Pratoranieri beach is a wide stretch of pristine golden sand, with expansive shallow crystal clear waters - making it ideal for youngsters - and a great panoramic view of the Isola d'Elba.
Mainly a public beach, close to a variety of holiday accommodation options and only a promenade stroll away from Follonica, it is a popular summer beach location with Italians from Siena and Florence.
Residing in the centre of the Golfo di Follonica it has a panoramic view to the south of the wooded hills of the Bandite di Scarlino, the sailing port of Puntone and Portiglione, the white Torre Civette, and the promontory of Punta Ala.
Here the distinctive rocks of "Scogli Porchetti" (little pigs) and the small island, l'Isolotto dello Sparviero with its Torre degli Appiani, mark the southern end of the Golfo di Follonica.
Curving around the Gulf to the north, the view takes in the beaches of the Parco Naturale della Sterpaia - including the golden sands of Torre Mozza - with the city and ferry port of Piombino on the headland marking its end.
Your eye, however, is always drawn across the sparkling turquoise Tyrrhenian Sea to the beautiful Isola d'Elba. Framed perfectly by the semi-circle of the Gulf, when conditions are clear it is possible to not only to see the successive layers of the islands hills in various hues of blue and grey, but also the white buildings of the towns on top of them.
I have camped numerous times in the Tahiti campsite directly behind the beach and it is something special to wake in the morning and walk across the Lungomare Italia and have the whole place to myself. The only other people being a passing jogger or sub-aqua fishermen setting off in their boats (a great passion of many of the men whose families come here for the summer weekends and holidays).
And at the end of the afternoon, when the mums and grandparents have taken the children back to the campsite or holiday apartments for their showers and the "raggazzi" (teenagers) have made a move to get ready for their night out at the local Follonica discotheque... to sit on the beach and watch the spectacular sunset - "il tramonto" - over the Isola d'Elba. Special moments.
Alternatively, stroll along Lungomare Italia to the bar, Life Cafe with its leather sofas and goldfish* in bowls!It is a great spot right by the beach to watch the sun go down... order a couple of glasses of wine (they serve great dry white wine in large ice-chilled crystal glasses at Euros 2.50), pick a table outside under the moon and chill out, as the sky turns hues of pink and blue over a powder blue sea... Romantic or what?!
*Update: the fish bowls have gone :(
Hungry afterwards? Just stroll a little further in the direction of Follonica and you will find La Lanternina 2, one of my favourite restaurants in Follonica. You can even see it from the Bar.
There are a whole host of other options along this walkway and in the centre of Follonica. Together, Pratoranieri and Follonica probably have sufficient bars and restaurants to drink and eat in a different one every day for the whole of the summer holiday month of August!
The Viale Italia or Lungomare Italia in Pratoranieri is now closed to through traffic, which has made the whole area immediately behind the beach more of a pedestrian area and much safer for joggers and kids on bikes etc.
The easist way to access the beach now is off the SP152. Take the exit for Pratoranieri along Viale Italia, which takes you under a railway line to a roundabout. Don't continue along Viale Italia, but take the new road which runs directly alongside the railway line (eventually joining Via Isola di Caprera, into Follonica). Follow the signs for Camping Tahiti, and take the exit off the mini-roundabout to the campsite.
The free public car park is on your right. At its southernmost point, between the campsite and a holiday village, is a direct purpose-built path to the beach.
A word of warning if the car park is looking full, don't be tempted to park in the Tahiti campsite car park (to the left). Actually, apart from the dividing wire fence there is very little difference between the two (they were constructed at the same time), but the campsite is very vigilant about controlling its use. Even if you are known to the campsite and visiting residents - I am and regularly do - they will move you on.
Personal recommendation: the best local agent - you can practically touch the beach from his office - for vacation apartments in Pratoranieri is Lucio and his family. Their portfolio of holiday accommodation includes apartments right on the beach (you open your patio door onto the sand), to lovely new build apartments and mini-villas within a few metres of the shore.
They are open throughout the year, so you don't have to wait until the season starts to check-out whether they have something perfect for you. And they are also a real estate agent so they can sell you one if you fall in love with this part of Maremma!
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