Tag: beach

Why are people so quiet about you, Follonica? (28/05/2022)

Why are people so quiet about you, Follonica? (28/05/2022)

Back in October of last year, we took an inland route to get to Castiglione della Pescaia. On the way back to Volterra, we drove part of the way hom by the sea. Cresting over the top of a hill, we got a dynamite view of Follonica – it looked so lovely from above, and so we promised to return some day. We drove through some of its suburban areas to get to the E80 and home.

It only took us about 7 months to return! Anyway, we went by the quickest route (the aforementioned E80 from Cecina), and I think it only took us about 75 minutes to get there. I thought I had selected a nice free parking spot. It was free for sure, but sadly when walking out of the urban area, Google led us astray a little and took us too far south. I thought we’d have a 5 minute walk. It turned out to be 15-20 minutes. However, it turned out to be something of a happy accident, as we discovered the free beaches south of the main part of the city.

As we were fully dressed and had no beach gear with us, I can’t say what the water was like, but the sand was nice and golden! So, we continued farther north back towards town. There were houses right on the beach, between which we got more glimpses of free beaches. There seems to be an enormous stretch of such strands immediately south of Follonica’s main promenade – a tip for those of you who are tired of the Lido-life and don’t mind lugging your own gear. One thing negative to note is that you would have a bit of a walk to get to any beachside amenities.

Something that it puzzling to me is that I heard Tuscans extolling the virtues of Castiglioncello, Rosignano Solvay, Marina di Pisa (the south part anyway), the Gulf of Baratti, Marina di Cecina – but nobody ever mentioned Follonica. Does it have a bad reputation? Do they just want to keep it secret? I don’t know either way – comment if you do know, though! Maybe Italians just prefer beaches with all the gear ready for use.

Another thing we found, which we wouldn’t have had we paid for parking in the centre, is that Follonica has a Centro Storico (old town)! It’s far from medieval, but is maybe a couple of centuries old. There only seem to be a few blocks in it – so it’s small.

Soon after, we followed the road over and snaked around to the left to get our first view of the main promenade, before which lay yet another free stretch of beach.

There was a ton of free space on this beach, even though it was a Saturday and quite warm. We might come here next time we have a hankering for some sea. We then hit the beginning of the proper part of the promendade and went a little deeper into town, a little past one of the apartment buildings that towers over the rest of the city, and past that pierside building you can see in the distance above.

It was by now the middle of lunchtime, and we were starving. We took the opportunity of being in a bigger town and headed to an Asian restaurant, in our ongoing quest to find somewhere that serves decent stir-fries. We didn’t quite find it. We went here, and found a pleasantly familiar menu, with a few cantonese favourites – it was typically extensive. Like many Chinese restaurants in Italy, they do fried rice and steamed dumplings very well, but it all falls apart in the stir fries. The meat is cheap, the sauces seemingly flavoured with soy or salt – apart from the curries, which are barely passable. I don’t know why this is! It’s annoying and baffling! The veggies were nice and crunchy at least.

We didn’t want to eat too much as we knew we had a dinner date later that evening. The portion sizes are actually quite small, so that was good.

When done, we headed out to burn some additional calories along much of the promenade.

We stopped after about 500m, and it seemed to go on for at least another 5-700m. It was getting warm, so we stopped at a lively gelateria – Sogni Golosi (greedy dreams). On the way there, we passed by a tented area – the town was getting ready to party! I can’t remember the flavours I selected at the gelateria, but I do remember being hugely impressed. Definitely worth a go if you’re in town.

We wandered inland a bit in a rough direction back towards the our parking spot, and I once again was impressed by the centre’s pedestrian areas, packed full of eateries, shops and bars. It was quiet that day, but I can imagine it getting very busy in high-season.

We enjoyed a nice (if lengthy – thanks, Eoin!) walk back to the car, and took the same road home.

Below you can find a very short and shaky video of footage of our day out.

Needless to say, we chilled after we came back, and then we went out for our last meal of this stay in Volterra. Where better than Del Duca? We skipped aperitivi (our lunch was big enough!), and got treated like minor royalty as always! The food was pretty damn good too! I will really miss that place when it closes.

