps visitors to 250 a day, so make sure to contact a travel specialist to assist you.

Giglio Island

Make time to visit Giglio, a relatively unspoiled jewel of an island. With citadels, stone villages and panoramic mountain hikes, as well as beaches and watersports, it’s the perfect Tuscan coastal escape.