The Tuscan coast: Part 2 Pisa to Livorno and Populonia

Published on:  | Last updated: 26 March 2017

Cycleway through a coastal Pineta - Toscana near Cecina

Cycleway through a coastal Pineta - Toscana near Cecina

This section of the route takes you through the port of Livorno and on towards one of the most scenic stretches of the coast of mainland Toscana. In then heads through the coastal pine woods and on to the wine country around Bolgheri, before coming to Baratti with its atmospheric Etruscan necro­polis - and a nice sandy beach.

Look out for the  Keith Hareng mural (opens in overlay) just off the route on the way out of town. The route from Pisa to the coast follows quiet country roads and is pretty uneventful. At the coast is the Marina di Pisa and from here an attractive stretch of road leads through Tirrenia and Calambrone.

You wouldn’t describe the approach into Livorno from the north as scenic - as it heads past the container port, a gas storage facility and power station - but the centre of Livorno is well worth a look with the Medici castle on an island in the middle of the city.

The road south from Livorno defin­itely makes up for the grittiness of the approach from the north, with a wide cycleway passing coastal villas and the naval training school, and continuing on via Antignano. These are some of the best sea views on the whole of the mainland Tuscan coast so make the most of them. Unfortunately while the views are superb, the road here is relat­ively busy until you get to Quercianella where you can turn off and enjoy the little seaside resort.

Map

This section is quite long —but there are plenty of places along the way where you can break your journey.

The route then continues on via Castiglioncello and Rosignano Mare. At Mazzanto you have the oppor­tunity of following the off-road routes through the nature reserve that runs between Mazzanto and Bibbona Mare. The surface of the track through the pineta is fine (I did it after several days of heavy rain and it was perfectly rideable). Apart from being gorgeous, the pineta would, on a hot sunny day, quite literally be the cooler altern­ative.

After Bibbona there’s a brief detour away from the coast to Bolgheri. One of Toscana’s other wine producing areas it’s defin­itely a good place to stop for a meal or snack with a glass of wine - if you can get the timing right. Bolgheri is also known for the avenue of cypress trees that runs dead straight for nearly 5 kms down to the sea.

The avenue of cypress trees between Bolgheri and the sea

The avenue of cypress trees between Bolgheri and the sea

Bolgheri is one of the up-and-coming wine-growing areas in Toscana - lead by the Marchese Incisa della Rocchetta owner of the Tenuta San Guido which produces the Sassicaia wine which helped to shake up wine production in the region. This very expensive and presti­gious wine was originally classified as a humble 'vino di tavola' (table wine) because it was produced outside the restrictive rules that governed the production of Chianti.

Bar entrance with jasmine - Bolgheri (Toscana)

Bar entrance with jasmine - Bolgheri

From Bibbona the tour follows the wine road (Strada del Vino della Costa degli Etruschi) before returning to the coast and the Riva degli Etruschi between San Vicenzo and Populonia.

Parco archaeologico - Populonia-Baratti

Baratti and Populonia are the most signi­ficant Etruscan site along this stretch of coast (Parco Archeologico di Baratti e Populonia it/​eng). There are a couple of necropoli and an attractive and unspoilt beach at Baratti. The Necropoli della Cava, constructed from an old sandstone quarry, with the golfo di Baratti as a backdrop, is one of the most evocative of the Etruscan sites (allow about an hour, and shoes you can walk in are a must).

Necropoli delle Cave (Baratti near Populonia, Toscana)

Necropoli delle Cave (Baratti near Populonia, Toscana)

More about the Parco Archeologico

The Necropoli di San Cerbone next door to the visitor centre is not quite so evocative, but has a fascin­ating history. Baratti was the pre-eminent metal-working centre of the ancient mediter­ranean, ore came from nearby Elba and was smelted at the site near the beach. The necro­polis was eventually buried under a 30-metre high slag heap. It stayed buried for a couple of millennia or so until, in the early part of the last century, more efficient smelting methods meant that it was profitable to mine the slag heap and the ancient necro­polis eventually came to light from where it had been buried.

Admission is a wee bit pricey (13€ for the two necro­polis - it would have been 15€ for the visit to Populonia as well) but this includes a guided tour of the Necropolis of San Cerbone. The guided tours (in Italian and English) are at 11:00, 12:00, 16:00 and 17:00 (September times - they may be more frequent in peak season). The visit takes about an hour.

Necropoli di San Cerbone, Baratti, Toscana

Necropoli di San Cerbone, Baratti, Toscana

The Parco is open Tuesday - Sunday in March-June and September and October. It is also open on Mondays in July and August. In the winter it is open weekends only opening times.