And that was that! We few home the next day and life began as normal on the Monday.

The good news, though? We came back in mid-August to mid-September… met new friends, experienced the Medieval Festival and Red Night again and enjoyed weather than was hot, but thankfully not appressively so. More to follow over the coming months!

Please let me know if you enjoyed this, or if you had any queries about travelling in Tuscany – especially west-central Tuscany. I’d love to hear from you!

To the Beach and Casale Marittimo! (12/08/2021)

To the Beach and Casale Marittimo! (12/08/2021)

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.

Suvereto, Campiglia Marittima and Populonia

Suvereto, Campiglia Marittima and Populonia

We began our mammoth day a little earlier than usual, so we could fit in all three towns.  The route we took was largely wooded, and so wasn’t as photo-friendly as others.  On our way to Suvereto, though, we tantilisingly passed by Canneto and Monteverdi Marittimo; two other towns on my ‘list’.  However, we couldn’t be detracted from our main objective, and so parked in one of Suvereto’s free areas close to midday. 

I know nothing really of the history of any of these places, save that the first two are topped with fortress ruins, and the last was an old Etruscan area – possibly the main necropolis.  There are tombs dotted about, but we didn’t go to the archaelogical park – we’ll definitely go on a return visit.  So, with that in mind, there won’t be too much narrative, so sit back, scroll and enjoy the pretty.

There are lots of photos in this post!

It turns out Suvereto was bigger than I’d thought.   The exact same thing happened in Campiglia Marittima – the explorable area looked small, but ended up being huge, thanks to the higgledy-piggledy nature of the streets there.  The latter was very impressive: every turn we made induced an “ooh” or “ahh” out of us.  We also had lunch in Campigla Marittima in Ristorante La Tavernetta, and it was a tale of two portion sizes.  Niamh’s was correct (ravioli with ragu), mine was way too big (little gnocchi in a leek and gorgonzola sauce.  I really liked mine at first, but it just got too ‘samey’ halfway through.

The town was gorgeous, though – although it seems to be residential-heavy – only a couple of streets were devoted to shops and eateries.  Every few footsteps brought a new arched stairways, nicely-decorated homes, squiggledy staircases… definitely worth a visit (as is Suvereto, which has more amenities to offer the tourist).

We took so many photos of Campigla Marittima, it was silly.

On to Populonia, which offers a cul-de-sac with an old walled hamlet (less than half the size of Monteriggioni), a marina and a fab looking beach.  In addition, there’s a hidden rocky beach that locals use a lot, and an Etruscan archaeological park, rife with tombs.  First we visited the town.

It’s a nice place, with a couple of artsy-craftsy places and a few restaurants.  We didn’t spend too long here, and so wound our way back down to the marina area.  It has a small beach nearby, and is pretty enough.  In the distance, there’s a much larger beach, with additional facilities.  We visited that too, but briefly – being the only fully-dressed people on a beach full of half-naked people tends to make one feel a little uncomfortable – especially when you’re taking photos!

So now it’s a toss-up between this beach (which is in lovely surroundings), versus Marina di Cecina (which is closer, and has more amenities, but isn’t nearly so pretty).  There are others in the area aswell – Castiglioncello (not too much further than Marina di Cecina, is lovely, has amenities, but requires climbing a lot of steps, and is rather small), and Rosignano Solvay, which offers nice white beaches and amenities, but I’ve never been to.  Of course, possible the queen of beach resorts is Viareggio – where the beaches are overrun, but there are amenities galore… Viaraggio also holds one of the biggest Mardi Gras festivals in Europe, which surprised the heck out of me when I read it.  Plus we’re about 90 minutes from it.

Anyway – back to the photos.

