Bolgheri Wines & the Coast South of Livorno
Few foreigners frequent Tuscany's "Etruscan Riviera," south of Livorno, although it is teeming with Italian vacationers in summer. The old Roman Via Aurelia down the coast has become a modern highway (SS1), and is the gateway to much of it. There are nice spots, but you need to choose carefully, because there are some ghastly ones too. The Bay of Quercetano near Castiglioncello has the views, especially at sunset, but the beaches are narrow and rocky. Vada is a modern center with passable white sand.
Another 9km (5 1/2 miles) farther down the road is the turnoff for Bolgheri. This is the birthplace of the so-called "Supertuscans," wines that back in the 1980s shot to prominence when quality in Chianti was at a low ebb. The most prestigious of these remains Sassicaia, its scarcity and correspondingly stratospheric price due largely to the fact that only one vineyard produces it. That estate is the Tenuta San Guido (www.sassicaia.com) and is still owned by the noble Incisa della Rocchetta family. The estate concentrates more on wine than tourism, which is to say they don't offer tours of the property. To tour a well-known Bolgheri estate, try Tenuta dell'Ornellaia, Via Bolgherese 191, Bolgheri (tel. 0565-718-242; www.ornellaia.com), which produces the prestigious wine of the same name and conducts tours by appointment of its giant, modern cantina, culminating in a tasting or lunch in the estate's historic buildings. Back on the coastal road, you'll find that Marina di Bibbona has reasonable sand, and if you don't mind crowds the busy resort of San Vincenzo has even longer swaths of fluffy beach. Ancient Populonia Alta, on its promontory beyond the scenic beach at the Golfo di Baratti, was once an important center in the Etruscan world. On sunny days you get a great coastal view from its medieval castle (www.castellodipopulonia.it; admission 2€; daily 10am-6pm), and the tiny town still retains bits of the walls the Etruscans built. The archaeological jewel of the Etruscan Coast, however, is the nearby Parco Archeologico di Baratti e Populonia (tel. 0565-226-445; www.parchivaldicornia.it). This important site consists of the remains of an Etruscan-Roman Acropolis (next to Populonia Alta) and, by the bay below, two sites where finds have confirmed Populonia's status as a major metalworking center in the Etruscan era. Scientifically, the most important area remains San Cerbone, the only Etruscan necropolis ever found by the sea, whose intact circular tombs litter a field by the visitor center. The site is open daily until around dusk, and admission costs 9€, 13€, and 15€ to visit one, two, and all three of the sites.
At the south end of this promontory sits Piombino, a modern port whose only reason to visit is to catch the ferry to the island of Elba.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.