Italian beaches are a very civilized affair. Most of central italy’s beaches are sectioned up into “Stabilimenti balneari”, or bathing establishments. These consist of a hut or structure with a bar, bathrooms, shower and changing area of various degrees of fanciness. Here you rent an umbrella with chairs, ie., your own spot of beach. In Viareggio prices can run from about 40-70 euros a day for two people under an umbrella! Locals rent these by the season, so you may have to arrive early in the morning, or phone ahead, to get a spot in the busy months. There are some public beaches, though these are sometimes hard to come by, and they have no bathroom or other facilities.
Below, you’ll find an updated (June 2013) review of some of the beaches in Tuscany – Viareggio, Maremma, Follonica and Cinque Terre (which is not in Tuscany!) – with driving directions and specific directions on how to find the free or paid beaches mentioned.
Viareggio and the Versilia area
In late June, July and August, masses of Florentines head out on weekends to the beach. Some have beach homes, others drive there in the morning. All of them take the infamous “firenze-mare” road, which is congested with traffic, and they go in groves to Viareggio and its long strip of beaches.
Viareggio is not very charming, but it has water, sand, bars and shops, and can be reached by bus for a day trip. It does have a few things going for it though:
- The beach is very very long, so you can go for wonderful long walks along the water. If you are out early in the morning, this beach would also be good for running, but during the day there are way too many people.
- It’s very shallow for a long bit of wading. This is a really good place for families with kids who can romp in the shallows for hours.
- There are plenty of beach services – bars, bathrooms, etc – so it’s perfectly civilized.
- There are even showers right on the lower part of the beach at many of the beach establishments (cuz let’s face it, there are some days that the water is kinda gross and it’s best to rinse off right away).
Nearby Fiumetto and Lido di Camaiore is frequented by families, and boasts beach establishments with names like “bagno roma”, next to “bagno milano”. It also has a roller rink. The theatre area called the Versiliana has cultural and childrens’ events.
Forte dei Marmi appeals to the rich and famous. Here you can observe boob jobs and other elements of tanned television stars. This is also where unstrung youth go for night clubs and overpriced drinks.
Should this description have enticed you to take a dip in the salty waters of the viareggio area, here is how to get there.
By Car from Florence: Follow the highway signs for “A11 Firenze-Mare”, out past the airport. This road leads to Lucca. The last exist is viareggio. To get to Fiumetto, keep going north from viareggio along the waterfront, following the signs towards Forte dei Marmi (A12/ SS1).
By bus from Florence: you can take the Lazzi bus for the cost of 5.70E per person. The Firenze-Viareggio bus also makes stops near some Versiliana beaches. From the viareggio station you may take a separate bus, operated by the same line, to get to Forte dei Marmi.
Viareggio is not far from the lovely town of LUCCA – why not combine the two for a few days?
Maremma – Grosseto area
The more adventurous or car-loving Florentines go to the Maremma or Grosseto region, which boasts cleaner beaches, colder cleaner water, and nicer views. The drive is a bit longer, making a weekend here more viable than a day-trip from Florence, though the latter is fully possible. This area has a lot to offer, including Etruscan ruins and fabulous hill towns, so you wouldn’t be bored if you decided to spend a few days enjoying both water and land. My favourite beaches are as follows:
|Riva del Sole (Castiglione della Pescaia)
Voted best beach in italy and awarded five blue flags. Check on it via the webcam
|You approach this fabulous beach from the hillside, which boasts some of the most spectacular cliff-views in central italy. Riva del Sole is a full service beach village and hotel. Before mid-May and in september, rooms and beach access are only 140 euros a night, which is reasonable. They even lend you plush towels. The hotel is run by swedes hence has a great breakfast but chilly service. We have been going there every year for 10 yeras and we still do not get any special treatment or even a smile. But we keep going back cuz there is just nothing else quite like this place. The beach is clean and there are only 3 rows of umbrellas, versus viareggio’s typical 22 rows. A day here is enough to undo months of stress.If they’ve run out of umbrellas, don’t fret. Face the water and turn left. There are another few establishments that rent out spots (we usually frequent Pinetina Nord).Riva del Sole has a bus stop, so is one of the only places in this area that can be reached by public transportation. Being a large resort it also has a restaurant, magazine store and mini supermarket so you won’t starve. It also has a sailing and windsurfing school where I took my infamous beginner windsurfing lessons in 2011.Beach only: umbrella and 2 loungers goes for around 30 euros per day.|
