When people think of Tuscany, they picture the soaring Renaissance Duomo in Florence, the rolling hillsides of the Chianti and Val d’Orcia, the intact medieval cityscapes of Siena and San Gimignano, and even Pisa and its iconically listing belltower. Most people don’t picture, however, a beach holiday.
Yet Tuscany has almost 150 miles of coastline that run the entire length of its western border, lapped by the Tyrrhenian sea. Many stretches of this coast are considered among the prettiest and most pristine in Italy, making for a perfect (and easily accessible) seaside getaway for a few days during your time exploring the region.
You’ll find a wide variety of destinations along the Tuscan coastline, from elegant Versilia at the far northern tip to the bustling resorts of Viareggio, Forte dei Marmi, Tirrenia, and Marina di Pisa further south. The sea becomes gradually more crystalline the further you travel down the coast, as busy resort towns become fewer and instead pretty former fishing villages and medieval strongholds turned holiday destinations take over along what is known as the Etruscan Coast. By the time you reach the southern stretch, you are in the Maremma, much of which is part of a series of nature and marine reserves that are among the wildest swathes of countryside in Tuscany.
We love the historic towns (known in Italian as “borghi”) that dot the coastline, making it easy to combine a beach break with a taste of authentic village life…though most have become tourist spots now and have few full-time residents or fishermen left. That said, they still offer gorgeous beaches by day and excellent sightseeing, shopping, dining, and imbibing as the sun sets. Here are a few to consider:
Northern Tuscan Coast
Running south from Marina di Carrara and Forte dei Marmi to Livorno, Tuscany’s northern coastline is almost a single stretch of sandy beach taken over by swank beach clubs. The chic resorts of Forte dei Marmi, Lido di Camaiore, and Viareggio are among the most attractive, with their promenades lined with shops and restaurants.
Though lively, these resorts are among the most expensive in the region and the beaches are packed with sun loungers and umbrellas. The only undeveloped areas are the Migliarino nature reserve and its wild Lecciona and Marina di Vecchiano beaches; you won’t find any services like rental chairs and snack bars here, so be prepared to carry your beach gear, food, and drinks with you.
The Marina di Pisa and Tirrenia resorts are family-friendly favorites, which beaches backed by shady pine groves, bicycle paths, and a mix of beach clubs and stretches of free private beach.
Forte dei Marmi
For a glamorous beach break, chic Forte dei Marmi is an ideal choice. This resort town is bookended by the Tyrrhenian Sea to one side and the Apuan Alps to the other, and attracts both Italian and European visitors…you won’t cross paths with many American tourists here. Though the old town has a number of cultural sights to explore, including the 18th-century fort for which the town is named, most visitors are attracted to the luxury boutiques, fine seaside restaurants, and glittering nightlife.
For a more timeless village atmosphere, head to Castiglionello. Set on a scenic promontory jutting into the sea, this pretty town has been inhabited since Etruscan times; it later became a strategic stronghold and the Medici had a watchtower built here in the 17th century. Considered one of the most charming “borghi” along the Tuscan coast, Castiglioncello is surrounded by a thick, cool pine forest and its cliffs tower above sheltered bays and coves. The town doesn’t have its own beach, but there is a beautiful coastal walking trail and excellent shopping and dining.
Central Tuscan Coast
Tuscany’s central coastline is known as the Etruscan Coast because of its ancient past: Populonia was once an Etruscan city overlooking the Gulf of Baratti and today is home to an important necropolis.
The area’s long golden beaches and wide array of accommodation options and services like restaurants and beach clubs make them a popular destination for vacationing Italian families, especially in spots like Vada, Cecina, Marina di Bibbona, Marina di Castagneto Carducci, and San Vincenzo.
An ideal choice if you just want to check out for a few days of sun and sand, San Vincenzo is considered one of the most pristine beach resorts on the Etruscan Coast. In addition to the bustling marina and pocket-sized town with its historic watchtower and fortifications, the area is home to the Rimigliano Natural Reserve set directly on the waterfront. Here pristine dunes and picturesque farmland are divided by the Via della Principessa, an ideal route for walking or biking.
Perched on a hill overlooking the sea to one side the Tuscan countryside to the other, this pretty village is home to the medieval Pieve di San Giovanni,a splendid example of Tuscan Romanesque architecture. The historic center is set within intact town walls and is thick with fun shops and restaurants.
An ancient Etruscan port, Piombino is an excellent base for exploring the islands of the Tuscan Archipelago. The 15th-century Rivellino city gate and 16th-century castle built under Cosimo I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, are both worth a look.
Located on Elba, the largest island of the Tuscan Archipelago, the port town of Portoferraio was founded by Cosimo I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, in 1548. Most of the town blankets the slopes of a low hill that is surrounded by the sea on three sides, and sweeping views hide behind every corner.
Southern Tuscan Coast
Many consider the Maremma home to the best beaches in Tuscany, including the Costa d’Argento around the Mount Argentario “island”. This southern stretch of coastline stands out for its wild natural beauty, where there is very little development along the water’s edge and instead nature reserves like Diaccia Botrona and Uccellina Nature Park are home to a rich array of birds and other wildlife. The water is often clearer here, far from the currents that tend to churn the waters further north, and the beaches are vast (and often free).
There are a number of historic fishing villages on the mainland that still retain their original charms like Talamone, Castiglione della Pescaia, and Capalbio…all set either directly on the water or slightly inland. Instead, on the ersatz island of Monte Argentario (the sandy strip of Feniglia and Giannella link the mountain to the mainland), there are some lively harbor towns with excellent shopping and seafood restaurants.
This charming hamlet is located on Giglio Island, one of seven islands in the Tuscan Archipelago National Park. Visit the medieval Tower del Saraceno, restored by Cosimo I de’ Medici in the late 16th century.
Porto Santo Stefano
Colorful Porto Santo Stefano is an inviting harbor that has been a popular summer holiday destination since the time of Imperial Rome. Located on the north coast of Monte Argentario, this former fishing village is a top spot for sailing and diving.
Across the island from Porto Santo Stefano, Porto Ercole is beloved for its beautiful sea views, nearby beaches (many only accessible by boat), and ancient fortresses. Like its twin port town, it is also a popular sailing and diving destination.