Tuscany is renowned for its art-filled Renaissance cities, walled medieval towns, and undulating countryside cut with vineyards and olive groves. But this central region of Italy also has some of the country's most beautiful beaches and dramatic coastal areas.
From wide belts of sandy and pebbled shores to stretches of secluded coves carved out of rugged bluffs, here are our picks for the best beaches and coastal destinations in Tuscany, running from north to south.
Marina di Carrara (Massa)
Carrara's vast marble quarries have been in operation since at least Roman times, and its bustling coastline flanks the bright blue Ligurian Sea. Popular as a cruise stop with the well-heeled Riviera crowd, the sun-drenched beach at Marina di Carrara is set below the imposing Apuan Alps. The seaside resort has private bathing establishments (stabilimenti) practically strung from end-to-end, as well as a lively promenade full of bars, cafés, and restaurants. Don’t miss out on the annual Regata Nazionale (international sailing regatta) that takes place in mid-September.
On the Versilia Coast, the glamorous resort town of Forte dei Marmi is characterized by golden sand beaches and a long wooden pier. Book a reservation at one of the town's high-end, private beach clubs, where you can rent an umbrella and lounge chair, and also have full use of their toilet facilities and dressing rooms. After a day of frolicking in the sand and surf, take a short stroll into the center of town to shop in designer boutiques or dine al fresco at one of many fashionable seafood restaurants. The chic summer nightlife here is legendary.
Located about 12 miles north of Pisa and 19 miles west of Lucca, northern Tuscany’s Viareggio is one of the most popular holiday resort destinations on the Italian Riviera. Known for its elegant seafront promenade hemmed with grand hotels and Liberty-style palazzos, the city of Viareggio is easily accessible by train from Florence, Lucca, and the spa town of Montecatini Terme. Up and down this classic Italian seafront are a range of private bathing establishments, many suitable for young families. Viareggio’s free public beach sits just north of the harbor and has a more low-key vibe with plenty of cafés, pizzerias, and gelato stands close at hand. The celebrated Carnival of Viareggio draws thousands of mardi gras revelers each February.
South of Piombino in a sheltered bay, the beach resort at Follonica is very popular with families. This is in large part due to its wide stretch of shallow water, protected by an old Roman coastal road (Via Aurelia), which now lies offshore and forms a natural breakwater that's great for snorkeling. Inexpensive camping villages, many equipped with affordable rental cottages, are just across the street from the beach. The town of Follonica offers plenty of casual eateries along the seafront, as well as shops selling every type of beach gear.
Castiglione di Pescaia
South of Follonica, Castiglione della Pescaia is one of the most popular Tuscan beach destinations for Italians and foreigners alike. It's known for its clean water and protected natural areas, but also offers points of interest for those hours not spent at the beach, including a pretty old town built around a 12th-century fortress. There are also Etruscan and Roman ruins nearby, as well as nature reserves. Prices are quite high here in the peak summer season, from July to August.
Marina di Alberese
Marina di Alberese is located south of Grossetto, along a section of the coastal Maremma or “Etruscan Riviera.” The 4.5-mile expanse of beach backed by pine tree groves is part of a national park and reserve. Pristine and wild with fine gray sand, bleached driftwood, and dense Mediterranean scrubs, it is a true nature lover’s paradise. The beach is free to the public and can be accessed by car or via a bike path that begins at the visitor’s center. Although services are sparse, there is a parking lot, snack bar, and a free shuttle to the beach. Keep in mind that there is a clothing-optional area toward the southern tip.
Biodola Beach (Elba Island)
Soak up the sun on the alluring island of Elba—the largest of the Tuscan archipelago and home to Napoleon during his nine-month exile. Among the most popular of Elba's more than 80 named beaches, Biodola on the northern coast is marked by wide sweeps of sugary sand and clean, clear waters. Interesting underwater rock formations and an abundance of marine life make Biodola great for snorkeling and scuba diving, and if children are in tow, the sloping seabed ensures waters are shallow for wading. Biodola can be accessed by car or public bus from Portoferraio, the island's main ferry port.
Cala del Gesso (Porto Santo Stefano)
Cala del Gesso is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful beaches of the Monte Argentario—a peninsula tethered by three ribbons of land off the Tuscan coast. A best-kept local secret (mostly because the beach is not that easy to get to), those who make the effort to walk down the steep, 0.4-mile path are rewarded with crystalline waters and a stunning setting. Grab a mask, fins, and a snorkel to explore the peaceful and shallow seas. Isolation has its rewards and a few downsides; namely, there are no beach clubs or bars, so be sure to pack a picnic lunch, water, sunscreen, and an umbrella.
Not far from where the southern Maremma meets the border with Lazio, Feniglia beach is impressive not only for its fine, white sand but also for its surrounding pine forest. If that weren’t enough, its gently sloping dunes, cleanliness, easy access, and calm currents make it especially kid-friendly, too. All along the beach are well-equipped facilities for sunbathing in comfort. Stretching a total of 4 miles from Orbetello’s lagoon to Ansedonia, the beach can be reached by car, bus, or via a bike path from the Argentario promontory.