|Rochette – Bagno le Rochette||2km past Riva del Sole, take a left at the small intersection, and follow the small road all the way to the very end. You will find a circular parking lot on your right, and an entrance through a chain link fence into a dusty parking lot on your left. This is the parking lot for the beach “stabilimento”.This bit of beach is in a bay, abutting against rocky hills, so on days that the water is choppy around castiglione, here it will be less so. Some rocks divide off a little section of free beach which is great for kids to play.Umbrella and chairs are 20 euros a day, though try to bargain and you might get it down to 15. There is a bar/restaurant, washrooms and changerooms.If you prefer a free beach, walk left towards castiglione and there is almost a kilometre of free beach; the further along you go the fewer people you will find.Where to stay: lovely restored apartments right by the road that leads to the rochette: La Vecchia Fornace. Rentals are weekly in high season, min 2 days in low season. Prices very reasonable and the owners are very friendly.|
|Cala Violina||Ask a local how to get to cala violina, a soft sand beach famous for the violin sound it makes when you walk on it. It’s a few km beyond the rochette turn-off, and then a 2.5 km hike from where you park. Free, but with no facilities.|
|Marina di Alberese (Parco regionale della maremma/ dell’Uccellina)||For the nature-loving beach goer, head towards the national park. Park your car at the Marina di Alberese and take the shuttle bus in to one of the least developed free beaches in the region. You will have to walk a while, and bring your own sun protecting – there are no bathing establishments here, just sand, water and sun!There is a nudist area on this beach, though the beach is not exclusively nudist. Also, there is an area frequented by gays. To reach this area, should you be so disposed, you should apparently walk south about 20 minutes until just after the saracene tower. I’m getting this information secondhand from the website www.grossetogay.it.|
|Grossetto region free beaches||Take the S1 to grosseto and from there follow signs for the Marina di Grosseto/ principina al mare. From here, or any other point in the region, keep to the small roads and follow any dubious looking signs for “mare” or “spiaggia”. A few years ago we followed a sign that said “playa”, which led to a particularly nice, empty beach, though i couldn’t for the life of me find it again. Many of these beaches are free, or there are some less formal beach establishments where you can pay for an umbrella.|
A beach-side town that has been relatively citified. There are numerous pay beaches and a long stretch of free beach. From Florence, drive the FI-PI-LI, then take the highway towards Rosignano and exit at Follonica. Follow a small sign for “Il Boschetto” which is the name of the free beach – you’ll get to a roundabout and see a canal. Park along the canal and walk towards a bridge over that canal, stay on the unpaved side of the canal for a few feet and you hit the free beach. The water is clean and pleasant.
There is a residential beach “village” with apartments and hotel in Follonica that has services at a similar level to Riva del Sole mentioned above. This is Golfo del Sole aka Villaggio Svizzero: www.golfodelsole.it
Finally, if you’re desperate for some nice water, Cinque Terre is not ridiculously far, and is (only!) accessible by public transportation. Yes, I realize it’s not in Tuscany but in Liguria, but we might as well adopt it!
From Florence, it takes 2 hours on the Intercity train from florence to La Spezia, from which you need to take a regional train. There’s an 8pm train out and you can be home by 8pm, if all the connections work (which they rarely do). Read here for how to get to Cinque Terre from Florence in greater detail.
Much loved by American and German tourists, cinque terre is no longer undiscovered italy. The menu is the same in every restaurant, and you seldomly hear italian spoken. That said, the locals are very friendly and open to tourism, and the views are breathtaking.
The area is famous for its hiking, which is surprisingly strenuous. The “via dell’amore” is the best known, and hence the least romantic of the bunch.
In low season (early May, September etc.) it is possible to arrive in the morning and just ask around for a room. Just about everyone has something for rent and it is common to be assailed by offers as you step off the train. In high season, browse the net for B+B’s of which there are hundreds.
Further information: you might also like articles on arttrav about
- the island of Elba and its beaches
- the beautiful side of Viareggio – the order and geometry of the Tuscan beach establishment
- Or read more about the Maremma area and what there is to do beyond the beach!