Baratti and Populonia are two location in the Tuscany Coast, not far from Piombino which you can not miss during a holiday in Tuscany if you love the sea and … archeology!
In this area there are in fact some of the most beautiful and perfect beaches for those traveling with children ,but also the ruins of one of the most important Etruscan cities.
The Etruscans ancient inhabitants of Tuscany I had met for the first time when I was a child was in Tuscany on vacation with my parents.
I do not remember exactly how old I was then, but I know that I had studied in school about this mysterious people before to go and get closer to them in Maremma.
One of the emotions that I still remember of that trip was the visit to the Etruscan tombs in a sunny summer afternoon and by that time the story had become one of my favorite subjects at school!
So during our vacation on Tuscan Coast we followed the traces of this ancient people, and we arrived at the Archaeological Park of Populonia.
This park is located on the ruins of the ancient Etruscan megalopolis, the only city built by people not in an high position in the hinterland but near the sea.
The reason is immediately understandable looking out over the ancient ruins: in front of the Park opens in fact the beautiful Gulf of Baratti, a natural creek of calm and clear water which is a few nautical miles from Elba.
Today it’s a small untouched paradise made of green and blue as the promontory of Populonia was declared as a protected natural site of Community interest but in the past this area was to be the Harbor … of Hell!
No, you did not misread! The ancient Etruscan city was indeed a port where metals were processed and marketed – copper first then iron – from the hinterland.
The archaeologists have estimated that just because of the iron processing the level of pollution in the area was so high that the incidence of lung cancer was a death on three.
Tall columns of smoke rose dense up to the Acropolis and the impressive tombs built in the early days of the city were literally covered with slag and the waste products of metal working, creating real hills of waste which have had the effect of Preserving this area … until today!
In fact in the Park there are several graves but it is estimated that many are yet to be discovered! By virtually every hill could hide one!
The visit to the Archaeological Park is really interesting and suggestive, from the visitors center several trails depart that reach the various sites up to the Acropolis, the center of the Etruscan power that still today is a fascinating place not to be missed.
The whole area gives a feeling of peace and tranquility and when the visit ends, the best thing for me is to stay in the area and spend some time in the beautiful beach out front!
Be careful, however, sometimes the waves with their incessant movement occasionally bring back to light ancient artifacts or even … Human remains!
So, do not panic nor call CSI, it’s just the bones of slaves who were buried right there! 😉
Visiting the Tuscan Coast: Baratti and Populonia
Where to go to the sea: Baratti beach
The Gulf of Baratti has sandy beaches and calm water with lawns that reach almost to the sea.
All along the road that leads to the Archaeological Park of Baratti and Populonia car parks are available by payment just near the entrances to the beach and there are also some beach resorts as well as the public beach.
If you want a really wild cove with clear water you can follow the signs to the “Buca delle Fate” ( a beach called “Hole of Fairy”), parking the car not far from the Acropolis. It will take about thirty minutes of hiking to reach the sea but this rocky cove overlooking the island of Elba is worth them all! But do not forget the shoes for rocks and the sunscreen!
Where to eat in Gulf of Baratti
Several kiosks and bars dot around the Gulf of Baratti. Our favorites were the Baba Yaga right on the water and the Kiosk in the meadow just behind – specializing in sandwiches with roast pork – not far from the bathrooms equipped with showers (fee).
If you decide to go to the “Buca delle Fate” beach remember to bring a packed lunch because there is nothing!
At the visitor center there is a restaurant and bar with a few games for the children.
Tuscan Coast beyond the sea: Archeological Park
The Archaeological Park organizes various workshops for children, from weaving to Etruscan writing, children can try their hand at various activities after finishing the visit.
Ask at the ticket office for more details and schedules.
Once you reach the archaeological site of the Acropolis do not miss a visit to the small fortified town of Populonia with the climb to the tower where you can enjoy a beautiful view of the Gulf!