We all celebrate Tuscany for her world-famous Renaissance art, stunning olive groves and mesmerizing hills, but have you ever heard about the Etruscan Coast? That’s right, Tuscany is so much more than its iconic green landscapes. Once you see the faint sparkle of the Tyrrhenian Sea in the distance, behind the golden vineyards, you’ll understand why the Costa degli Etruschi is such a special corner of Europe. Not convinced? Give me a chance to explain the most important things you should know about the Etruscan Coast of Tuscany.
The History Behind the Etruscan Coast
Now, you must be wondering why the Tuscan coastline was named after the rather mysterious Etruscans in the first place. The Etruscans were an ancient civilization that primarily lived in the central parts of Italy. The name ‘Tuscany’ is actually derived from the terms ‘Tusci’ or ‘Etrusci’, which is what the Romans used to call them. Before the Etruscans were assimilated into Roman culture, they founded many cities, including Florence, Pisa, and Siena.
Populonia was a Major Etruscan City
Another one of those cities was Populonia, now only a tiny hilltop village that overlooks the Bay of Baratti. It was the only Etruscan settlement that was next to the sea, so it quickly became an important trading town. Since the nearby hills were full of bronze of copper, Populonia continued to grow and had around 20 000 inhabitants in Roman times: a major city for the period.
The Archaeological Park of Populonia
The city may have largely vanished, but, today, there is an enormous archaeological park that stretches over 80 hectares. The park is also home to the biggest necropolis in Italy, where thousands of Etruscans and Romans buried their loved ones. The entire area is riddled with traces from the past. That includes pieces of ancient roof tiles, vases, dishes, and even human bones. All of these remnants are at least 2500 years old.
Populonia is home to the biggest necropolis in Italy, where thousands of Etruscans and Romans buried their loved ones.
The Wines from the Etruscan Coast are Extraordinary
The Etruscans were known as a peaceful, hard-working people, but they were also good at one thing in particular: producing, trading, and drinking wine (vinum). Researches have recently proposed a theory that even the first French winemarkers learned the trade from the Etruscans around 525 BC.
The Super Tuscans
To this day, the Etruscan Coast is an extraordinary area when it comes the the world of wine. The town of Bolgheri, also known for its famous avanue of cypress trees, is the epicenter of the Super Tuscans: a category of DOC wines. Several of these Super Tuscans have the world-wide status of being top-quality wines.
A wonderful place to get to know the Etruscan Coast as a wine region is the Guado al Melo winery. Here, you can see the vineyards up close, learn about the history of local viticulture (from Etruscan times to present-day), and arrange a wine tasting. Did you know that letting grapevines grow on an arch like this makes the grape harvesting much easier?
The Beaches along the Etruscan Coast are Pristine
The most beautiful beaches on the Etruscan coastline stretch from Marina di Bibbona all the way to Populonia. While towns like Marina di Bibbona and Castiglioncello look out on the Tyrrhenian Sea, the shoreline near and along the Gulf of Baratti (very close to Populonia) is certainly worth a visit. This area offers some of the most pristine, sandy beaches in the region.
Naturally, the Etruscan coast is perfect for a day full of swimsuits, sandcastles, and sunscreen. However, since the Etruscan coast is a lot less hilly than the interior areas of Tuscany, it’s a also great idea to rent a bicycle or e-bike. This way, you can cycle along the rugged coast, but also take a few breaks on the beaches. You can then continue your way to the Monte Massoncello Peninsula to visit the archaeological park of Populonia.
The Most Magical Sunsets in Italy
Finally, I think it is fair to say that the Etruscan Coast probably experiences the most magical sunsets in Italy. That alone is enough of a reason to visit the Etruscan Coast. Well, according to me at least (a trustworthy authority on sunset quality, I promise).
The Etruscan Coast faces West, which creates the perfect setting for the most incredible visual spectacles. Every evening (as long as it’s not too cloudy), the orange sun sinks into the shimmering water. The sky will show all sorts of pink and purple tones, while the surrounding villages, forests and vineyards turn golden. What a way to end your day.
Read More About My Travels in Italy:
Curious to know more about the different regions in Italy? Take a look at my previous articles:
- 6 Things You Can Only Do in South Tyrol
- Gelato and Street Art: The Best Things to do in Bologna
- Portraits from Tuscany: Discovering the Region Through its People
This article is based on a press trip that was organised by IDEM Servizitalia and Toscana Promozione. Thank you for the invite!