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Italy holidays: Discovering the charming villages and unspoilt beaches of Tuscany’s secret Riviera

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It’s late afternoon on Bagno Carducci beach and, throughout, bronzed Italian families are starting to pack up their raffia bags. Tuscany could also be loved by the Brits for its cypress-topped hills and glorious sunflower fields, but for the Italians it’s Versilia Riviera, just a brief drive from Pisa and Lucca, that’s the star attraction.

And taking pole position is Forte dei Marmi, a resort town perched at the highest of the coastline where Bagno Carducci is just certainly one of its many beaches.

Attracting well-heeled Italian families in addition to fashion royalty – the billionaires Miuccia Prada and Giorgio Armani each have holiday homes nearby – Forte dei Marmi’s swish seaside heritage stretches back to the early 1900s when it became certainly one of Italy’s first holiday destinations.

Italians love Tuscany for its Versilia Riviera, which is just a brief drive from the Tuscan hot spots of Pisa and Lucca (pictured) 

With calm waters, golden sands and a scenic backdrop framed by the Apuan Alps, it’s no surprise that the tiny town has been nicknamed Fabulous Forte. The resort’s chic repute was cemented within the Nineteen Sixties when the world’s glitterati would decamp here for the summer.

Nowadays the town has a manicured yet modest feel, unlike Europe’s other, more showy hotspots, of, say, Saint Tropez or Marbella.

Within the centro storico, the old town, you may buy a stracciatella ice cream (vanilla with nice flakes of chocolate) at certainly one of the various artisan stores, in addition to browse the petite outposts of designer brands. Dolce & Gabbana, Prada and Gucci all have shops there.

Above is Forte dei Marmi, a resort town along the coast that's known for its calm waters, golden sands and a scenic backdrop framed by the Apuan Alps

Above is Forte dei Marmi, a resort town along the coast that is known for its calm waters, golden sands and a scenic backdrop framed by the Apuan Alps

Don't miss Forte dei Marmi's Wednesday market at Piazza Marconi (pictured), with vendors selling locally made cashmere, ceramics and linens

Don’t miss Forte dei Marmi’s Wednesday market at Piazza Marconi (pictured), with vendors selling locally made cashmere, ceramics and linens 

For shopping which won’t break the bank, nevertheless, the Wednesday market at Piazza Marconi, with locally made cashmere, ceramics and linens, is unmissable.

To feel fully immersed in la dolce vita, the hotel Principe Forte dei Marmi is the place to ascertain in. The 28 bedrooms have a slick, modern feel, and there’s the bonus of the private Dalmazia Beach Club. Here you may people-watch from the fashionable beach gazebos and revel in authentic Tuscan dishes on the alfresco restaurant.

Rooms cost from £300 per night (principefortedeimarmi.com).

To feel fully immersed in la dolce vita, the Hotel Principe Forte dei Marmi (pictured) is the place to check in

To feel fully immersed in la dolce vita, the Hotel Principe Forte dei Marmi (pictured) is the place to ascertain in

Enjoy authentic Tuscan dishes at the alfresco restaurant at Hotel Principe Forte dei Marmi's Dalmazia Beach Club

Enjoy authentic Tuscan dishes on the alfresco restaurant at Hotel Principe Forte dei Marmi’s Dalmazia Beach Club

The 28 bedrooms at the Hotel Principe Forte dei Marmi, pictured, have a slick, modern feel

The 28 bedrooms on the Hotel Principe Forte dei Marmi, pictured, have a slick, modern feel

Carved out of an Art Nouveau villa, Hotel Byron, however, dates from the late 18th Century and was named after the English poet who adored Tuscany.

Regulars keep coming back for its beachside location and Michelin-starred restaurant. 

Guests can take excursions to nearby artists’ studios in the traditional town of Pietrasanta – known for its marble heritage – in addition to boat trips to the villages of Cinque Terre.

With Hotel Byron as your base, take an excursion to nearby artists’ studios in the ancient town of Pietrasanta (pictured) – known for its marble heritage

With Hotel Byron as your base, take an tour to nearby artists’ studios in the traditional town of Pietrasanta (pictured) – known for its marble heritage

Vibrant: Above is Vernazza, one of the colourful fishing villages in Cinque Terre that can be explored by boat tour

Vibrant: Above is Vernazza, certainly one of the colorful fishing villages in Cinque Terre that may be explored by boat tour

Rooms cost from £383 per night (hotelbyron.net).

For the full-on Italian beach experience, nevertheless, there’s nothing like the excitement of Viareggio. Be warned: in the event you’re in search of peace and quiet, book in hand, that is the unsuitable place. Its miles of sandy beaches are dominated by the Milanese and Romans playing volleyball, watersports and, after all, chatting effusively.

The early evening passeggiata – the Italian tradition of a stroll with family and friends – is practically an establishment here and is taken along the seafront promenade.

