02 Nov A Do It Yourself Guide to Tuscany’s Etruscan Coast
If you’re an independent traveler looking for self guided tours of Italy where you can get a bit off-the-beaten-path, then consider Tuscany’s Etruscan Coast. Our do-it-yourself guide will help you discover a beautifully unspoiled side of Tuscany on your own, whether you’re traveling for 2 days or 2 weeks.
This post will cover:
- Where to stay
- Best things to do
- Top villages and towns to visit
- Restaurant (and gelato) recommendations
We’ll also give you access to a detailed, interactive map with these restaurants, accommodations, and points of interest recommendations. The map was made to be a resource for creating your own Tuscany driving itineraries and biking routes for 2 days to 2 weeks (scroll to the end of this post for free map access).
Where is the Etruscan Coast?
The Etruscan Coast runs along the western side of Italy, just south of Pisa and to the west of Florence, between Livorno and Piombino. This area boasts the beautiful rolling hills, vineyards, olive groves, and charming villages that you probably associate with Tuscany. But it also tops things off with sunny, sandy beaches.
This area really has it all. And though Northern Europeans flock here for the summer sun, and bicycle tours cycle through on a regular basis, the area is surprisingly uncrowded.
The best time to come to this part of Tuscany is in the Spring or Fall when the weather is pleasant and the influx of tourists is mild.
Where to Stay in Tuscany’s Etruscan Coast
Places to stay in this part of Tuscany are numerous and include hotels, bed and breakfasts, short-term vacation rentals, mid-term apartment rentals, resorts, and even glamping.
Our top choice of places to stay in Tuscany is Casa Toscana, just below the hill-top village of Castagneto Carducci. We had the pleasure of staying there for six weeks during our help exchange and we can personally attest that the owner, Chicca, is a wonderful host. She lives on the main floor of this Tuscan farm house, where she hosts cooking classes (more on that below), and she rents out two self-contained apartments above.
The apartments have two bedrooms, one bathroom, full kitchens, laundry, and wifi. It’s located just off the main “wine and olive road” – a picturesque drive through the area’s most popular vineyards and olive groves. From here, you can easily drive or bike to all of the destinations we mention in this post, plus it’s just a short hike to the little village of Castagneto Carducci where you’ll find cafes, gelaterias, and several restaurants.
Casale was probably our favorite village on the Etruscan Coast, so if we stayed anywhere else, this would probably be it. The town has a few restaurants and a small but friendly grocery store, with everything in walking distance – though it’s all very steep, being perched on the top of a hill! You can easily see it all within the course of a day, so either stay one night and move on, or use it as a home base to see the Northern side of the Etruscan Coast region.
– Il Poderino Della Gioiosa is one of the top rated and best value guest houses in this area, and you can use their bicycles for free! Click here to see current rates for Il Poderino Della Gioiosa
– Hills, Seas, Sunsets, and Flavors apartment has excellent ratings on Airbnb, and it sleeps up to 6 people. (Use our Airbnb discount link to get up to $40 off your first stay!)
A slightly larger town that still has its charms is Suvereto, inland on the southern side of the Etruscan Coast region.
– Casa Guerrieri guest house comes highly rated with family-sized rooms, centrally located. Check current rates for Casa Guerrieri on Booking.com
If it’s beach-front properties you’re looking for, you’ll find them in the coastal towns of San Vincenzo, Marina di Castagneto Carducci, Marina di Bibbona, Marina di Cecina, Vada, Rosignano Solvay, etc.
If we had a European campervan, we’d definitely want to stay at Podere Pianetti agri-glamping campsite, just a short walk from the beach. We met a Dutch couple who highly recommended it (you can also rent luxury tents, which come with free bicycle use).
Best Things To Do On The Etruscan Coast
We were fortunate to have free access to bicycles, thanks to our hosts at Casa Toscana. But we did rent e-bikes from Ciclo Sport in Donoratico one day. With assistance from the e-bikes, we were able to explore more hillside villages than our untrained legs would have allowed us on a regular bike.
There are plenty of beautiful rural roads, both paved and unpaved, that are ideal for cyclists. If you stay at Casa Toscana in Castagneto, both Chicca and Arnaud have a wealth of knowledge about the best biking routes in the area. Whether you prefer easy 8 mile rides to the beach or epic 40+ mile loops, cycling to the nearest gelato shop or tasting wines and olive oils along the way, there’s something for every one.
Discovering the villages of Tuscany is our favorite thing to do. Just stroll through the cobble stone streets and hidden alleys, imagining what life was like in medieval times and stopping at cafes or gelaterias along the way. If you have a car, you can probably visit 3 to 5 villages per day. Some are small enough that a quick walk-through is plenty, while others have a bit more to offer. Don’t expect a whole lot “to do” in these villages, but do expect to be charmed.
If you’re short on time, we recommend prioritizing the following towns:
– Populonia – Climb the tower and visit the Acropolis, check out the beach down below if you like, too.
– Casale Marittimo – Hike up the steep, narrow hilltop village and enjoy a drink or gelato on the main square.
