Near Livorno, there are charming villages, all different one from the other, characterized by paved streets, hushed churches and craft shops, not overcrowded, immersed in the untouched nature of Tuscany and not far from the seaside. Here is a list to explore some of the precious hamlets of the Etruscan coast.
Sassetta is located about 50 kilometres southeast of Livorno, inland between Cecina and Piombino. Mentioned in documents dating to the 11th and 12th centuries, it is surrounded by chestnut woods and Mediterranean scrubland. Here you can visit the Museo del Bosco (‘Woodland Museum’), an interesting museum spotlighting local daily life and professions through the centuries, including chestnut and blackberry pickers and ancient coal merchants. The park in Poggio Neri is a beautiful oasis of uncontaminated nature. Among the other places of interest are the remains of the Orlandi castle in the town centre, the Palazzo Ramirez de Montalvo, the Church of St. Andrew and the Oratorio di San Rocco. Going south, towards the river Cornia, you can take a hiking trail in a wooded area of natural interest, which includes Mount Calvi and the hills north of Castagneto Carducci.
Castiglioncello is an ancient Etruscan village overlooking a small promontory, an offshoot of the Livorno hills. This village became famous around the second half of the nineteenth century thanks to Diego Martelli, an art critic and patron who built Castello Pasquini. Here he hosted the famous group of Macchiaioli painters, founding the school of Castiglioncello. In the 1960s, Castiglioncello became famous worldwide thanks to the film "Il Sorpasso" by Dino Risi with Vittorio Gassman. Over the years, celebrities and public figures such as Pirandello, Zeffirelli, Sordi, Mina, and Spadolini have bought many villas here and Castiglioncello has become an élite tourist destination. Castiglioncello is also a summer destination with yacht clubs and excellent services. There are red cliffs overlooking the sea, sheltered bays, beautiful beaches, coves lapped by crystal clear waters and a splendid promenade crossing the Pineta Marradi. Check out this post.
Castagneto Carducci takes its name from the family of the famous Italian poet Giosuè Carducci, who was born in Valdicastello (Pietrasanta) in 1835 and was the first Italian to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1906. Castagneto Carducci is a village perched on a hillside - with a splendid panoramic view - at around 10 kilometres from the seaside. You can visit Giosuè Carducci’s home and see the rooms where the poet lived along with a museum housing an archive of poems and documents. At the beginning of Via Marconi you’ll find the Palazzo Comunale standing tall near the Carducci archive. Going up, following the streets of the village, you will come across the Church of San Lorenzo and the Castle of Castagneto. There have been several renovations over the centuries, but these two buildings are the original nucleus of the city. The nearby Church of the S.S. Crucifix is interesting due to the wooden crucifix preserved inside, which dates back to the 15th century. The surrounding countryside is an important wildlife oasis; it’s also the area where Bolgheri wine is produced, along with high-quality extra-virgin olive oil.
We can’t mention Bolgheri without pausing to reflect on this ‘town that time forgot.’ It is famous for its tasty wines and for the tiny centre, which has cobbled streets and pretty houses adorned with flowers. The red brick castle welcomes tourists at the village entrance, while restaurants, wine shops and craft shops complete the picture. Other places of interest around the village are the San Giudo oratory, the olive groves and vineyards in the outskirts and the Viale dei Cipressi, a road lined with 2600 cypress trees captured by the poet Giosuè Carducci.
Bibbona has the typical charm of a medieval village surrounded by nature. The town centre has cobbled stone winding streets and it’s home to the castle and some buildings of great artistic and historical importance. Noteworthy civic architecture includes the old Town Hall, the Palazzo Gardini and the Fonte di Bacco. Bibbona also preserves numerous traces of ancient fortifications, such as the so-called Rocca at the highest point of the town, probably built around the thirteenth century as a noble family’s residence.
Marina di Bibbona district is an international tourist destination, well-equipped for fun and relaxation, with many sports and entertainment options. Crystalline sea, thick pine forests and a nice beach with a medieval fort where cultural, photographic and food exhibitions are organized. The wood known as Macchia della Magona is a well-preserved natural stretch with many paths and a biogenetic oasis.
Suvereto is a small village dating to the year 1000. Situated on the slopes of the hills overlooking the Costa degli Etruschi, set in the green valley of the Cornia river, it is rich in history and art and was elected one of the most beautiful towns in Italy (I Borghi più belli d’Italia.) Suvereto is home to major wineries and also produces exquisite olive oil. The town’s architecture is striking; its ancient walls enclose paved streets lined with stone houses, historical buildings, beautiful churches and cloisters. Visit the Rocca Aldobrandesca, the Town Hall, Forte degli Angeli, the Church of Santissima Annunziata, San Giusto parish church and the futuristic Petra winery, designed by the architect Mario Botta. When in Suvereto you can also visit the nearby Natural Park of Montioni, part of the Val di Cornia network of parks. It’s a park rich in fauna, with rare examples of typical Mediterranean flora and important monuments of the Napoleonic era, many of which have recently been renovated.
Populonia or Populonia Alta is part of the municipality of Piombino, especially noted for its Etruscan remains, including one of Italy’s main necropolises. This area, stretching between the slopes of the promontory of Piombino and the Gulf of Baratti, has been well-known since antiquity for its intense metallurgical activity, linked to the production of iron. Populonia is the only example of an Etruscan town built on the sea. The famous Archaeological Park is divided into different areas and surrounded by a wooded shoreline facing the Tuscan archipelago and Corsica. The modern part of Populonia is located within a small portion of the walled acropolis of a large ancient city on a promontory. Climb the tower of the castle to see the beautiful Gulf of Baratti (as above in the picture)!