Think Italian beaches and you don’t necessarily think of Tuscany. It doesn’t have the international appeal of the Cinque Terre or, say, the Amalfi Coast. These are the destinations most tourist dream of sunning themselves on a hot June afternoon.
But what if I told you that Tuscany holds the title for Italy’s best beach, a title it has maintained for three consecutive years? That much-sought after accolade belongs to Le Rocchette, a mere sliver of beach trapped between tall rock cliffs in Castiglione della Pescaia in Southern Tuscany. It’s a windsurfer’s idea of paradise and the sort of idyllic little corner of coast you would normally associate with a desert island, perfectly pristine and lapped by sun-warmed waters so clean you can see your toes beneath the surface.
Like a lot of beaches, Le Rocchette is divided into paid and free-of-charge sections. Obviously you can’t just flop into one of the sunbeds that line its sandy shores without paying the daily fee, which is around €10. For that you also get an umbrella and access to showers and toilets. But you’re more than welcome to simply throw down a towel in the clearly marked free beach area and soak up the rays without paying a cent. Just look for the signs.
Tuscany beaches run along its western coastline. The sea here isn’t the mighty or famous Mediterranean but the Tyrrhenian and includes the Tuscan Archipelago with its many underrated islands.
But a seaside holiday in Tuscany isn’t just about the beaches. The entire summer holiday experience has to be lived at a relaxed pace. A lot of Italians pack up their entire lives and move to holiday camps along the coastline for most of the summer season. Since pine forests border most of Tuscany’s beaches, they’re perfect for a shady midday picnic before returning to soak up the sun in the afternoon. Italians are terribly unfussy about their beach picnics. A crusty roll with fresh slices of prosciutto and mozzarella cheese followed by a handful of locally grown stone fruit is more than enough to satisfy the cravings.
After a day in the sun, take a break from the beach and head into town. Towns like Castiglione della Pescaia, Porto Ercole and Talamone are almost as beautiful as the beaches they surround. Imbued with the relaxed vibe you’d expect from living so close to paradise, these towns are charmingly sleepy in the winter months and frenetic with activity and tourists in summer. They’re used to travellers staying on the beach until 7-8pm, so they cater to the sunset crowd by keeping their shops and restaurants open much later than what you can expect elsewhere in Tuscany. Stroll through the shops and pick up carved olive tree cutting boards, seashell bracelets and brightly printed sundresses as a souvenir before you head to a local restaurant to unwind. Seafood is a no brainer in Tuscany’s seaside destinations, but keep an eye out for local delicacies like sea urchin, sea snails and a strange crustacean called “canocchia”, which looks like a tiny albino lobster and has a beautifully sweet and delicate flavour.
Finally when it comes to accommodation for your Tuscan seaside holiday, don’t necessarily gravitate towards a beachfront property. Tuscany has plenty to offer during the summertime outside of its beaches, so consider setting yourself up somewhere quiet and picturesque and commuting to the beach either with your own mode of transport or using the very convenient and organized public transport system that operates in the summer months