Cala Martina is a lovely beach, but it is without a doubt overshadowed by its stunning and popular sister next door, Cala Violina. But as with most ugly sister and princess stories, the less pretty one is often the more interesting.
For a start, this "caletta" (small cove) comprises of not one, but two rocky shore bays. If you clamber around what appears to be the southern end of the cove, you'll find another.
Situated within the heart of the Riserva Naturale delle Bandite di Scarlino (Bandite di Scarlino Nature Reserve), and Le Costiere di Scarlino Area Naturale Protetta di Interesse Locale (the Coast of Scarlino Protected Natural Area of Local Interest, you can bank on the fact that this is a wilder kind of Tuscany beach. There are no bars or a multitude of coloured parasols here!
The Bandite di Scarlino is a protected nature reserve of some 6,000 hectares of densely wooded hills and agricultural land.
These hills are home to wild boar, "cinghiale", and you can see evidence of their rootings for food along the track to the cove (particularly along the more shady parts of the route).
There are two access options.
The first is along a private, unsurfaced, and closed to vehicular access road - marked on the maps as "strada privata" - that closely follows the coastline. From here you can glimpse Follonica and Piombino across the Mar Tirrenno (Tyrrhenian Sea).
View of Follonica from the access track
Take the road signposted to the Marina di Scarlino or Portiglione and follow it past the marina and numerous new apartment complex building sites, the restaurant and small bagno of Cala Felice, to its very end where you will find the Ristorante Il Cantuccio and a couple of private dwellings.
The small amount of parking at the end of this road, where the "strada privata" track to the cove commences, is completely private, and there is very limited parking along the approach road. So you may need to back track a little to find a suitable place.
The track itself is ideally suited to cycling/mountain biking and many choose this option for passing a glorious morning and/or afternoon along this part of the coast.
The distance from the start of the track to the beach is marked as 2km. I have walked it many times and can verify that it is!
The alternative approach is to park at the car park for Cala Violina and take either the track (again private with no vehicular access) or footpath through the wood to Cala Violina. At the signpost '400 metres for Cala Violina', the track and paths divide and, rather than entering the wooded path to Cala Violina, you can bear north (right) and continue along the track to Cala Martina. The distance from the Cala Violina car park to this point is about 1.1km. The track on from here to Cala Martina is approximately a further 1.8km.
(I will lay odds, however, that if you arrive at this point within only 400 metres of the best beach in Italy, the likelihood is that you will not trek or bike further to a rocky shore! But, it is a beautiful cove and entirely a different experience to Cala Violina - see below.)
When you reach Cala Martina there is a path down to each of the two bays: the first is partially stepped, but the second not. Neither are particularly difficult, but if you have a pushchair etc, two hands will definately be needed to carry it down.
Located between the two is a monument to the Italian military and political figure, Giuseppe Garibaldi (July 4, 1807 – June 2, 1882).
It is possible, with a little care, to traverse the rocks around the mini promontory that separates the two bays.
A satellite map of the two bays along the Mar Tirreno coast, with the places where you may leave your car, and the footpath access tracks to the cove and neighbouring Cala Violina.
The blue icons mark:
The red icons mark:
Both beaches are well worth a visit, even just for the journey within the nature reserve of the Bandite di Scarlino to reach them. Indeed, Cala Violina is officially the most beautiful beach in Italy.
But, its sister Cala Martina being a pebbly beach and covered knee-deep in a bank of dry algae right from the waters edge to the rear of the beach, receives less visitors and it is not difficult to pass an afternoon there all by yourself with a great view of the Island of Elba, the tiny island of Cerboli, the promontory of the port of Punta Ala and the small rocky islands of Scoglio dello Sparviero and Troia in the distance.
You would be forgiven if you described Cala Martina as the "ugly sister" to the "princess" Cala Violina, and with pictures of both side by side, who wouldn't choose the shimmering white sands of the latter. But they offer two entirely different experiences: Cala Violina is the James Bond of Maremma beaches perfect for swimming, snorkling, sand castles, sunbathing, day-dreaming... and ideal for kids.
Cala Martina is for beach combers and nature lovers. With rock pools and a waters edge that will keep the youngsters with you amused for ages finding all sorts of wonderful sealife and creatures. And have you pleading not to add another rock or find to the pile to take back home! Keep an eye out for the deep red sea tomatoes when the tide is low...
Both bays are protected spots from both the Gregale and Scirocco winds. But take your mosquito repellant with you even off-bug season.
Sat on the beach looking out to sea you can see the Isola di Elba (Island of Elba), the port of Piombino and the tiny island of Cerboli (L'Isola di Cerboli, quarryed for rocks to build the port of Piombino and now deserted) in the far distance.
To the far south is the promontory of the port of Punta Ala and the small rocky islands of Scoglio dello Sparviero and Troia.
Around the southern promontory, Punte Francese, lies the fine white sandy "caletta" of Cala Violina, which can be accessed by continuing along the coastal track from Cala Martina for another 1.8km.
Sunset view of Isola D'Elba taken from the access track
The bays are protected spots from both the Gregale and Scirocco winds. They are not, however, particularly great places to go swimming, as the rocky shore continues for some considerable distance out to sea. In addition, be aware that this habitat is favoured by the "ricci di mare", Echinoidea sea urchins. For both reasons, I would highly recommend swimming with sandals or rubber shoes.
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