We were dog-tired when we got home, and so just chilled until it was time to go out to dinner in Ristorante Etruria.  It really is a well-decorated place!  The staff and food are good here too.  I had ravioli smothered in a cinta senese (Sienese pork) ragu, followed by grilled swordfish and fries.  Niamh had mussles and some amazing wild boar chops.  They were chargrilled, and tasted wonderfully.  I had serious food envy.  We were too stuffed to have dessert, or even the free limoncelli or grappe they offered us.  Rather than let us go home empty handed, they gave us a half-bottle of Chianti.  We have three of these now!

Nothing was done for the rest of the night.

I got up and walked around the walls again this morning, but this time clockwise.  I worked myself up into another sweaty mess!  There were some lovely cloudscapes on offer, though.

No travel plans today – I might head out and visit a couple of Volterran attractions I haven’t documented here.

A domani!

The Beach and a Farewell

The Beach and a Farewell

I skipped my walk on Tuesday, so we could head to the beach as early as possible. We didn’t end up leaving too early – sleep had to be caught up on, but thankfully we left early to avoid parking woes.

I know some locals scoff a little at Marina di Cecina, but it’s our nearest beach, has the blue wobbly stuff, and has a promenade right next to it with a goodly amount of amenities. The pebbly sand is dark-grey and a little harsh on the feet, but there are showers and small fountains to wash your feet when you’re done. There are other, whiter beaches around in Rosignano Solvay, Castligioncello and north of Populonia – but we’re not as familiar with these areas, and Niamh and our guest just wanted a quick dip.

I’m not a beach person. I did wear less than I normally would, but I sat back in our rented spot (€25 per day for a parasol, a bed and two chairs, and a key you use to operate the shower on the shoreline), and listened to some tunes, while the ladies paddled about in the water.

We stayed about 2-2.5 hours, and handed the key back.  Apparently, they looked really puzzled when told that we were leaving – they generally expect people to stay all-day.  Personally, I don’t know how folks do that.  I like the sun, but generally I have to be doing something in it, rather than just lying there, toasting.

Coming back from Cecina, you can get some really nice approach shots of Volterra along the way.  I’ve posted some below:

We once again got one of the last spots in the car park and headed to Osteria la Pace, and each had one of their killer bowls of pici with wild boar sauce and black olives.


They hand-make it, and it’s nice and thick.  As it doesn’t contain any eggs, it’s actually a little bready.  The bowl looked smallish, but we were pretty full by the end of it… but not full enough that we couldn’t share one of their amazing Tirimasú!

With full bellies, and roasted bodies, we went back to the apartment to siesta a while, not venturing out again until it was about 20:00.  We were still a little full, and so only managed to have some nice bruschette in Volaterra (mine were hot, with suasage and cheese and were lovely with oil and black pepper added).  It was their own oil, from their farm in Molino d’Era, and was fab.  We took a shot of it, and will be back for some when our current stock has run out.  The last time I tried a Volterran oil I found it a little too herbacious for my liking; almost grassy – but this was tasty!

We went to bed after a small walk around the town, as we had to get up early the next day.

We said goodbye to our guest the next morning, after dropping her off at the airport.  We will miss her – it was fun having her about the place!  We realised, though, that with a guest, we were running short of vessels and utensils in the kitchen, and so a trip to Ikea was in order.  Fortunately, it is right next door to the airport!  Unfortunately, we were there an hour before it opened, and so had to walk about to kill time.  There is a McDonald’s there, which we narrowly avoided!

Two blue Ikea bags were filled, and we also had a box of tableware on the side.  Wondering what we were going to have for dinner, we stopped off in Capannoli on the way back to grab some veggies and other items.  There is a discount/remaindered stock store beside it – and we grabbed a few household items from there too – nice and cheap. 

When we got home, we realised we had enough to carry in the heat, without lugging any of the Ikea stuff, and so dropped the groceries back at the apartment and went to Osteria dei Poeti for soup and pasta.  They gave us a lovely little amuse-bouche to start!

It was getting warm, and I was a little tired, so we spent the afternoon indoors, either sleeping or screen-watching.  Later on, Niamh defrosted the marinated chicken we had left, and rustled up some veggies and rice to go with it.  It was yum!  Fortunately, the Conad in Capannoli had ground ginger (Niamh doesn’t like solid, root ginger) and soy sauce!  We ate it outside and watched the lowering sun kissing the sides of the cumulus on the north-western horizon.


