Il Pino beach in Maremma Tuscany is just a beach: a wonderfully wide sandy beach with transparent waters set in a very special coastal nature park called the Parco Costiero della Sterpaia.
So why did I say, "just a beach"? Well, because it is one of those rare finds: a completely public beach, devoid of all "bagni concessions" of bars, restaurants and row upon row of regimental sun loungers and parasols.
But Il Pino isn't just any strip of public beach in Italy. Unlike many others, for a start, it doesn't require a long hike to get to it. Nor is it stamp-sized, packed, and sandwiched between private ones in a town. This Italian "spiaggia publico" is a long stretch of clean sands, with shallow waters, dunes, and a pine wood backed by a marsh that was once the site of leech production - eek!, but is now a protected environment for a wonderful variety of animals and plant life. And there is a rare humid forest to explore to boot!
Not surprisingly, each year it receives the coveted Blue Flag award for quality.
Although situated within the Gulfo di Follonica and just a short distance from the seaside town from which the Gulf takes its name, Il Pino beach belongs to the City of Piombino. And I take my hat off to the Comune di Piombino, for they have invested in and carried-out in an entirely environmentally aware way during the winter of 2013/2014, a comprehensive programme of dune protection and conservation: ranging from designated wooden walkways through the dunes, to structural reinforcements constructed from natural materials and driftwood that arrived on shore during the winter storms, as well as the eradication on non-native plants.
Read about the lovely Parco Costiero della Sterpaia via the link at the bottom of the page.
So if you like a beach to be a beach and nothing else, then Il Pino will suit you down to the ground.
But that doesn't mean that it doesn't come with any facilities, nor that you will have to lug all of your beach chairs with you - even if the car park is only a short distance away.
For the park authorities have got that wonderfully and discretely covered too: for nestled within its thin strip of pine trees behind the dunes you will find one establishment.
Just the one. A beach bar from where you can also rent for the day sun loungers and parasols etc. And the park has provided a block of toilets and showers.
So you will find sun loungers planted in the sands, but they aren't all lined-up in regimental rows. You take your own - or rent one form the bar - and plonk them down where you fancy. Il Pino is altogether a much more relaxed atmosphere than the typical Italian beach scene.
And when the sun starts to set, you don't have to forgo an aperitivo on the beach. Just pop the few feet back to the bar and bring back with you your spritzer or wine. Albeit in a plastic cup. But who cares when you have sunsets like this waiting for you.
As well as sunbathing and sandcastles, this stretch of Maremma coastline is great too for long beach walks, SUP boarding, fishing and beach-combing along the shore.
Saturday night SUP in Maremma in May - that white line isn't one I put there! It's the reflection of the sun on the water. And that is the Isola d'Elba in the background. From the beach that day it was possible to see the houses on the island!
An over cast early October afternoon evening - but still warm - and in this photo we are out fishing and beach-combing. The drift wood comes in all sizes, including pieces that need a tractor to take them away!
But you won't find driftwood in the summer months, for although this Maremma beach is a public one, its sands are tended to with care and regularly cleaned by the park authorities.
I took the photo with a filter setting on my camera to catch the drama of the wonderful cloud formation.
Visit this Tuscany beach in late September - at the end of the month the temperatures here in Maremma are still at sunbathing hot - and you will find the waters warmer than at any other time of the year for swimming. And, true to form, by 6.30pm nearly everyone else will have packed-up and gone home for the day, leaving you the whole beach to yourselves for the 7pm sunset :)
The view on the sands out to sea is one of the whole of the Gulfo di Follonica with the beautiful Isola d'Elba silhouetted in the distance. On a clear air day - particularly after windy or stormy night before - you can even see the white houses in the coves and on the hills of the island:)
Video taken at 7pm on 28 September: we had only just gotten out of the water :) My family are in towels behind me!
A word to the wise; the safe water depth limits aren't marked on the beaches in the Parco, although along the majority of their stretches, the first part of the water is pretty shallow and certainly fine for young swimmers and learners.
The "pineta" - pine wood - in the sand dunes that back Il Pino beach is a narrow one, rather than the much more expansive ones for example found in nearby Follonica. There are a few picnic benches in designated areas here and there, but not that many.
For their protection, the remainder of the dunes are out of bounds.
So, if you are planning to spend a whole day here, it would be best to take some shade with you - beach parasols, or easier still, one of those really light-weight flip-open beach tents that also provide protection form the wind and come with a built-in sun protection factor of 40+.
Sophia and I brought ourselves one this year from Lidl for Euros 15,00 and love it! There is ample room inside for all of our things and for us to both munch on a snack and get dried and changed.
The Fosso Cervia canal - runs along the length of the beaches in the nature park between the marsh and the car park. This photo was taken at the end on May, but by summer the waters aren't flowing anywhere and are covered in a thick green algae. You will smell them before you see them! And are a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
TIP: Take mosquito repellent for when the sun has gone! They seem to emerge - even on the beach - like crazed zombies! And if you happen to be the only living thin around, then they will hone in for dinner (you that is, not what you are eating!). They will even bang themselves in groups on your windscreen - crazed as they are for your blood! - once you have gotten into your car!
The wonderful cool green wild grass display along the canal at the end of May.
And the warm colour of the marshland in autumn.
The beach and pay and display car park is well signed from the old Aurelia coastal road, the SP40.
TIP For those of you new to Italian car park signs, be brave and take the time to read a little of the "finer print" details on the signs above the ticket machine, for it may save you some money :)
Although the pay and display sign says in bold that tickets are required everyday between the hours of 08:00 and 20:00, underneath there is a list of days on which you need to pay. On any days outside of those periods you do not need to pay.
In the Parco Costiero delle Sterpaia, the payment periods are usually the second half of April, the weekends in May, every day in June, July, August and September, and the bank holidays of 25 April,, 1 May and 15 August. Reduced rates apply from Mondays through to Fridays.
The car parks also come with designated camper spaces.
As I mentioned, there are public toilets and showers behind the pineta provided by the park, next door to the Luna Beach bar that also rents out deck chairs, sun loungers and parasols - "sdraio, lettini e ombrelloni" etc.
All of the beaches in the Parco Costiero della Sterpaia - including Il Pino - are accessible by wheelchair from the car parks. And there are designated disabled parking spaces. Another good one Comune di Piombino :)
The are a couple of campsites along the road to Il Pino and Mortelliccio beaches, but if that isn't your kind of self-catering, then just a short drive away in Venturina will find you in the superb apartments and setting of Il Bottaccio Casa di Campagna.
Il Pino joins the Piombino territory beaches of Carbonifera to the south and Mortelliccio to the north; although walking along them you won't know the difference between one and the other. Only man - with road and car park signs - has named and differentiated them.
Explore some more...