From Baratti, the best option is to take the road to Venturina and then pick up the old via Aurelia towards Follonica - the roads into and out of Populonia are probably best avoided unless you are heading for Elba. If you have the time and the inclin­ation Campiglia Marittima is well worth the climb and the nearby Blucamp is one of the best in the area.

Options

Unless you are really in a hurry, seriously consider a detour to Elba. For my money the most scenic coastline in Toscana. The campsites are generally better and better value than on the mainland. See my Elba Tour article.

Cycleway near San Vicenzo (Toscana)

Cycleway near San Vicenzo (Toscana)

More information

Places to stay

Hotels

There’s a very compre­hensive accom­mod­ation listing on the pisaunicaterra.it tourism promotion website for the Provincia di Pisa.

Find and book places to stay with Booking.com

Booking.com area pages for the route:

 About these links

If you use these links to book accom­mod­ation Booking.com will pay me a small part of their commission. This helps support the costs of producing this site.

I use Booking.com to find and book places to stay when there are no campsites in the area. The large majority of hotels and many hostels are now on ‘Booking’. I like it because it means that I can get almost-instant confirm­ation. The rating system is also a reliable guide to the quality of the accom­mod­ation.

I’ve never had a problem finding places to keep my bike —even if it’s a cupboard or store room. I always use the ‘special requests’ field on the booking form to tell the hotel that I’m travelling with a bike, which gives them the oppor­tunity to let me know if there’s a problem.

Many properties offer free cancel­lation but it’s a good idea to check the condi­tions as these vary from property to property.

Hostels

There’s only one hostel on this part of the coast the Student’s Hostel Gowett (Ostello Gowett)- which owes its name to the fact that the hostel is housed in the restored and converted offices of the Etruscan Copper Estates Mines which operated in the area in the early 1900s.

Campsites

There's plenty of choices of campsites. I stayed at the:

  • agricampeggio Eucaliptus. A small friendly site between Bolgheri and Castagneto Carducci. The family run a successful agrit­urismo and have recently opened a campsite next door - the facil­ities seemed pretty much brand new. The campsite shares the agriturismo’s garden and pool. The agrit­urismo also offer an evening meal which was extremely good value - it’s worth calling ahead if you want to eat. The family make some really very good wine;
  • very close by is the Le Pianacce a big terraced site. This is one of the better sites in the area and good value, but my choice would be the agrit­urismo;
  • the Parco Albatros near Populonia which was a bit of an anonymous monster site (with a huge swimming pool complex). The restaurant was OK but if I stayed there again I’d invest­igate the restaurant next door. Note that this site closes in mid-September;
  • the Sant’Albinia. A kilometre from the Parco Albatros, this is a much more tradi­tional Italian site in a shady pineta. When I stayed there in mid-September it was practically deserted;
  • the BluCamp in the hills just outside Campiglia Marittima. A very good terraced site cum olive grove; it’s well worth the climb both for its views out towards the Isola di Capraia but also for its swimming pool.

  Map of campsites along the route:  TuscanCoast-campsites-map-show map in overlay    |    TuscanCoast-campsites-map-show map in new window   

Transport and services

Trains

The main rail line runs along the coast.

Ferry services

The ferry terminal at Livorno offers services to Sardinia and the island of Capraia as well as Bastia in Corsica, Barcelona, Palermo, and Tangier. There are frequent ferries between Piombino and Elba - see this article: for more inform­ation.

Resources

The main tourism inform­ation site for the area is costadeglietruschi.it (it/​en/​de/​es) which covers the coast south of Livorno. The website has an excellent section dedicated to cycling with inform­ation about routes, day-rides, bike hotels, bike-friendly hotels and bike shops.

Tourist offices in the Livorno area have an excellent booklet (it/​en/​de) describing a number of day rides in the area, as well as inform­ation about bike shops, and places to stay etc. There’s an excellent overview map as well. You can download the brochure  and overview map , from the Costa degli Etruschi website. The brochure and map are in Italian, English and German while the site is also available in French and Spanish.

Another useful site is the lastradadelvino.com (it/​en/​fr/​de) is the website of the Strada del Vino Costa degli Etruschi. It also has an iOS/​Android app

For inform­ation about Baratti, Populonia and the other parks and museums in the area there's parchivaldicornia.it

Map of the parks and museums in the Val di Cornia

Map of the parks and museums in the Val di Cornia

Articles in this series

Cacciucco - Livornese fish stew

Cacciucco - Livornese fish stew

Get in touch

Please get in touch if you find any errors in the information, or if there’s anything, good or bad, that you’d want other cyclists to know.


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