Tuscany by the Sea
Viareggio and the Versilia - Leghorn - The Isle of Elba - The Argentario
We are going to drive along the Tyrrhenian coast, and see an extraordinary Tuscan landscape of cliffs, farmlands and sunny beaches, through the elegant seaside resorts of Versilia, and take a boat across to the Isle of Elba and the other islands in the Tuscan archipelago.

Massa Marittima - Piazza Garibaldi

• Viareggio and the Versilia
We begin our trip in Genoa, through the Riviera, Lucca and Pisa (please see Excursion 2 & 7), to the Tuscan coast and Marina di Massa. We shall see Versilia, with its elegant beaches: Forte dei Marmi, Marina di Pietrasanta, Lido di Camaiore, and Viareggio. Its huge beaches with all possible amenities, elegant boutiques, restaurants and bars make this one of Italy's most sought-after holiday resorts, apart from being a venue for major exhibitions and other events (the Carnival, the sailing regatta, etc.). It was on this beach that Shelley's body was burned by his friends after his death by drowning. From Viareggio we will go down towards Torre del Lago and the delightful Lake of Massaciuccoli where we can see the house and tomb of Giacomo Puccini, the huge forest of Migliarino, Marina di Pisa (with the near-by Romanesque Church of San Piero a Grado), Tirrenia and the modern, industrial city of Leghorn (Livorno), Tuscany's principal port.

Livorno - Fortress

For centuries, Leghorn was merely a fortified village, and it was not until the Medici's time that Cosimo I decided to build a port for his State, and this fostered the development of the city in every aspect. Amedeo Modigliani was born here. In the municipal museum in Villa Fabbricotti are works by Giovanni Fattori and other 19th century painters (the “Macchiaioli"). Visit the cathedral, Via Grande, Tacca's superb monument to Grand-Duke Ferdinand I and one of Italy's principal Baroque sculptures with the “Four Moors' in chains standing by the old dockyards before the Fortress built in 1534 by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger. Let us leave the city along the road which takes us past the most beautiful part of the coast, with its many tiny bays, rocks and refreshing pine forests. At Antignano we can make a short detour to the Shrine of Montenero. A little further on is Torre di Calafuria, Quercianella and the elegant town of Castiglioncello, then Rosignano Solvay from where we take a 4 km drive up to the mediaeval town of Rosignano Marittimo. The road now leaves the coast, which has become flat and sandy again, and takes us into the heart of the countryside, via Marina di Cecina, to the Chapel of San Guido (1703) where we can turn off and drive 6 kms up to the nearby mediaeval castle at Bolgheri. We are soon back on the coast again, travelling through Marina di Castagneto, San Vincenzo to the Etruscan town of Populonia perched up on a headland with its mediaeval castle, museum and important Etruscan necropolis. 15 kms on is the industrial town of Piombino, where we take the boat across to the Isle of Elba. Every day there are regular ferry services between Piombino and Portoferraio and the other ports on Elba (you can take the car with you).

Isola d'Elba - Portoferraio

The Isle of Elba

The Isle of Elba is Tuscany's largest island in the archipelago that includes Gorgona, Capraia, Pianosa, Giglio, Montecristo and Giannutri, plus a dozen other small islets and isolated rocks. Iron ore was mined on Elba in ancient times: it is 27 kms long and only 18 kms wide, and was inhabited in prehistoric, Tuscan and Roman times. In the Middle Ages, Pisa, Genoa and Lucca - and later on Spain, France, England and Naples - struggled to possess it, and between 1814 and 1815 it was assigned to Napoleon as his residence after he had abdicated at Fontainebleau. It eventually became the property of the Grand-Dukes of Tuscany. The capital is Portoferraio, surrounded by its stout 16th fortified wall. 6 kms up the hill is Napoleon's Villa of San Martino, in the centre of the island. In Napoleon's day it was only a modest house which prince Demidoff embellished and developed in the mid-19th century, There is an interesting picture gallery and many Napoleonic relics. The best thing is to drive all round the island first of all, to enjoy the magnificent views from all sides: the Gulf of Biodola, the Gulf of Procchio and Marciana Marina on the northern coast, Marina di Campo on the southern coast, and Lacona and Capoliveri - delightful little hill town - and Porto Azzurro and Rio Marina on the east coast. There are far too many pretty bays, beaches and marinas to mention here, but Elba is the ideal place for a holiday from the spring to the autumn.

The Argentario
The Argentario
We will go back to Piombino and continue down the coast, via Venturina and Follonica before entering the delightful pine forest of Punta Ala, with its amenities and facilities to cater for the most demanding visitor's tastes. From the Etruscan town of Vetulonia, we will go on to Civitavecchia, via Grosseto (please see Excursion 10, The Mysterious Etruscans) and the Argentario headland with Porto Ercole, dominated by a castle and three Spanish fortresses, Porto Santo Stefano (from where we can go across to the the islands of Giannutri and Giglio), Ansedonia (visiting the ruins of the Roman settlement of Cosa) and Tarquinia, following Excursion 10 in reverse.
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