With darkness approaching and the temperature suitably lowering, I made for the car and brought the two full Ikea bags back to the apartment.  I was wringing wet by the time I got home – that was a lot of extra weight to haul.

I took a couple of moody evening shots on the way.


Congratulating myself, I set up our Sky Go server to have a device code, and so unlocked Sky Cinema for us – now we have a huge choice of films!  Yay!  This is a good thing, because the weather for the next few days seems particularly sticky and wet:


I watched Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse, and I thought it innovative and enjoyable – give it a go if you like superhero movies and/or animation.

After a good sleep, I got up and did my walk again.  This time, I took a circuitous route to our carpark, so I could pick up the tableware and bring that back to the apartment.  Cue the sweaty mess again… this time, as the weight was higher and less-distributed, leading to the handles of the bag I brought constantly cutting into my skin.  Fun times!

No plans today due to the weather warnings, so I will at last get back to some writing!

See you again soon.

San Gimignano by Night

San Gimignano by Night

Heya all – just a quick update today, as rumour has it we’re off to the beach this morning.

Yesterday, after the breakfast chill, our guest went out to complete her exploring, while Niamh and I did a little shopping for water and milk, got a copy of keys cut for guests and ordered a frame for the artwork we bought a couple of days ago.

Once done, we all met up in Piazza dei Priori for a bit of lunch at Ristorante Etruria. We ate at a leisurely pace, and decided upon whether we’d hang around for a coffee and/or dessert. Instead, we went to L’Incontro for gelato!

Above is eggplant parmagiana (which I tasted – it was amazing), ravioli in with a pork ragú and taglioni with truffle.  All good stuff.  The waiter there recognised us, and he’s a good guy – we got a little glass of spumante each to begin the meal.

The most exciting thing we did between us that afternoon was to buy a keyring for the newly copied keys.  Yep – we vegetated.  

We headed out to San Gimignano at around 18:30.  This town is arguably the nicest-looking small town in Tuscany.  The old centre has been a UNESCO World Heritage site.  It is essentially a medieval movie set.  But would I live there?  Hell, no!  Firstly, I couldn’t affort to – property prices for apartments similar to our own were double that of Volterra.  Secondly, you spend 8 months of the year rubbing arses with tourists when you head out.  This might seem hypocritical as a blow-in, but hey-ho.  And lastly… well, this might seem mean, but pretty is as pretty does – I think Volterra has far more culture and history to it – plenty of inspiration for stories.  

We got there in about 40 minutes – we were stuck behind a slow driver for some of the way, but then spent another 15-20 minutes looking for a parking spot.  We found one at the other side of town and squeezed our way in. The place was busy, even passing my expectations.  It was also hot, at around 27 celsius – about 5 degrees warmer than Volterra.

We had a passable meal in La Griglia (the risotto was weird, the steak was good – no photos, as I completely forgot) – the restaurant has lovely views out into the Tuscan Countryside.

Then we headed out to the ‘business’ end of San Gimignano.  Make no mistake, it is shockingly beautiful, and absolutely worth a visit.  Go on an organised tour, though, or if privately, then go extremely early or after 20:30!  Note all the towers.  There are 13 or 14 of them, but they used to number in the low 70’s.  This is why San Gimignano is often called the Manhattan of Tuscany – it looks impressive from a distance.

We headed home – Google Maps taking us on an alternative route, which would have had some pretty impressive views had we been able to see!

I had no walk this morning, and so showered early in order to free up the bathroom for the others, so we can make an early start to Marina di Cecina.  I know it’s not the locals’ favourite beach here, but it has sand (albeit dark grey, due to iron content), the blue-green wobbly stuff, and a handy promenade just kissing the sand itself.

I might blog late tomorrow, or not at all, as we have to get up at sparrow-fart to drop our guest off at the airport.  We’ve enjoyed having her here, and are sorry to see her go.