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Sometimes, when you travel, you just want to stay put. And when it comes to staying put on the Italian seaside that is when a visit Forte Dei Marmi is in order.
Italians – who invented the concept of dolce far niente – call this type of travel villeggiatura. While a vacanza is an active trip involving exploring historical things, a villeggiatura is where the aim is all about staying put to relax and recharge.
In Italy, one of the perfect spots to do a villeggiatura is the Tuscan beach town of Forte Dei Marmi.
Where Is Forte Dei Marmi?
Pronounced “Four-tay Day Mar-mee,” it is a seafront resort town in Northern Tuscany in the Province of Lucca.
The name translates to “Fort of Marble,” referring to the fort in the middle of town and to the marble quarries in the nearby Apuan Alps. Known as the Lorenese Fort and called the fortino, the historic defense building is a city landmark. The quarries were put on the map when Michelangelo used their famed Carrara marble for Florence‘s San Lorenzo Basilica.
What Is Forte Dei Marmi Known For?
While it does have history, a visit to Forte dei Marmi it’s less about marble and more about the beach and its stylish atmosphere these days.
Think of Forte Dei Marmi as the Italian Hamptons. Ok, there’s no Jitney, but they are similar. Both are seaside escapes for city dwellers (Florentines and Milanese in the case of Forte); have long-term summer residents; wide beaches, and legendary party scenes.
When I lived in Florence, Forte Dei Marmi became a regular weekend trip because it’s just an hour’s drive, yet it feels a world away. With sandy beaches (not rocks like many parts of Europe!), lazy waves, and winding bike paths, it’s an ideal weekend when you travel to Italy.
Know Before You Visit
The Forte Dei Marmi beach is flat with rolling waves, so you won’t get the dramatic seaside villages you see on other parts of the Italian coast like Portofino or the Amalfi Coast. For a visual of town, watch the Italian thriller Security, which is set there.
And, the summer can be quite a scene as art, fashion, and finance types flock there. To peek at the luxe living, check out Andrea Boccelli’s Villa Alpemare.
What To Do In Forte Dei Marmi
If you visit Forte dei Marmi in summer, spend at least an afternoon biking and strolling around town. It’s less touristy than Cinque Terre and more local than Portofino, so you’ll get a taste of true summer living in Italy. Ideally, plan your visit to be anywhere from a long weekend up to five days.
Rent A Bici
During summer, the main transport is via bici (bicycle), made easy thanks to the flat, paved paths up the coast. Rent a bike from Forte Bike or Cicli Maggi, both of which have mountain bikes if you want to adventure in the Viareggio forest reserve or to the foothills near Camaiore.
Set Up At A Bagni
The coast is lined with bagni or beach clubs, each with perfectly manicured sand, colorful umbrellas, and cheery changing rooms. Many families rent a cabana for the summer and spend their days there. The easiest way to access a beach club is to stay at a hotel with its own private clubs (see below); though, you won’t see many locals.
You can also rent at a local bagni–the best ones have great hospitality, restaurants, and sometimes gyms, pools, spas, and nightlife. For a classic experience, head to Gilda or Bagno Piero. For a family scene, go to Bagno Annetta. For a vibrant party scene, reserve at Beach Club Versilia. Each club has its own rates depending on if you want a chair or a cabana–be sure to reserve in advance!
Explore The Italian Coast
One reason we love Forte Dei Marmi? Its central location provides many options for coastal day trips. Within a two-hour drive, you can go as far north as Genoa, head to Portofino, explore La Spezia, do a boat trip to Cinque Terre (or the lesser-known Porto Venere), or go south to Viareggio, Pisa, Lucca, or even Florence.
Attend The Puccini Festival
The nearby town of Torre del Lago is where famed Italian composer Giacomo Puccini lived for more than 30 years. As such, the town honors the maestro with the Puccini Festival aka the Fondazione Festival Pucciniano, an opera festival each summer where his acclaimed works like Madama Butterfly to Tosca are staged.
Shop The Town Center
The shopping in Forte Dei Marmi reflects the high-end clientele, and there is a mix of shops by the best Italian designers and local boutiques selling a mix of beach essentials and resort wear.
Shop The Forte dei Marmi Market
Yes, the designer boutiques in Forte dei Marmi are a major draw but we’re partial to the Wednesday flea market known as Il Mercato di Forte dei Marmi. It’s actually held a handful of times weekly at the height of the summer and is known for being one of the top flea markets in Italy, with vendors from all over the country selling tabletop wares to vintage pieces.