Make a pitstop for an Aperol spritz on the Gran Caffe Margherita, which was once the favourite haunt of opera composer Giacomo Puccini, the region’s most famous son. For opera fans it’s well price a visit to Torre del Lago, where Puccini lived and wrote a lot of his operas. His mansion, carved out of an old watchtower overlooking Lake Massaciuccoli, is now a museum, while the open-air theatre by the lake hosts a summer festival celebrating his work.

For the full-on Italian beach experience, there’s nothing like the buzz of Viareggio (pictured)

For the full-on Italian beach experience, there’s nothing like the excitement of Viareggio (pictured) 

Opera fans will love Lake Massaciuccoli (pictured) - the composer Giacomo Puccini lived by the water and wrote many of his operas here

Opera fans will love Lake Massaciuccoli (pictured) – the composer Giacomo Puccini lived by the water and wrote a lot of his operas here 

Plaza e de Russie, inbuilt 1871, is the oldest hotel in Viareggio. Found on the seafront, it’s the right base for experiencing the town’s energetic beach clubs, in addition to its carnival, which takes place over quite a few weekends each February and March.

Rooms cost from £238 per night (plazaederussie.com).

If the northern coastline has all of the fizz of a Fellini film, then southern Tuscany exudes the complexity of a Giovanni Fattori oil painting, where the smudgy greens of olive groves merge with the turquoise hues of the ocean.

South of the port town of Livorno, the coastline becomes wilder, the crowds drop away and it looks like a forgotten corner of Italy.

When you travel south of the port town of Livorno, pictured, you'll notice that the coastline becomes wilder

While you travel south of the port town of Livorno, pictured, you will notice that the coastline becomes wilder 

That is the Maremma region of Tuscany, a timeless destination where tiny bays, accessible only on foot or by boat, are trimmed with pine groves and beaches are strewn with driftwood.

Much of this stretch of jagged coastline sits throughout the Bandite di Scarlino protected nature reserve, and the beaches have an other-worldly feel, surrounded by oak forests and scrubland. While wild boar roam the hinterland and egrets swoop above, you may bathe in wonderful clear water.

Italy’s most unspoilt beaches are found here – similar to Cala Violina, poetically named due to musical sound that the sand emits as you walk over it.

Above is picturesque Cala Violina, one of Italy’s most unspoilt beaches, which lies in the Maremma region

Above is picturesque Cala Violina, certainly one of Italy’s most unspoilt beaches, which lies within the Maremma region 

Adding to Maremma’s wild appeal are the butteri, or cowboys, who’ve worked this land since Etruscan times, farming the distinctive-looking longhorn cattle.

Agriturismo a Gelsomino has a riding school which offers horseback treks with butteri along the coast and thru the encompassing hills (ilgelsomino.com).

Certainly one of the jewels of the Tuscan Riviera is Castiglione della Pescaia. The small fishing town is missed by a fifteenth Century castle and still has its medieval partitions intact. You’ll be able to meander around its narrow, cobbled streets before exploring the family-friendly beaches nearby.

One of the jewels of the Tuscan Riviera is the small fishing town of Castiglione della Pescaia (pictured)

Certainly one of the jewels of the Tuscan Riviera is the small fishing town of Castiglione della Pescaia (pictured) 

Spiaggia Fertilia beach is renowned for its kitesurfing and windsurfing, and can be a fantastic spot for little ones to hunt for shells and sea urchins in its necklace of rock pools.

A brief drive inland will take you to the romantic L’Andana Resort. The Medici villa-turned-hotel was where Grand Duke Leopold and his court used to decamp during summers within the late nineteenth Century. Present in a 1,200-acre wine estate, it still offers a regal Tuscan appeal. In addition to a lavish spa, a highlight is the Michelin-starred La Trattoria Enrico Bartolini overlooking the vineyards.

B&B costs from about £375 per night based on two sharing (andana.it).

The regal L’Andana Resort, pictured, was where Grand Duke Leopold and his court used to decamp during summers in the late 19th Century

The regal L’Andana Resort, pictured, was where Grand Duke Leopold and his court used to decamp during summers within the late nineteenth Century

Found in a 1,200-acre wine estate, L’Andana Resort offers a regal Tuscan appeal. Pictured is a Superior Suite

Present in a 1,200-acre wine estate, L’Andana Resort offers a regal Tuscan appeal. Pictured is a Superior Suite 

B&B at L’Andana Resort costs from about £375 per night based on two sharing. Above is a Prestige Suite

B&B at L’Andana Resort costs from about £375 per night based on two sharing. Above is a Prestige Suite 

Highlights at L’Andana Resort include a lavish spa and the Michelin-starred La Trattoria Enrico Bartolini

Highlights at L’Andana Resort include a lavish spa and the Michelin-starred La Trattoria Enrico Bartolini

Go further south still and also you’ll reach the Monte Argentario peninsula, linked to the mainland by three strips of land, certainly one of which cuts through the Orbetello Lagoon. 

These 4,000 acres of marshland are inhabited by grebes, rare migratory birds and a few 4,000 pink flamingoes.

