Travel

Tuscan Coastal Gem: Italy’s Best-Kept Secret Revealed

Imagine an upgraded version of the famous Amalfi Coast, and you’ll find yourself in Versilia, a hidden gem along Tuscany’s coastline. This 12-mile strip of paradise, just a short drive from Lucca, remains a well-kept secret, unaffected by fleeting trends and the chase for attention. The allure of Versilia lies in its traditional, old-world charm that has captivated its loyal fans for decades. Nostalgia runs deep here.

Versilia exudes a timeless glamour, where you can easily envision the likes of Gina Lollobrigida or Franco Nero savoring an espresso with an air of seductive allure. The waterfront is dotted with exclusive private beach clubs, each sporting its distinctive color scheme on loungers, umbrellas, and chairs, sparking fierce allegiances among the regulars. These clubs, with names like Bruno, Marco, Anetta, and Principe, have remained unchanged since the 1970s, when I first started visiting Versilia in the summers of my youth.

I meet Jennifer Schwartz, a Florence-based Travel Master and co-owner of Authentic Explorations, at one of the beach clubs for lunch. She brings along her young daughter, who, like me at that age, is eager to spend the afternoon playing in the sand. Jennifer recommends that visitors seeking an authentic Italian summer experience and the dolce vita lifestyle spend a third of their vacation idling in Versilia. She suggests dedicating three or four days to VIP rest and relaxation. However, she advises requesting a “tenda,” a pair of deckchairs and a beach umbrella, positioned close to the sea. In Versilia, there is a distinct hierarchy, and the closer you are to the water, the higher your status. The beach club serves as a local equivalent to a golf course, where deals are made during the summer months.

Versilia is predominantly frequented by Italians, particularly long-time visitors from the north of the country. During my childhood summers, I made friends on the beach with children whose families had relocated from Milan for the entire season. The beaches in Versilia are simply stunning, stretching endlessly with wide, golden sands that are both expansive and immaculately clean. Unlike the pebbly and hard-to-reach shores of Positano and other coastal towns, the salty sea air in Versilia mingles with the scent of pine trees that populate the surrounding landscape, casting shade on the luxurious mansions and creating pockets of verdant parkland. To a 5-year-old like me, the pineta di Ponente, reminiscent of New York’s Central Park, was a haven for summer activities such as mini-golf and ice cream.

Versilia is a string of distinctive communities connected by the water, each with its unique character. Viareggio, with its brassy charm, is the busiest and best known for its Belle Epoque architecture and its reputation as a superyacht-building hub. Marina di Pietrasanta offers an artsy and offbeat alternative, while the nearby town of Pietrasanta, nestled in the Apuan hills, has long attracted creative individuals from all over Italy. Forte dei Marmi, aptly named as it was once a port town for exporting marble quarried in nearby Carrara, is the true gem of the coast. It is the ultimate luxury resort, where upscale boutiques like Fendi and Off-White line the streets, competing for attention with their oversized storefronts. However, don’t overlook the lesser-known names, as treasures like La Cestaia del Forte offer a collection of high-end homeware items, both vintage and new.

Forte dei Marmi remains an exclusive destination due to its limited parking options, making day trips unlikely and encouraging locals to opt for

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