Toast The Day At Aperitivo
We love a great aperitivo, and it is alive and well in Forte Dei Marmi. If you are at a beach club in the late afternoon, you can stay put. But, if you’re looking to kick off a night out, some favorite places are the laidback local spot Alma Rosa or drinks with a view at 67 Sky Lounge Bar.
Dance At A Club
Many of the beach clubs, bars, and restaurants get festive at night, but there are also proper dance clubs. The classic spot is La Capannina Di Franceschi, which has been open since 1929. To hang from aperitivo to dinner through dancing, head to Twiga Beach Club but know it’s pricey.
Cook At A Local Farm
There are many agriturismi or local farm stays inland and a few of our favorites offer laidback hands-on cooking classes that are great for the whole family. This is a nice contrast from the seaside vibes of Forte dei Marmi. Contact us if you want help planning a day trip from Forte dei Marmi.
Go Wine Tasting
The area inland from Forte, known as the Garfagnana, has some of the most under-the-radar red wines in Tuscany but they deserve your attention! Our clients really enjoy experiences at these small, family-owned wineries where you’re often tasting from the barrel alongside the owner and winemaker. Otherwise, serious wine lovers and collectors can head south of Livorno toward Bolgheri to try the esteemed Super Tuscan wines.
Visit The Marble Quarries
As we said, the town is named after the nearby marble quarries and many like to head there on a Jeep tour to explore them!
Where To Eat
Classic Michelin-Starred Food: Ristorante Lorenzo
This restaurant is an institution, has been around for more than 30 years. Despite its age, it still sets the standard for fine dining in the area.
Michelin-Starred Seafood: Il Bistrot
The most traditional spot here, Il Bistrot, is a seafood restaurant with a charming old–but not aged– feel. The one-star Michelin service is impeccable, the menu is traditional but not boring, and it has incredibly fresh fish.
A Meal With A Scene: The Fratellini’s
The younger brother of Il Bistrot, the Fratellini’s, has a modern feel with lots of minimalistic umbrellas, a teak deck, and sliding doors. And the menu is just as contemporary. As is a trend in Italian fish restaurants, they serve sushi but skip that in favor of their crudo and risottos.
Small Town Dinner: Pietrasanta
The nearby medieval town of Pietrasanta is where many regulars go for quieter but still chic dinners. Our picks of where to eat is La Bottega (where you can also spend the night).
Where To Stay
If you’re staying a few nights, consider splurging on a high-end hotel so you can dive right into the lifestyle. For longer, look into one of the various villas or beach homes available on Airbnb.
The Historical Spot: Augustus Hotel
When it comes to luxury in Forte Dei Marmi, the Hotel Augustus sets the standard. The grounds include a villa that once belonged to the Agnelli family (of FIAT cars), and there is a tunnel that provides direct access to a private beach.
The Chic Boutique: Hotel Principe
For 5-star luxe, The Principe has it all: great location, service, and décor. Even if you don’t stay there, do aperitivo at their rooftop bar for one of the best views around.
The Design Spot: Villa Gilda
Owned by the team behind Gilda beach club, this seven-room boutique hotel is a personal favorite. Though it’s situated inland, nearly all the rooms have sea views, and the Italianate decor is drool-worthy. Oh, and the on-property restaurant is one of the best places to eat in the region.
The Great Deal: California Park Hotel
For a property with a bit more sprawl but still, great amenities and a great price, check out California Park Hotel. It’s set back from the water, but you can easily bike to the beach and the town center!
Best Time To Visit Forte Dei Marmi
When you travel to Italy, you’ll notice that at most of Italy’s beach towns, the season begins right around Easter and extends until late September, and that’s also the case in Forte Dei Marmi.
This part of the Tuscan coast has historically been a local spot, but it has become more and more popular with Russians, Germans, and Arab travelers. Most visit from June through August when it’s almost impossible to find lodging during the weekends.
Instead, go in shoulder season– late Spring and early Fall–when the weather is nice, but it’s less crowded. Don’t visit in the winter months as it’s usually cold and most restaurants are closed.
How To Get To Forte Dei Marmi
The easiest way to get to Forte Dei Marmi is by car, as you can take the A11 highway from Florence or the E80 from Genoa and Milan. Know there is limited parking during the high season. There are public parking lots, and all the beach clubs and hotels have their own parking but plan to bike or walk when possible.
You can also train to Forte Dei Marmi, but you’ll have to take the regional train system and, depending on where you’re coming from, likely have to make a few transfers.
Have you traveled to Forte Dei Marmi? Any other advice you want to share? Let us know in the comments below!
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Photo Credit: Frederico Neri, Sosna Radosna, and Ppictures