|Buca delle Fate - the Fairy's Hole - is one of Maremma's many undiscovered beaches in Tuscany.|
We went to Buca delle Fate - Fairy's Hole - on an especially fitting early summers afternoon as our little one had that morning lost her first big top tooth and was contemplating and talking about the impending visit of the fairies that night to take away her tooth and, hopefully!, leave some money under her pillow. So a spur of the moment trip to a fairy beach added to her excitement...
Now, I'm not advocating that you need to have lost a tooth or still believe in fairies to visit Buca delle Fate! But it is a special place whose magic lies in lizards that scurry across your path as you go deeper into the woods of the coastal Mediterranean macchia, the butterflies and very fluffy red-eyed caterpillars that catch your eye, and the Etruscan quarry and tombs that you pass through in the woods. Until that is you catch your first glimpse of the coast, the white of the surf and the gorgeous azure blue of the sea.
Then the full magic of Buca delle Fate takes a hold with the sheer natural beauty of the scene from the cliff onto which you arrive out of the woods, the rocky coastline, the macchia covered hills behind you, and the whole of the Isola d'Elba - Island of Elba - in view and so close that you could almost touch it, and the crashing surf on the rocks below in the crystal clear green and blue sea.
That a couple of new benches have been placed on the cliff top tells it all... it is a place to sit and just be.
Buca delle Fate is beautiful and food for the soul, but I know it won't be everyone's cup of tea.
If a moderately difficult trek of about twenty minutes downhill through a wood to reach a rocky shore with no easy places to enter the sea to take a dip, little shade cover, no sand and no facilities and nothing to obviously do once you are there doesn't sound like your kind of beach, then I would have no hesitation but to recommend that you stay longer at stunningly beautiful Baratti beach at the bottom of the hill instead.
But if visiting a place that lots wouldn't (because of the trek etc) having a spectacular part of coastline when you get there practically all to yourselves, just sitting listening to the sound of crashing waves and watching ferries pass each other on their trajectory crossing from Piombino to Portoferraio in front of a stunning view of a Tuscany island are at all of interest, then go!
Buca della Fate is a wonderful place for yoga or meditation: ask the man who sat on a rock looking out to sea for ages and who left behind these stone sculptures...
This isn't a place where you can let your little ones go off exploring or playing on their own within your sights eye, far from it. Until you get down onto the small rocky cove, there is a long drop to the rocks below.
But, for climbing the cliff rock outcrops under a watchful eye, exploring nooks and crannies, collecting rocks to see if they have fossils in them, throwing pebbles into the sea, taking a dip in a rock pool, and even trying to knock down the rock sculptures (don't tell him it was us!), eating a picnic, watching butterflies... Buca delle Fate makes for a fantastic adventure. And that's without the introduction to Etruscan history along the way.
Our little one - amongst lot's of other chat about the wonderful white and pink calcium carbonate crystals she was finding and collecting on the cliff top - asked if she could come back every day! The same child who the day before had turned down an offer of passing a month on a Follonica beach at a "bagno". Buca della Fate is perfect for kids who like to explore.
The Etruscan tombs visible along the path in the woods to the beach were built along the abandoned quarry faces and are very simple ones. Each with a long access corridor, cut into a strata of calcarenite, and an underground quadrangular burial chamber they lack lacking the raised platform of more complex tombs where the deceased would have been layed out with accompanying objects for the next life.
"La Cava" - the quarry - that you can see was one of only two sought after sources of the building material calcarenite limestone - also known as Panchina - for the city of Populonia. The second, much larger quarry site is called Le Grotte and is found on the other side of the hill directly opposite the stunning necropolis of the same name. If you haven't already, you must visit this site at least once in your life.
Unlike inferior macigno sandstone - which that cannot be cut into regular forms and was used to build much of the city and that of nearby Piombino - Panchina sandstone was a prized building material because it could be cut into regular square angled blocks, enabling the construction of more impressive and monumental buildings. It was quarried at Buca delle Fate between the end of the 3rd century and the 2nd century BC to build the public buildings including the temples and water cistern at Populonia's acropolis.
The quarry areas once exhausted and abandoned were later converted into necropolises with the chamber tombs that you can see cut into their faces. Pottery fragments abandoned by tomb robbers have enabled archeologists to date them as having been used between the end of the 3rd century and the first decades if the first century BC. Those that you can immediately see alongside the path are the oldest: the younger tombs can be found higher up in the quarry.
Unlike some others in the Baratti and Populonia Archeological Park, the tombs are open so that you can access them, but you won't catch me slipping down into those black holes! My Indiana Jones exploits don't stretch that far. (I did go inside these ones...)
By car: From the southern end of the Golfo di Baratti (Bay of Baratti) and the small port take the (only) road up the hill to "Populonia Alta".
The best place to park - especially if you won't to avoid walking all the way up from the bay at the bottom of the hill or all the way back up the hill to your car at Populonia is to park in the untarmaced parking area around half way up the hill on your left. If by chance you miss the turn you will need to go all the way to the top and come back down again as there aren't any further turning points along this narrow and winding road to Populonia
Note: you are warned in Italian, but be aware that the car park is less than even! and that there is a great big hole towards the rear that could leave you and your car stranded if you traverse it wrongly or don't have a 4 wheel jeep!
View Buca delle Fate Beach, Maremma Tuscany in a larger map
Take all of your supplies with you as there are no bars, restaurants, "bagni" establishments or parasols etc when you get there (wonderful!).
Importantly, take water and sunscreen with you. As, although the trek through the woods is marked on the new information signs at the car park as only 200 metres, it isn't! It's more like two kilometres back - all uphill - to fetch them.
Explore some more...