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Populonia Archaeological Park

Tuscan Archeology by the Sea

Explore golden beaches and historic sites along the Tuscan coast

Tuscany is a wonderful summer destination, especially for a beach-filled vacation. Although temperatures tend to rise and humidity comes with the season, heat waves often die down after a few weeks. And fortunately, the mountains and amazing coastline offer the perfect escape from the heat. Whether you’re at a high altitude or by sea, Tuscany offers spots that make the heat bearable (cool breeze guaranteed). If you’re traveling with kids or are over 50, avoid spending the whole day visiting towns and monuments under the Tuscan summer sun. Instead, opt for a range of manageable day trips that merge summer relaxation and cultural enrichment. This list offers a few archaeological sites with one thing in common: their proximity to the sea. Spend your day mixing beach relaxation with visits to extraordinary sites, perfect for cooling off while enjoying Tuscany's ancient past and beautiful coastline.

The Roman Villa of Giannutri Island + Cala Maestra Cove
Cala Maestra Beach
Cala Maestra Beach - Credit: Aldo Ardetti
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- Credit: Instankram

This spot is undoubtedly the best archaeological site you’ll find by the sea, as it’s located in the beautiful Tuscan archipelago. After being closed for 15 years, the Roman Villa of Giannutri, dating to the 2nd century A.D., underwent a series of restoration works and is once again open to the public. This delicate environment requires close protection and the utmost respect for the area’s rules. For this reason, the site cannot be visited without a guide: the park offers seven guides who accompany a maximum of 25 visitors three times a day on weekends in July, August and September.

Entrance to the archaeological site is free, though you’ll have to pay for your guide and reservations are required. Nearby, enjoy a dip in Cala Maestra beach, currently the only place where bathing is permitted. Services such as beach umbrella rentals are not offered, so remember to bring all of your sun-protection essentials. For more information and reservations call 0565908231 or contact info@parcoarcipelago.info.

Wildness: 5/5 Water: 5/5 Facilities: 2/5 Archaeological appeal: 5/5 Getting there: 2/5 Accessibility: 1/5

The Archaeological Park of Baratti and Populonia + The Gulf of Baratti
Baratti
Baratti - Credit: Stefano M
Baratti Beach
Baratti Beach - Credit: Bagno Altamarea

The Archaeological Park of Baratti and Populonia is an 80-hectare area excavated between 1996 and 1998, which today stands as the largest Etruscan necropolis in the world, not to mention the only one worldwide located directly on the coast. The site’s park includes the Etrusco-Roman town of Populonia, necropolises, quarries and industrial quarters, with well-preserved paths connecting all the different sites and affording jaw-dropping views of the gulf. The full ticket costs 18 euro and gives access to the three sites (car parking included). The well-organized park also offers tourists information points and signs scattered throughout the park.

The medieval village of Populonia is also worth visiting, especially to climb its tower, which boasts breathtaking views of the gulf and the Tuscan Archipelago. Baratti is a picturesque bay with kilometers of beautiful, sandy beaches, great swimming (the sea floor deepens after a few meters) and impressive pine trees. Walk a few minutes through a quaint forest dotted with picnic tables to reach the beach. Here, you’ll find countless entrances to bring you to the beach you prefer, from beautiful, deserted beaches to fully equipped areas. You’ll also find a seaside establishment (Bagno Altamarea) where you can rent sun umbrellas, sun beds and deckchairs. The price includes Wi-Fi, firm beach beds, showers, a well-equipped kids playground and a bathing wheelchair for the disabled. You can also opt to rent canoes and paddle boats.

Wildness: 3/5 Water: 5/5 Facilities: 4/5 Archaeological appeal: 5/5 Getting there: 4/5 Accessibility: 5/5* (*via the seaside establishment)

The Archaeological Area of Roman Massaciuccoli + Vecchiano Beach
Massaciuccoli Romana on Facebook
Massaciuccoli Romana on Facebook
Vecchiano Beach
Vecchiano Beach

In the heart of Versilia, around Massarosa, you’ll find an archaeological site overlooking Massaciuccoli Lake. This area includes the remains of two leading staples of the Imperial Roman era, a luxurious villa and thermal baths, plus a series of finds that suggest the presence of a smaller settlement and its burial area. The archaeological area of Roman Massaciuccoli is part of the Migliarino, San Rossore and Massaciuccoli National Park, Tuscany’s largest wetland. Twenty kilometers west you’ll find Marina di Vecchiano vaunting splendid sand dunes and pinewoods. The beach of Marina di Vecchiano is four kilometers long, boasting both free and equipped areas. Though the water doesn’t sparkle like the crystal-clear waters of Giannutri Island or Baratti Bay, the beach is wide and less crowded than other areas. Here, you’ll feel the vibe of a romantic, deserted island – wild and unknown, though easily accessible nonetheless.

Wildness: 4/5 Water: 2/5 Facilities: 3/5 Archaeological appeal: 4/5 Getting there: 5/5 Accessibility: 4/5* (*via the seaside establishment)

Vetulonia + Castiglione della Pescaia
Pietrera tomb in Vetulonia
Pietrera tomb in Vetulonia - Credit: Cisgiu
Castiglione della Pescaia
Castiglione della Pescaia

The area’s first settlements date to the 9th century B.C.E.; between the 9th and 8th century B.C.E. Vetulonia became a flourishing center of life due to the mining of metal reserves. The powerful city formed contacts not only with other Etruscan cities, but also with Sardinia, central Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean. Vetulonia was discovered in the 1800s and remains one of the most important Etruscan cities in Italy.

A little more than 20 kilometers from Vetulonia you’ll find Castiglione della Pescaia, a long stretch of coastline vaunting some of the most beautiful beaches in Tuscany. Along the coastline, you’ll find wide, fine-sand beaches alternated with stretches of rocky coast, all surrounded by beautiful Mediterranean vegetation, pinewoods and cork and oak forests. The nearest beaches from Vetulonia are called Levante and Ponente beach. Levante beach is located south of Castiglione della Pescaia, while Ponente is found on the northern side. Both are expansive beaches boasting fine, golden sand. At Ponente beach you’ll find seaside establishments equipped with sun beds and umbrellas, while Levante beach also offers a free option. Walk a few more kilometers and you’ll reach some extraordinary wild beaches, such as Cala Violina, Cala Martina, Le Marze beach and Cala di Forno.

 Wildness: 3/5 Water: 4/5 Facilities: 5/5 Archaeological appeal: 4/5 Getting there: 5/5 Accessibility: 3/5

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Etruscans