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Castiglioncello: all the colours of the sea

Red rocks jutting out over the sea, small beaches and coves bathed in crystal-clear water, a refreshing pine forest: this is Castiglioncello, the ancient Etruscan village that overlooks the sea from a small promontory.

This magical atmosphere, set amidst a fragrant and colourful natural landscape, has inspired painters, writers and poets for generations.

Castiglioncello’s history dates back to the late fourth century B.C. when the Etruscans settled here.

The town’s development received a strong boost from the Medici family when Duke Cosimo I had a tower built here as part of a coastal fortification system to defend against frequent pirate raids.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, tourists started coming to Castiglioncello for its beautiful scenery and mild climate. It quickly became a holiday destination for the elite and important entertainment, political and cultural figures like Pirandello, Mastroianni, Gassman, Zeffirelli, Sordi, Spadolini and many others.

Art critic and patron Diego Martelli established a residence here and diligently hosted many painters who would later become known collectively as the Macchiaioli. This in turn led to the emergence of an important artistic movement called the Castiglioncello School.

Today, the town’s cultural life revolves around the Castello Pasquini, which is located in the town centre and hosts events, shows, literary award ceremonies and international conferences.

Just below it is Piazza della Vittoria, the “little piazza”, a hub of social activity and an obvious meeting spot for night owls.

A stay in Castiglioncello offers something for everyone.

Deep-sea fishing lovers can explore vast underwater depths; the climate and wind are perfect for windsurfing, waterskiing and other water sports; and light north-westerly breezes invite sailors to discover unexpected nearby coves and bays.

There are plenty of exciting trails for hikers and mountain bikers that provide gorgeous scenic views.

Visitors are also urged to explore nearby inland villages where they can relive the atmosphere of a bygone age and taste local specialties accompanied by music and charming country festivals.

There are several Etruscan sites near Castiglioncello, including Baratti, Populonia, Suvereto, Campiglia and Volterra, which have museums full of artefacts. Also of interest are Roman towns like Vada and Cecina, and medieval towns like Massa Marittima. The Bolgheri nature reserve, among others, is definitely worth a visit as well.

Food lovers will enjoy the many restaurants along the coast offering traditional fish-based Tuscan dishes like the cacciucco alla livornese (fish stew) or the triglie fragoline (mullet). Authentic Maremma cuisine predominates inland with traditional dishes like crostini, sliced cold-cuts and cheeses, grilled meats and homemade pasta with wild boar sauce.

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