Tuesday 27 September 2016

Going to the beach in Italy - Castiglione della Pescaia

I wrote a post on going to the beach in Italy - more specifically, on going to the beach in Tuscany - back in June 2012. Today I want to describe one particular Tuscan beach resort in more detail to provide visitors to Tuscany with some further practical aspects, many of which apply equally well to other beach resorts on the coast of Tuscany.

Castiglione della Pescaia is located on the Tuscan coast south of Follonica and fairly close to Grosseto and Monte Argentario. This is an area of Tuscany off the beaten track to most foreign visitors to Italy but it is extremely popular with Italians taking their annual vacation. Castiglione della Pescaia has a quite charming old town, high up and with mostly very steep streets (and no car or bus access!), with panoramic views along the coast to the north and south, and out over the boat harbour in the silted up river mouth below. There are a great many launches of various shapes and sizes which are advertised for rent "without license". The idea seems to be that you motor out the entrance to the harbour and anchor offshore to sunbathe and otherwise relax. Many of the little fishing boats have signs on them indicating where their fish is served, cooked on the day it was caught.

Castiglione della Pescaia and theTyrrhenian Sea.
The old part of Castiglione della Pescaia and the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Quiet lane in Castiglione della Pescaia old town
Quiet lane in Castiglione della Pescaia old town

Castiglione della Pescaia boats heading out to sea
Castiglione della Pescaia boats heading out to sea

The modern part of Castiglione della Pescaia cannot really be described as an architectural gem - concrete features prominently. Immediately to the north of the river and harbour, below the old town, there are some pleasing streets given over to tourism, plus a 19th century fountain. The modern town, especially to the south of the river, consists very largely of blocks of vacation apartments along the sea front and on the streets leading to it. The most popular private and public parts of the seashore are located in this area and also to the north of the old town.

Castiglione della Pescaia 19th century fountain
Castiglione della Pescaia 19th century fountain

Free versus private beaches in Tuscany

In Castiglione della Pescaia, the public, "free" parts of the beach are interspersed with the private areas. Both types of beach area provide toilet facilities and fresh water showers, as well as life guards. In the public areas, you can plant your own umbrella in any unoccupied space and sunbathe or swim as the spirit moves you. The private areas are set up with umbrellas and deckchairs more or less in rows with walkways between them leading down to the sea. Many holidaymakers rent their space for the entire summer. That's why you might go to the office of a private beach and be told that they're full even though there are many currently unoccupied spots visible. The price for and umbrella and two deckchairs ranges from 10 to 20 euros per day, with discounts for longer periods. The price is usually reflected in the quality of the facilities. At Forte dei Marmi, near Viareggio and Lucca, there are some very classy private beaches and naturally they cost a bit more. By the way, during August, the sand at Castiglione della Pescaia was too hot for me to stand on with bare feet! Bring some beach footwear.

private beach area at Castiglione della Pescaia
A fairly typical private beach area at Castiglione della Pescaia

public beach area at Castiglione della Pescaia
An equally typical public beach area at Castiglione della Pescaia

Beach restaurants in Castiglione della Pescaia

Most of the private beach areas have their own restaurant. These are all open to the public, not just to those with a ticket to the beach. Some offer one or two fresh fish dishes but by far the bulk of the seafood is frozen. This is not a problem - how it's cooked is what matters as far as the taste goes. Some have waiter service, some are self service. Dress is casual in the extreme although for ladies a bikini top might be a good idea. There are always a few good looking girls and a larger number of good looking guys around, and then there are the rest of us. No one cares - this is where Italians come for total "relax".

My top recommendation is Bagno Bruna which is one of the first private beach areas that you come to on the waterfront walkway to the south of the river (Via Isola Clodia). This place serves large quantities of excellent seafood at remarkably reasonable prices. The self-service restaurant is open every day at lunchtime and the serviced restaurant is open in the evenings on Friday and Saturday. At lunchtime, expect to line up but the line moves quickly. You take away your salad, wine and other ready prepared items, pay and leave your name with your seafood order. That will soon be ready and will find its way to you. I tried a swordfish steak that was so good I thought it was fresh. It was frozen but as the chef told me: it all depends on how you cook it. The fritto misto was also delicious. Cold, open slightly frizzante white wine is available by the half and full litre carafe.

I cannot recommend this place highly enough for a delicious seafood lunch.

Bagno Bruna private beach area and restaurant at Castiglione della Pescaia
Bagno Bruna private beach area and restaurant at Castiglione della Pescaia.

More about Castiglione della Pescaia.

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