The 2 foremost towns on the promontory are Porto Santo Stefano, dominated by a powerful fort, and Porto Ercole, which has a captivating old town and harbour.

Along the waterfront at Porto Ercole, seafood restaurants and artisan workshops are carved out of old fishermen’s huts. There’s nothing higher here than a bowl of the local tagliolini with shrimp, clams and zucchini.

In Porto Santo Stefano, Trattoria a Casa Paolo e Rosita offers an extra dip into local cuisine, which naturally focuses on an abundance of seafood, in addition to seasonal ingredients similar to wild mushrooms, boar and chestnuts. 

Porto Santo Stefano, pictured, is one of two main towns on the Monte Argentario peninsula and is dominated by a magnificent fort

Porto Santo Stefano, pictured, is certainly one of two foremost towns on the Monte Argentario peninsula and is dominated by a powerful fort

Seafood restaurants and artisan workshops are carved out of old fishermen’s huts along the waterfront at Porto Ercole (pictured)

Seafood restaurants and artisan workshops are carved out of old fishermen’s huts along the waterfront at Porto Ercole (pictured)

The Orbetello Lagoon (above) is inhabited by some 4,000 pink flamingoes

The Orbetello Lagoon (above) is inhabited by some 4,000 pink flamingoes

Those within the know hire villas in Monte Argentario for the summer to enjoy blissful, tranquil days.

L’Agrumento Dell’Isola Villa is a two-bedroom, pink-painted stone farmhouse surrounded by olive, orange and lemon trees. In addition to a pool, it’s blessed with access to its own secluded beach. It sleeps 4 and costs from £2,108 for one week, from September 24 (tuscanynowandmore.com).

You’ll be able to spend your days here with a hike up the best peak of Punta Telegrafo, take a glass-bottomed boat trip out to the nearby islands of Giglio and Montecristo, or cycle along Via Panoramica, a road that provides cinematic views over the archipelago.

L’Agrumento Dell’Isola Villa is a two-bedroom, pink-painted stone farmhouse surrounded by olive, orange and lemon trees

L’Agrumento Dell’Isola Villa is a two-bedroom, pink-painted stone farmhouse surrounded by olive, orange and lemon trees

L’Agrumento Dell’Isola Villa sleeps four and costs from £2,108 for one week, from September 24

L’Agrumento Dell’Isola Villa sleeps 4 and costs from £2,108 for one week, from September 24

As well as a pool, L’Agrumento Dell’Isola Villa is blessed with access to its own secluded beach

In addition to a pool, L’Agrumento Dell’Isola Villa is blessed with access to its own secluded beach

Take a glass-bottomed boat trip out to the islands of Giglio and Montecristo (pictured)

Take a glass-bottomed boat trip out to the islands of Giglio and Montecristo (pictured) 

Divers can explore the shipwrecks across the tiny, crescent-shaped island of Giannutri, similar to the Roman ship Punta Scaletta, and see the stunning vertical partitions of multi-coloured corals and sponges, in addition to a kaleidoscope of sea life in the shape of barracuda, scorpion fish, dolphins and fin whales.

For a legendary coastal stay, it gets no higher than Hotel Il Pellicano in Porto Ercole – arguably probably the most glamorous hotel in Tuscany (if not Italy), which originally opened in 1965.

It has a wide ranging setting perched above the Tyrrhenian Sea. Guests may access a seriously hip beach club by taking a lift that plunges you down the cliffside.

Divers can explore the shipwrecks around the tiny, crescent-shaped island of Giannutri (pictured)

Divers can explore the shipwrecks across the tiny, crescent-shaped island of Giannutri (pictured) 

Glamour: Above is the clifftop pool at Hotel Il Pellicano in Porto Ercole, which is arguably the most glamorous hotel in Tuscany (if not Italy)

Glamour: Above is the clifftop pool at Hotel Il Pellicano in Porto Ercole, which is arguably probably the most glamorous hotel in Tuscany (if not Italy) 

Pictured is Hotel Il Pellicano's Pellicano Suite. The legendary hotel originally opened in 1965

Pictured is Hotel Il Pellicano’s Pellicano Suite. The legendary hotel originally opened in 1965

Guests at Hotel Il Pellicano can access a seriously hip beach club by taking a lift that plunges you down the cliffside

Guests at Hotel Il Pellicano can access a seriously hip beach club by taking a lift that plunges you down the cliffside

On the hotel’s Bar All’Aperto, start your evening with a Pellicano martini, made with a touch of the local mandarin liqueur.

Michelin-starred chef Michelino Gioia oversees the foremost restaurant, Il Pellicano, where he elevates the copious amounts of local produce on offer to stellar levels.

A five-night trip to the Tuscan Riviera, including flights, automobile hire, two nights at Hotel Il Pellicano and three at Hotel Byron, B&B, costs from £5,400pp (blacktomato.com).

Perhaps above all, Hotel Il Pellicano has mastered the art of what the Italians call sprezzatura – meaning it oozes a certain nonchalance about its obvious appeal.

In other words, very like the Tuscan Riviera itself.

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