Lo Stellino cove is hidden away along the gorgeous Costa degli Etruschi - Etruscan Coast - in Maremma: a tiny rocky spot perfect for two, tucked away from the crowds of nearby Baratti beach. You'll need to walk the beautiful coastal footpath through swathes of wild garlic in full bloom, through Mediterranean macchia and step over natural springs in whose marshy patches frogs and toads croak their songs loudly! to reach it... But it is all yours when you do.
Note to mums and dads
Although there is nothing untoward to stop children running on ahead to explore along the coastal path, be aware that each time the path opens from the Mediterranean macchia into a clearing, just a few seconds away for fast little legs there is a sheer drop to the cliffs and sea below.
In the shallows - especially at low tide "bassa marea" - you will be able to spot sea urchins, sea tomatoes and other wonderful rocky shore creatures clinging to the large rocks.
When these pictures were taken in April, the wild garlic "l’aglio orsino" - Allium ursinum - was in full bloom, with its swathes of white bluebell like flowers forming a scented carpet around the margins of the woods.
The Mediterranean macchia offers shade and a cool spot from the heat of the sun. And there is a "lodge" inside the woods with a picnic-style bench, alongside a scaffolding look-out tower that must by all accounts belong to local hunters: for there will be wild boar here as there is everywhere in Maremma, especially as wild garlic bulbs are one of their favourite treats.
Unless they are completely dry during the heat of high summer, you'll find yourself walking across occasional damp swampy patches of grass along the pathway and towards the cliff's edge; the source of water being natural springs. Too shallow to be a source of drinking water, but plenty enough for resident frogs, toads and mosquitoes!
TIP: take insect repellent, especially in the summer months.
You will need to keep your eyes peeled to find the right single track road that takes you to the beginning of the coastal path. It isn't marked for the cove, but there is a sign for the Country Resort Lo Stellino, a Tuscany farmhouse/agriturismo. If you are driving northwards, once you have passed the (new) roundabout from which you can exit for Baratti (don't) continue along the main Strada Provinciale della Principessa road towards San Vincenzo and take the first exit on your left that doesn't have a gate blocking it! Now I know that that sounds a bit vague, but I lost count of how many single-track exits I nearly took only to see that they were barred by a gate, until I took the first one that I could that wasn't and hit the jackpot!
To help out I've added a Google satellite map and marked the as the single-track road is really easy to miss.
View in a larger map
Drive the short length of the track there are exits off it to various farms - to its dead-end. Here alongside the track under the pine trees is the only place to park. Be careful if you are manoeuvering in the summer as the tall grasses will mask that there are ditches on either of it's sides.
Then just take the path alongside to the double wrought-iron gates. Five minutes later and you'll be at Lo Stellino.
Whereas the coastal path is really easy going, the last part of access to each of the coves along its route isn't always: and at Stellino there is a significant drop (no steps) to manage.
Those who live here or are part of the sub aqua fishing community in Italy know the area name Lo Stellino well for the death of a sub aqua fisherman - Luciano Costanzo - who was killed by a Great White shark in the waters of the Golfo di Baratti in February 1989.
Nine years later in 1998, another Great White - estimated at seven metres long and weighing around two tonnes from the photograph taken by fishermen - was sighted half a mile from the coast at Lo Stellino. This time an immediate ban was placed on any spear fishing or fishing, and small sports boats or crafts in the area, to avoid a repetition of the mistaken killing of dolphins in Baratti Bay and an influx of visitors arriving hoping to experience a close encounter of the shark.
Why the Great White is attracted to this part of the Costa degli Etruschi coastline is still unclear: the simplest theory is that sharks simply that it changed course to follow a of tuna that are to be found in the waters at between Baratti and the Isola d'Elba and once in the area. Some contend that they are then mesmerised by the the electromagnetic fields around the ENEL submarine electricity cables laid underwater here.
In any event, the sightings are rare - no more so than for example around the Island of Elba, and experts consider the likelihood of an attack to be remote. Indeed, neither incident has stopped sub aqua fishermen continuing to fish in these waters, my partner included.
The next beach along a short distance heading south towards the Bay of Baratti and Populonia is Il Pozzino another rocky cove, this time with two small bays.
Between Lo Stellino and Il Pozzino is this great spot for line fishing and another small cove just like Lo Stellino. (I didn't have time to get down to, but I will next time and come back and update this page).
Heading north around the promontory - which is also known as Lo Stellino - the rocky shores finish at the mouth of a canal and tiny small boat port, and opens up to a glorious wide expanse of sandy beach called "la Torraccia", that in turn becomes the "Spiaggia di Rimigliano" in the six hundred and fifty hectare coastal park of Parco Costiero di Rimigliano.
TIP If you want to visit these sandy beaches as well as Lo Stellino, it would be best to move the car along to their car parking areas (there are ones in for both beaches) rather than leave it at the beginning of the coastal path. There is no footpath around the headland through the Mediterranean macchia and, in any event, it is forbidden to do so. And it will be a bit of a trudge to return on foot alongside the main road after exploring the Rimigliano Coastal Park.
You can't get much closer than the highly rated Country Resort Lo Stellino whose access road you pass as along the single track road to reach the beginning of the coastal footpath.
Alternatively try the also excellent Agriturismo Podere L'Agave farmhouse close to the town centre and beach of San Vincenzo.
Explore some more...