Ponente beach - "spiaggia Ponente" in Follonica isn't perfect if you have young children and want a beach where they can play happily for hours on end, as its sands are quite narrow and especially gravelly at its northern end. But if the wide sandy beach and the shallow pools of its southern neighbour Pratoraniera (great for families) is chock full, then cycling or walking the short extra distance north onto this Follonica beach might just reward you with some breathing space in the height of summer.
But don't bank on it as Follonica is a favourite summer seaside vacation spot for Italians from Siena and Florence, increasing in population fifteen fold during July and August!
It's Follonica's northern-most beach and, although it might not be the towns most popular, it still holds a Bandiera Blu Award for its water quality and environment. Its central position in the Gulf of Follonica is a great spot for a sweeping panoramic view of the whole of the "Golfo", especially on a day when the winds have cleared the air.
In the distance to the north you can see all the way to the headland at Piombino, the port with its steel works and chimneys smoking away, and the dominating tall red striped chimneys of the Enel electricity plant near Perelli beach and Dog Beach.
To the south, sweeping all the way along the Gulf past the blue (eye-sore of a) tall apartment block that is Follonica's landmark, along to the newly finished marina at Scarlino with the masts of its sailing boats catching the light. All the while with the deep green Bandite di Scarlino hills behind, that reach down to the shore and stretch as far as to the southern headland of the Gulf at Punta Ala. Embracing Cala Martina, Cala Violina, the white medieval tower of Torre Civette, the cove of Cala Civette, and the beaches of Capanna Civinini and Punta Ala. And like a full stop at the end of the scene, the Island of Troia and Scogli Porchetti rocks in front Cala del Porto di Punta Ala.
In the middle out to sea the Island of Elba and behind her on a clear day, Corsica.
A canal outlet, over which there is a pedestrian only bridge, divides the beach into two, and it is here that you will find a Tuscany sailing school.
NB. You are not permitted to leave your bikes tied to the railings or fences along the beach entrance here in order to allow for free access for the boats.
The amount of (black) gravel is much more prevalent on this, the shorter northern side and it increases in quantity until it dominants the sands at its furthest point.
Another negative if you have youngsters and are planning a whole day out on the beach is that, unlike many of Maremma's other beaches where you will find wonderful pine woods backing the dunes in which to find some much welcomed shade have a picnic lunch or take a nap etc, the dunes behind Ponente are unfortunately crumbling and mainly fenced off and/or access is prevented by huge stone blocks.
Follonica's public beaches ideal for children are La Levante at Sensuno which runs into la Polveriera belonging to the town of Scarlino, and then the Puntone di Scarlino beach. (The last two are two of my favourites.)
This photo was taken looking south towards Follonica with Pratoraniera beach starting in the distance. The beach looks deceptively wider in this shot than it actually is and during the summer "balneare" (bathing) season - from 15 June to 15 Sept, at least half of the width of the beach starting from the dunes will be taken up with rows of sun beds and parasols.
Along the southern end of Ponente there is a private (in the summer) beach concession for (three star) Hotel Il Boschetto (the grounds of which lie behind the pine tree behind), three bar/ Italian "bagni" bathing facilities, plus a surfing and a Tuscany diving business.
And then a short public stretch of beach before you reach a much wider area which is the private beach of the Hotel Giardino (the palm trees in the sand in the pics are theirs!). Then you are into Pratoranieri beach territory, where you will find the self-catering apartments of a Swiss holiday village complex in the pine trees behind.
You can't get much closer to staying by the beach in Follonica than along this latter stretch. The next accommodation literally on the beach is in Follonica central by the Lido beach: individually owned beach houses that are practically impossible to rent as they are booked years in advance by the same families. (But that isn't a loss as they are mostly in poor condition and not properties that I would recommend you stay in.)
TIP Accommodation wise, if you want to stay on a beach here in Follonica my recommendation (my family and I lived in two of them for three months) is to choose a light and modern build apartment in Pratoranieri with private parking. You'll only be a few feet away from the beach, you won't have the hassle of finding a place to park, nor need to drive anywhere for supplies as there are shops and a supermarket close by.
A lovely one is Elena's family apartment.
At Ponente beaches southern-most point, where it becomes Pratoranieri beach, you will find a beach marked on the Google map below as Giardino beach, which is a private beach (concession) for the Hotel Giardino. It's the part in the photos/video with the palm trees.
Not quite as popular as the closer to town beaches doesn't mean that finding a space in which to park your car in the summer will be easy. On the contrary, you'll probably end-up finding a space on the verge.
But outside of July and August, you'll be able to find a spot along the quiet (since its southern end that used to access Pratoranieri and then Follonica was pedestranised a few years ago) road that runs parallel to the beach. Or the rough area by the roundabout which you can see in the Google map below. The satellite must have passed over on an early/late summer day as the "bagni" bar and sun bed establishments are open for business on the southern end of Ponente beach and the are still some places to be had to park by the roundabout.
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