Well, we screwed this one up big-time.

Pro-tip 1: if you ever want to go to one of the free beaches in August in Tuscany, then you *must* get up and leave for it at sparrowfart. We didn’t. We headed towards the Gulf of Baratti, and I’m pretty sure we didn’t get there until about 12:30.

It took well over 90 minutes. This was my fault, as I wanted to travel a route more scenic than the motorway. Anyway, we go there, and although were cars parked everywhere – I mean for *kilometers*, we managed to get a parking spot by queuing for only 15 or so minutes.

Pro-tip 2: set your expectations for ‘sand’ a little differently. Few beaches in Tuscany have smooth sand. The Gulf of Baratti at first appearance looks like it does, until you try walking on it – especially near the shore. It’s a lovely looking area, though – but come with flip-flops, or somewhat calloused feet. We walked along the shore for maybe 10-15 minutes before giving up. I wanted to walk onwards towards the marina below Populonia, but the ladies didn’t.

Pro-tip 3: At least take a towel with you! The girls spent some time sitting, after draping throws of some description on the sand. I was tempted to try the bar instead, but it looked too crowded (plus I was like a walking lighthouse, I was that pale), and so hung out in the area between the beach and the road, and was comfortably shaded by the beautiful pines you can find everywhere in Tuscan coastal regions.

Pro-tip 4: For the love of baby Jesus, take something to eat and drink with you. We didn’t. And we arrived there when it was time for lunch. In hindsight, this was such a mind-numbingly stupid thing to do, but heigh-ho; life is for learning. The ladies spent maybe another 20 minutes sitting on the beach, and then we got back to the car (giving our spot to a nice elderly couple), and headed towards Populonia, the town on top of the cliff. This wasn’t so much stupid as ignorant. We really had no idea how busy it would be. There was no parking anywhere; not in the actual carparks, not along the side of the road.

Dejected, we headed back north up the coast, marvelling at literally kilometers upon kilometers of road on which cars were parked on both sides. I’d never seen anything like it. The Italians really enjoy their beaches!

We chickened out at stopping at some of the more touristy looking coastal restaurants, and although we drove through San Vicenzo, we failed to stop there too. Instead, we headed inland, and tried to look for random restaurants or agritourismi that would feed our faces. We breezed past Bibbona (nothing seemed to be open at that time), and about 20km of countryside, before I suggested Casale Marittimo. This place is my favourite hilltop village. I have been here a bunch of times. I took a few more snaps for fun.

There were 3 restaurants still open! Yipee! It was 14:30, and if you know Italy at all, you’d know that restaurants generally close after lunch at around 15:00, and re-open around 19:30 for dinner, so I thought we were cutting it fine. We weren’t. I had the humiliation of walking into 3 places and being rejected for food each time.

If you know me, you will know that ‘food disappointments’ send me into a brooding, nay, narky spiral, so I was not good company for our brief visit and journey home. I can’t remember what I ate, it probably tasted like bitter ashes in my mouth. Casale Marittimo, you broke my heart…. temporarily; I still have mad love for you!

Things got better that night, with dinner in Quo Vadis (the Ombra della Sera pizzeria was closed, and I was all-set to rejoin the fine residents of Narkytown). But with at least one decent place open, plus these views throughout dinner, it wasn’t the worst end to the day.

Sadly, I can’t remember what I had there! But I remember having this afterwards:

L’Isola del Gusto to the rescue as always!

Thanks for reading this. Please leave a like and a comment, if you have any questions regarding the area. I’d love to hear from you.

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