Splendid horizons and traces of history for a weekend spent outdoors on the Etruscan coast.
A magical village overlooking the sea and back to the remotest of pasts. This is Populonia, an influential city of ancient Etruria, a decisive focal point of Italian civilisation.
Beyond the impenetrable fifteenth-century city walls blows a salty wind from faraway: Populonia is the only Etruscan city on the coast, as unique as the atmosphere that you can relive wandering its alleyways and admiring the horizon from its ancient walls.
On the northern point of the Piombino promontory, Populonia dominates the Baratti Gulf and its splendid beach, the perfect place for a dip in the summer but also luxuriant with vegetation that is home to wild fauna.
Not only this, but it is also a migration resting place of a very rare and protected species. Walking around the pines and beech woods you can catch a glimpse of bizarre-looking, long-beaked birds with iridescent plumage. It is the northern bald ibis that flies over the area and sometimes stops here, so it is not unusual to see it on the lovely fields next to the beach.
Nature and ancient history meld together in Populonia and the surrounding area and you can have a fully immersive experience in both here. The beach is just a walk away from the archaeological areas.
The acropolis can be found in Populonia Alta – reachable by both car and foot – while the necropolises are scattered in different sites of the promontory and the gulf. These traces of Etruscan civilization are part of the Parco Archeologico di Baratti e Populonia where you can wander among the well-preserved testimonies of populated cities and ports.
Rambling through the cliff-edge history of Populonia you may be inspired to take a dip in the intense blue waters off this stretch of the Tuscan coast. Baratti beach is a long tongue of red sand that can be found in the gulf of the same name, against which sweet waves of clear blue gently lap.
The sea-beds are densely-populated by water flora and fauna, perfect for snorkelling and for children to swim in thanks to the gently increasing depths. The striking, characteristic colour of the sand is due to the residues of the metalwork activities of the Etruscans who, at the time, monopolized the iron trade: this area was home to many furnaces where metal was worked.
The luxuriant Mediterranean vegetation embraces the sands, and its pinewoods offer a welcome break from the sun; it borders the archaeological park and is also equipped with a catering service, stretches of beach resorts and a car park.
For all those looking to take a dip in crystalline waters surrounded by uncontaminated nature, discovering sheer cliffs and breath-taking views, the Buca delle Fate is the ideal destination. A short, easy trek, allowing us also to take in some examples of Etruscan underground tombs, and we arrive at the splendid, intimate bay.
From Popolonia, you can reach both Baratti and the Buca delle Fate in just a few minutes by car, for a refreshing end to one or more days in the Etruscan world.
What to see in Populonia:
- The tower of Populonia; you can climb onto the walls and admire a bird’s-eye view over the Baratti Gulf and the Val di Cornia.
- The Museo Etrusco and the private collection of the Gasparri family.
- The Populonia Acropolis.
- The San Cerbone Necropolis and the Grotte necropolis.
- The Monastery of San Quirico; located near the Buca delle Fate immersed in the vegetation.
- The “Davide Mancini” Experimental Archaeological Centre, home to the reconstruction of a Bronze Age hut.
Where to sleep: Puntala Camp & Resort
How to reach: