The Tuscany Coastline stretches from Monte Argentario in the south to Marina di Carrara in the north, which is a lot of coastline. We made the decision to travel up stopping as and when we felt like it and this post is about our thoughts and coastal highlights.
First stop was an afternoon in Monte Argentario, a former island off the coast but now connected to the mainland by 3 sandbank roadways. We were yearning to sit and soak up a bit of sun after it had been a bit downcast and set off for a parking space near the waterfront at Porto Santo Stefano. Buzz wasn’t keen on jostling with the busy traffic on the front so we took him up a side road and parked in a shady spot, taking the 20 minute walk back to the harbour. We weren’t really looking to explore too much, this was more of a search for a sunny bench exercise and we soon found one on the wide promenade lined with palm trees, overlooked by the colourful houses on the hillside. Soaking up the rays like chameleons, reading our books and drinking our beer we were soon feeling on top form and ready to go again.
Next stop was Principina di Mare where we spent 3 days at a campsite and have written about in a separate post, followed by a day and night in the pretty area of Punta Ala, a popular seaside resort with many hotels and holiday appartments. Arriving quite late we were in time to see a lovely night sky over the marina, revisiting the next day to the same place and a sparkling blue sea. There is a nice walk along the sea wall as well as plenty of fancy yachts and boats to admire.
Cecina came next followed by the biggest town/city, Livorno which sits on the Ligurian sea and is one of Italy’s most important ports as well as one of the most modern cities in Tuscany. When we visited Livorno we managed to park Buzz on the sea front along side the bandstand on the Piazza Mascagni near the start of the bustling port. The city has that typical blend of old and new but unlike many of the places we have visited the new is far more pronounced and obvious having been bombed in the last war. Once home to a large Jewish community of traders and many other nationalities who gathered here after the port was declared a free port in 1608, today it continues to be a hot bed of seafaring traders and fisheries keeping the bustling city constantly on the move and giving the place a real ‘buzz!.
After parking a stroll along the Piazza from the bandstand to the port was the order of the day. Watching ships make their way in and out of port, we also watched an escaped Golden Retriever ignoring his owners shouts to come out of the sea. He was having a great time in the shallow water running along the bottom of the 20’ sea wall while his owner ran along the top after him. She eventually snagged him at the next set of steps and after a bit of a struggle dragged him up to the promenade and promptly spent 5 minutes shouting at him while he sat there totally bemused.
As you walk up to and past the smaller harbour you come to the Fortezza Vecchia sat in the inner harbour in front of one of the ferry terminals near the working fishing boats. It has seen better days but still sits there proudly hanging on. Across the road from there is the area known as Venezia Nuova and while it doesn’t come close to Venice is a nice area covering a sizeable area with the banks of the canals lined with small pleasure and fishing boats, 100’s of them. Further into the canals sits the Fortezza Nuova surrounded by a moat and housing a park, though to call it new is a little off as it was built around 1590!
On our way back we headed to the Mercato Centrale with 200 stalls in and around the massive brick and steel building alongside one of the canals. Built in the mid to late 19th century it is an impressive building and like so much of Italy the market is central to the Italian way of life, full of the freshest produce and definitely the place to stock up, although we arrived too late and all the stallholders were packing up for the day.
We continued around the streets making our way gradually back to Buzz – well that was the idea but as with all these things it didn’t quite turn out like that! We knew where we were, obviously walking parallel to the front so took a diagonal rather than a straight road, one without any useful side roads so when we got to the end to find yet more long roads going off into the distance and not a sniff of the sea it was time to get google out only to find we had walked about 20mins in the wrong direction. Suffice to say Buzz was getting worried about us, which reminds me of that moment when you’re walking along and you hear the voice of google giving directions in a foreign language and look around to see someone staring at their phone with a confused look on their face. We enjoyed Livorno and love the sea, especially the ports and docks, old fishing vessels, marinas and cruise liners, there is just something about it, the sights, sounds and even smell of the sea, and Buzz looked pretty chipper on the sea front beside those big old buildings.
The other coastal towns we visited were very different to Livorno, especially at this time of year they slow down dramatically with large swathes of the beach side closed. Viareggio was one such place at the start of the Italian Riviera with miles upon miles of wide sandy beaches all lined with restaurants, bars and little holiday entertainment units each owning their section of beach, each vying for your business so that you can use their sun beds on their stretch of beach. Unlike in the UK they own the beach down to about 5m or so from the water so you cannot just pitch up and pick your spot like you can pretty much anywhere else.
With most of the beach side establishments closed for winter we were able to wander as we chose and parking was reasonably easy, that said there were enough cafes, bars and restaurants open to add some life and in fact the beaches were a delight being able to wander and sit where we wanted. We slowed down and stopped several nights in the towns along the Riviera Viareggio, Lido di Camaiore, Marina di Pietrasanta which had long simple pier and some stunning sculptures along the sea front, from there to Forte Dei Marmi before ending up at Marina di Carrara in the shadow of the Carrara Marble quarries. The weather had been warm and sunny sitting in the mid 20’s and was just starting to heat up again, so we walked out in the morning for the rare treat of breakfast out (coffee and sugar crusted croissants) before we headed on to our next adventure.