Follonica beaches: all four of them. Well, actually six, because if you live here you don't draw the distinction between those that take you into Scarlino territory when you are walking along the shore, so I've included those too.
Follonica's town centre beach is called Il Lido - the lido - and, although very popular and busy from June onwards, it is the one that I avoid the most. Not because the sand or water isn't clean nor the gradient water shallow for families with young ones, but because I like my beaches as least populated as possible and to get here you will need to brace yourself against the fifteen fold increase in population in Follonica that are all heading its way or nearby doing the same thing.
Try and find an all day car parking space if you can and then a piece of sand that isn't a private bagno concession...
Enough said. But it is home to the best gelato in town bar - Pagni - right opposite the Piccolo Mondo hotel on its tiny pier.
Heading northwards along the waters edge will take you into Pratoranieri beach which, as you reach its northern-most widens out to create great expansive soft sands for kids toes and spades to dig into, as well as really shallow waters. It's a favourite spot for a more relaxed Follonica experience, with all the shops you need and a campsite right behind the pedestrianised Viale Italia road with cycle lane that runs its entire length.
A park and go family beach: no trekking required.
And then Ponente beach, also known as "spiaggia Il Boschetto", Follonica's northern-most beach. It doesn't have the wide sands of Pratoranieri and at its end it is gravelly, so not as ideal for young toddlers. But it might just offer you a space of your own when the closer to town beaches are packed like sardines, and it still has its loyal followers who only ever come here out of choice.
If you get to live in Italy for any length of time you will soon learn that Italian's are creatures of habit and no less so than their choice of beach or bathing establishment. Each of Follonica's beaches has its own ambience and variety of facilities and its loyal visitors who wouldn't dream of changing location just a few metres along the shore, year after year after year. So much so, that young children who summer holiday here grow-up playing on the sands with the same summertime friends from other parts of Tuscany, every year into their teens. And then they too, when mums and dads, bring their children here...
Heading south from central Follonica over the river outlet and its tiny bridge - right next to the best bar and pasticceria in town, Pegni - takes you into the into the district of Follonica called Sensuno and the "Levante spiaggia", which runs uninterrupted into Scarlino territory and the beaches of La Polviera and Puntone di Scarlino.
It's here behind the Levante beach that you will find old houses and one-story apartment accommodation built directly on the sands with narrow access passageways between them to the beach: not the kind of on the beach accommodation you would probably be imagining for a Tuscany beach holiday, but very popular nonetheless with Italian families who book-up years in advance to ensure securing their vacation weeks there.
And a large pineta with a children's playground, summer pizzeria, bouncy castle (except they are fish! pay by the hour or for a whole afternoon/evening - closes very late) play area, bars and shops, various "bagni" (beach bar and sun lounger) establishments.
Which all in all makes this beach also very popular with families. If you think it is busy at the beginning of July, you won't find a spot of sand free in August! I warned you! I prefer to drive a little further out of town and be able to breathe and see the sea! Watch the video.
If I haven't mentioned it enough already, Follonica's beaches get packed in the summer. But if you are heading here, and many many many do in July and August and they aren't coming for the history or shopping!
I did say that the town's population increases by fifteen fold (and that is probably an underestimate!).
Then my best advice is to venture as far out of the centre of town as you can for the chance of having some sand to yourselves. Most Italian families - at first it will be the grandparents and grandchildren from the beginning of June onwards when school has broken-up who come - book accommodation (the same every year) as close to the beach and shops as possible, which means that the busiest stretches of sand are closest to the centre of town. Most in fact book, the same metre of space with sun loungers and parasol in the same "bagno" on the same beach as well.
The other reason for heading a short distance out is that in Italy the public - that is "libera" - beaches tend to be located on the outskirts of town. You will find a few public spots in between each of Follonica's town beaches, but the biggest by far are where Levante and La Polveriera meet and Pratoranieri. They get busy too: with the sun parasols - the equivalent of another nations towels - being stuck in the sand early morning to reserve a families space for later in the day! They don't get packed-up at lunch-time, but are left for the afternoon's beach session.
There is a lot of holiday accommodation in Follonica. But I have to say that the extraordinary popularity of this seaside town means that the apartments on offer - for they form the majority of the accommodation available - vary considerably in quality. But are all still rented each year between the beginning of June to end of August. For sums that will make your eyes pop out of their sockets.
Choosing the right one - unless you have stayed there before and loved it - can be a game of lotto. But it doesn't have to be.
Elena's apartment isn't a run of the mill property whose sole purpose is an income generator. Her grandparents brought it for her parents and four generations of her family have holidayed there. It is loved. Roomy. And in the perfect location: just a few feet from Pratoraniera beach. With private, enclosed, parking. And shops, bars and restaurants all a short walk away along the promenade.
Campsites in Maremma are concentrated along its coastline and you will find four on/behind the beach in Follonica. Campsites on the beach.
Heading south along the sands you won't notice the border changes: the Scarlino beaches...
Heading north (you will need to cycle or drive a short distance): the Piombino beaches... click on the photos
Explore some more...