The Scarlino beach La Polveriera is a great place for a stroll anytime of the year, and its wide golden sands, shallow waters and shady pine wood forest behind its dunes, make it a great location for a family with youngsters beach day out.
Although I always tend to avoid La Polveriera's adjoining Follonica beaches, I will often happily pass an hour or two walking and shell collecting with my youngster here.
It's not because the water quality isn't as good in Follonica or the beaches aren't wide and sandy: it is and they are. But because they are always busier, and the majority of their stretches are given over to private concessions lined with "bagni" - the Italian beach bathing facilities with bars and restaurants - and I prefer my beaches natural and open.
A couple of years ago, metal barriers were erected along both sides of the coast road that runs from Follonica to Castiglione della Pescaia behind the beach and designated car parks for the beaches built on land on the eastern side of the road. Prior to this parking was a tight squeeze along the road, half on the banks avoiding the ditches if you could!
The advantage is that now there are more spaces and the visibility along this stretch of road in the summer is clear - traffic hurtles along here and it had become hazardous crossing the road or walking its length with children.
You wouldn't know it by watching the local traffic, but there is a strict 40 kilometres an hour speed limit along this stretch of road and regular active police speed controls.
The disadvantage is that, whereas the roadside parking was free, the car parks aren't during the summer. Much to the annoyance of the regular summer and weekend visitors. And the payment period is 24 hours too.
Note: not all of the car parks are tarmaced, some are still field etc with some considerable erosions ruts in them now, so watch the underside of your cars!
Once you have parked and crossed the road, access to the beach is one of the easiest: just take the wooded boardwalk through the pineta to the beach. The good news is that the boardwalk makes this stretch of the Maremma coast accessible to wheelchairs. Good one Comune di Scarlino :)
Unlike the neighbouring beaches of Follonica, this public beach isn't backed by bars and restaurants. The push cart that sells coconut slices and fruit along Follonica's beaches does make its way here too, as do all of the beach jewelry, sun glasses, clothes, and house linen sellers.
But for anything else you will need to make a short trip to the shops and bars in Follonica - the closest are in the the southern-end of Follonica, a district called Sensuno, where you will find newsagents with beach toys etc, pizzerias, a fresh fish shop, ice cream parlour and much more including an inflatable park area for kids - or to the restaurants and bars in Puntone di Scarlino where you will also find a chemist's, but not much else.
The whole of the La Polveriera beach is backed by a typical Maremma "pineta" - pine wood - that offers welcome shade and respite from the full heat of the midday sun and is a great place to have a picnic. You'll find most Italian families who come to this Scarlino beach for the day come with folding chairs and a picnic cloth, and freezer boxes and baskets full of food.
It is a relaxing atmosphere, with the everyone taking a nap after lunch on the pine wood floor and the kids playing ball until mum concedes that it's OK to go back into the water/onto the beach.
Italian mum's and especially grandparents are far more worried about the time for food to be digested before taking a swim than I ever was... it's not the number of hours to wait (hey, we agree on that!), but I only apply it to swimming after eating, rather than emersion in water of any kind... paddling, splashing in the water, taking a shower etc! I have lost count of how many times I have had to insist to "nonno" (grandad) that it is really OK for our little one to have a paddle... although when he finally concedes, I know he still isn't happy!
One of the private rare houses right on a Maremma beach. The garden is full of children's play things: what a wonderful place to grow-up, even if you have to batten down the hatches in winter.
Take a small plastic bag with you. Amongst the drifts of small shells you will find tiny 2-3 mm long ones, perfect for looking at under a microscope and for tiny fingers to spend a while searching for and collecting... The best things in life are free and there are a lot of best things for children in Maremma :)
If you fancy staying right on the beach - in the pineta behind the dunes - and a combination of self-catering apartments in a hotel facility with a large swimming pool sounds ideal, then try the Corte dei Tusci Village Palace or the next-door air-conditioned apartment complex of I Tusci just a few feet along into Puntone di Scarlino beach.
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