– Bolgheri – Visit shops, taste Castello di Bolgheri wines, and enjoy a drink or gelato on the terrace.
– Castagneto Carducci – Hike up to the old church, grab a gelato, coffee, or a full meal, visit shops, and enjoy the views.
– Swing by to pick up some meats and cheeses at Mucci e Staccioli in Monteverdi
For a full list of what to see and do, village by village, look for access to our map at the end of this post.
Go Wine Tasting
With the salty sea air, enclosed by the rich rolling hills of Tuscany, and the introduction of French grapes to the area, the Etruscan Coast has world-class wines like no other. While the region has always been productive for farming, wine making has only been around for about 40 years. Wine tasting opportunities abound, especially along the Strada del Vino (wine road).
Our friends Chicca and Arnaud recommend the following places to taste and purchase wine:
– Castello di Bolgheri – Tour the wine cellar from 700AD with world-class wines in the center of Bolgheri
– Giovanni Chiappini – Sample wines and olive oils on a beautiful family farm
– Michele Satta – A true wine pioneer and friend of Chicca and Arnaud
If you’re curious about good wines to order in a restaurant from this area, here are Chicca and Arnaud’s recommendations for bottles under 20 euros:
– Le Macchiole
– Insoglio Del Cinghiale
– Le Difese
– Le Grottine (white)
– Scalabrone (rose)
Try A Cooking Class
Enjoying good food from fresh, local products is at the heart of Italian culture. Whether you’re a skilled cook or not, a cooking experience through the Cooking in Tuscany association is sure to top your vacation memories in Tuscany. Join Chicca for a home-cooked meal, learning all about the history and culture behind her family recipes. Then sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor: a full meal of amazing Italian food!
Enjoy the Beach
If you’re visiting in the summer, you’ll be joined on the beaches by many sun-seekers from the North of Europe. The crowds start to dwindle in September and by October, the beach-side towns are practically empty. There are miles and miles of sand to enjoy, and when you’re in a coastal town, you’ll find lounge chairs, changing rooms, cafes, umbrellas, and other amenities available. To avoid crowds, try the quiet Pianetti Beach outside of Marina di Castagneto (location details can be accessed through our map below).
The Etruscan Coast is also the perfect place to watch the sun set over the ocean!
Visit Historic Sites
The coastal town of Populonia is the site of an incredible discovery that uncovered an ancient Roman acropolis. Because the port town processed so much ore, slags of metal built up and eventually left everything completely buried. Centuries later, remains of the densely populated Etruscan city were uncovered while cleaning up the shores.
Today, you can climb the medieval castle towers for excellent views of the coast. There is also an archeological park and small museum in the village of Populonia where you can learn about the historic significance of the site.
Although not technically within the boundaries of the Etruscan Coast, the medieval town of Volterra was once capital of the Etruscans and definitely worth making a day trip. Aside from charming shops and beautiful medieval architecture, an impressively well-preserved Roman theater was uncovered under a parking lot behind the town! At the other end of town, you’ll find a stone arch gateway into the city with foundations from 2nd century B.C. A moving story on a nearby wall tells of how the townspeople worked round-the-clock to fill up the entire arch and prevent it from destruction during WWII.
Where To Eat on the Etruscan Coast
This is Italy and there is no shortage of amazing food. While we mainly ate home-cooked meals during our stay, we gathered some recommendations from locals. Here are their top recommendations for restaurants in Tuscany, as well as gelaterias. (For a more complete list, with 28 local eateries, request access to our self-guided map below.)
– Osteria La Magona – Castagneto/Bolgheri – Delicious lunch and dinner, famous for meat and wines, with a beautiful location on the Strada del Vino. We loved the Degustazione starter pictured above. (Book in advance.)
– Pizzeria da Ciro – Relocating to Castagneto Carducci – Traditional wood oven pizza.
– Enoteca Tognoni – San Vincenzo – Nice atmosphere and good food. http://www.enotecatognoni.it/
– Bar Jolly – Next to the Donoratico-Castagneto-Carducci train station. Try the chocolate or mousse!
– Filippo and le Carapine – Cecina – Try pistacchio with pana at Filippo!
– Bolgheri Ti Amo – Stand next to Caffe della Posta, Bolgheri – Perfect stop on a Bolgheri bike-ride
Access Our Free Self-Guided Tour Map of Tuscany’s Etruscan Coast
It always helps me to see things on a map, so I’ve gathered all of the recommendations mentioned in this post – plus many more – and compiled them into one interactive map for Tuscany’s Etruscan Coast.
The map includes:
– 28 places to eat (including the best gelato!)
– Best places to stay
– Top villages to visit
– Points of interest in each village
– Favorite bike routes we did from Casa Toscana
We’re giving out this map for free by e-mail only. Please sign up below and we’ll send it to your inbox.
You’ll also get our complimentary e-series with tips to save money and experience more meaningful travel, but you can unsubscribe at any time.
Get the Tuscany Etruscan Coast map
Access our free, interactive Google MyMaps with the top points of interest, restaurants, places to stay, and more.