Carbonifera beach has well and truly won me over and is now one of my very favourite beaches in Tuscany. On its pristine golden sands within the very special nature reserve of the Parco Costiero della Sterpaia, the living is perfect and easy. The view spectacular. And the atmosphere so relaxed that I have added it to my personal list of the very best beaches in Maremma.
Today, sat on its golden sands for the third day in a row, it has become my "office" whilst I write this - well, someone has got to do the hard work ;)
On Friday afternoon Sophia and I came here and stayed until late. At the end, eating an ice cream on the veranda of a beach bar looking out over the sands and sea to the Island of Elba.
Now my girl prefers clambering over rocky coves and investigating rock pools to playing on sand, so when she was so reluctant to return home and asked if we could bring dad the next day too - it being a Saturday - I of course said yes. So our wedding anniversary was spent on the beach and it was bliss. So much so that she asked to return again the next day and we did!
Sunday had a onshore breeze and first glimpses of the sea were nothing less than joyous: the wind that there was - much less than we had expected - wasn't whipping-up the sand but just the tops of the onshore waves so that the whole seascape was glistening bright blue and white under the sun. It made my heart sing.
And, despite it being normally the busiest day of the week, the fear of wind had kept most people home and so practically we had it all to ourselves.
Although I have walked along Carbonifera beach many many times, it is only now that I will happily recommend it as one of the best beaches in Maremma.
It is a Bandiere Blu beach.
Why? Because this time we entered it, not at the Carbonifera 1 location - the parking and facility locations are split in two - but at Carbonifera 2. Now that isn't to say that the location 1 isn't a good one: it is. It is just that the second gives me everything I like. Let me explain.
I prefer my beaches to be the wild type. Not the concreted or row upon row of bar, restaurant, tacky souvenir shop, parasol and sunbed covered ones.
But I am a mum and to have a nice on the beach bar - just one - with facilities and ice creams to hand in case I need it, takes any strain away in spending hour upon hour on a beach with a youngster. And, it has to be said, makes for a perfect place for an aperitivo at the end of the day for mum too!
Now, Carbonifera beach - at location number 2 - is a long stretch of wide golden sands that are exceptionally clean. In a nature park that I take my hat off to the park authorities for their exceptional planning and investment in its protection and maintenance.
Part of which is that there are just three "bagni" facilities with their sun parasols precisely lined-up along the sands. Just choose which colour you like the best: orange, brown and blue or blue and white and you are set for the day!
But, unlike the one at Torre Mozza and those in the centre of Follonica, these establishments don't dominate the beach leaving just the narrowest of strips for visitors to pass by. Torre Mozza is terrible for just that: when the tide is in, you cannot pass the concession to access the public part of the beach without entering the sea!
Here, everything feels so much more civilised and relaxed.
And there are only two beach bar/restaurants, one either side of the pier and canal exit.
Other than those the beach is a "spiaggia libera". Which means an open free public beach. And there is a lot of space. Not the usual crowded postage stamp sized public beaches between "bagni" that you will find in Tuscan seaside towns.
Which in short, means that it is a wild beach with a touch of the facilities you might want too.
The combination of wide sands and shallow waters make it an ideal beach for young child. And it has a special wild wood: the "Bosco della Sterpaia".
From the end of summer through the autumn and winter, the whole length of Carbonifera "spiaggia" (beach) is without its beach concessions and a great place for beach-combing. Especially before the beach is cleared of its driftwood at the end of spring.
Sat on the sands you have a stunning sweeping view of the whole of the Gulf of Follonica: from the headland of Punta Ala and the island of Sparviero to the south, to the port of Piombino to the north. And fantastic views of the beautiful Isola d"Elba in front of you. On a clear day you can see the houses on the island!
Sometimes the ferry between Portoferraio on Elba and Piombino seems unreal in size and almost touchable!
The backdrop behind the coast to the south is all wild and green: the thick wooded hills of the Bandite di Scarlino reserve.
The view south towards Piombino.
And if sitting on the beach looking at the view and listening to the waves rolling on the shore starts you wondering what that half-eaten looking island between you and the Island of Elba is.
Well, it is a half-eaten island! It is the Isola di Cerboli whose limestone was quarried to provide material for the steel works in Piombino.
You might not see the black thick-legged "puzza di merda" "scarafaggi" - beetles - making these tracks, but take a look on the undisturbed dry sands near the dunes and you'll see where they have been!
But you should see a "Lucertola" lizard or two sunbathing on the dunes or hear them scurrying into the dune grasses as you approach.
And, when the summer visitors have all gone home, if you are lucky and keep your eyes open, late afternoon you might spot this gorgeous gentleman on the beach too. Helping himself to the stuffing in the dune reinforcements for his nest. Follow him into the pineta and you will, without a doubt, loose sight of him in a split second. But he won't of you ;)
For hidden up in one of those pine trees behind its trunk he will be watching your every move until you have gone. But you will be able to discover his favourite trees. On the ground just look for the tree trunks encircled with pine nut debris and the remains of pine cones that look like apple cores that someone has chewed until there isn't a scrap of apple left on them!
Or look up and you'll see his intricately constructed dreys: he'll have an average of three on the go at once that he frequents during the day and sleeps in during the night, but that number can reach eight! He normally lives in them alone, but will share them with others in the winter to huddle-up and keep warm.
Watch him unravel the Comune di Piombino's hard work. By the way, I haven't speeded the video up: he was working that fast!
There is one eye-sore along the beach view and that is the striped double chimney stacks of the ENEL electricity plant. But, behind those chimneys you will find a special WWF Oasis site in which one of the oldest human settlements in this part of Tuscany was recently discovered. Find out more about the Riserva Naturale Padule Orti-Bottagone.
Access couldn't be more straightforward. From the Vecchia Aurelia road - the SS1 Aurelia - take either of the exits marked for Torre Mozza and Carbonifera or Mortelliccio and Carbonifera.
There are loads of parking spaces - pay and display. Or, you can find a spot along the road that runs behind the length of the beach between Carbonifera 2 and Torre Mozza beach. (If you do park alongside the road, make sure that your car is well off road and not on or over the white road marking or you might find a fine on your windscreen when you get back.)
Click on image for a larger view.
Access through the dunes is strictly controlled for their protection: the dunes behind the beach are fenced-off and footpath access is only possible in nominated places. But at both locations 1 & 2 (as well as at Torre Mozza and Mortelliccio beaches) you can gain access directly from the car parks.
When you arrive at the car park for Carbonifera 2, walk to the old tower - Torre di Carbonifera - cross the "ponte" (bridge) over the canal and the beach entrance for my favourite spot along its length is alongside the bar/restaurant Il Pino. You can't miss it.
Walk along the shore past Bagno Onda Blu and find a spot, or carry on past Bagno Calypso for even more open sands.
There are two bar/restaurants on the beach: one either side of the pier and canal exit. The La Scogliera to the south.
And Ristorante Il Pino to the north, where Sophia and I like to finish our day with an ice-cream with a view. And where we treat ourselves on birthdays.
The fish is fabulous. (They have a meat based section to their menu too.) The service is great and even comes with a waxed mustache or two!
My lunch recommendations; try the "Spaghetti alle Scoglio", followed by the "Frittura di totani e gamberi".
The restaurant is the yellow building on the beach in this photograph.
Surfing a September swell.
And waiting for the wave.
Or. Just adoring the molten silver.
The southern side of the jetty.
Walk north along the sands and you will arrive on Il Pino and Mortelliccio beaches. Walk a short distance south and you will be on Torre Mozza beach.
Explore some more...