The Etruscan Coast in Tuscany
When you think of Tuscany, the first thing that probably comes to mind are the rolling, green hills dotted with olive trees and vineyards that produce some of the finest wines the world has ever known. You probably haven’t considered its coastline much. The truth is that the entire peninsula of Italy is blessed with pristine shores that rival, if not surpass, the beauty of the Caribbean. The Etruscan Coast is a stretch of heaven from Livorno to Piombino. Only about a two-hour ferry ride to the islands of the Tuscan archipelago including Elba and Capraia, it’s also a perfect port for those wanting to explore. The towns of San Vincenzo, Baratti and Populonia are probably the most characteristic.
San Vincenzo is a lovely, coastal town with everything a visitor could possibly need- and then some- for a fantastic vacation. Its pedestrian-friendly corso has hundreds of shops that vary from boutique-style to souvenirs. It boasts fine restaurants and bars where you can taste the best of Livorno’s classic seafood dishes such as cacciucco.
Its 11 km of beaches have consistently been awarded the “blue flag” and the “green flag” (suitable for children) and are varied enough that you’ll find not only the perfect spot in shallow waters for young children, but also for water sports of all kinds. In fact, scuba diving is very popular in the area because of the crystal clear waters and unique species you’ll encounter when exploring. The loggerhead sea turtle routinely deposits its eggs in the Rimigliano Park area. Beach goers will enjoy numerous options available from “free” beaches to fully equipped bathing establishments. If you’re traveling with “Fido”, the area is also famous for its dog beaches located along the shores in Rimigliano Park.
The Tower of San Vincenzo dates back to 1300 and was constructed to defend the coast from frequent pirate attacks. Giorgio Vasari depicted the famous battle of San Vincenzo of 1505 between the Pisans and the Florentines which is now housed in Palazzo Vecchio in Florence.
Getting around San Vincenzo is a visitor’s dream because the city has gone to great lengths to make your stay as convenient as possible. The entire area is bike-friendly and if you weren’t able to bring yours, have no fear because there are multiple places from which to rent your wheels! There is also a shuttle called the “trenino” which runs throughout the town in the evenings from the end of June through mid September. It’s also a free Wi-Fi city allowing you to connect for several hours a day throughout the city. During the summer months, you can also enjoy loads of free entertainment from music to children’s programs.
Located just south of San Vincenzo’s Rimigliano Park, the area of Baratti is the heart of the ancient Etruscan settlement dating back to the 9th century BC. This industrious population thrived using the area as a coastal hub and importing hematite from nearby Elba island to be used for iron work. They also mined silver, copper and lead and evidence of their amazing civilization can be seen in the archaeological park in Baratti and Populonia. There are guided visits and various itineraries depending on how much time you plan to dedicate. Baratti’s beaches are unique due to their slightly red-tinted sand coming from the rich, iron mineral deposits. If you’re willing to explore, there are still spots during low-season months where you can enjoy almost complete silence and of course, crystal clear waters.
Located on the top of a hill, the town of Populonia was one of the twelve city-states of ancient Etruria. It was later populated by the Romans beginning in the second century BC. You’ll find parking at the top of the hill and enter through the old gate. You can picnic on the grassy area just before you enter if you like. Its most striking feature is the castle that dates back to the 14th and 15th centuries. Views from the top are absolutely stunning! The Cornia Valley, Baratti Gulf and the Tuscan archipelago will take your breath away.
The Etruscan Coast is a tourist’s paradise providing everything you need for the perfect vacation– from fine, coastal living to history and culture to gorgeous beaches.