When you have had the opportunity to explore and experience Pisa, I recommend heading to the sea.
The Arno River, which divides the city of Pisa, empties into the Mediterranean Sea at the small village of Marina di Pisa. You follow signs out of the city for Marina to Pisa, Mare (the sea) or Tirrenia and you will find yourself driving along the final kilometers of the Arno.
Sycamore trees shade the entire distance of the Lungarno Gabrielle D’Annuzzio, the road that traces the south side of the river between Pisa and the sea. These trees have lined this narrow road since I was a child. My father often drove our family on this same road to visit our landlord and his family in Pisa or to head further on to Pontadera and Florence. In the days before the superhighway that now connects Pisa and Florence, this was one of the main roads connecting those cities.
On fall days, when the leaves scatter across the road and a golden curtain of season’s ending fill the air, the memories of my early years in Italy are particularly clear.
Marina di Pisa
As you enter Marina di Pisa (about ten minutes from the outskirts of Pisa) you will see a parking area and some old fishing stalls on your right.
Pull over, park, get out of the car and walk to the water. Large alabaster stones cut from nearby quarries (including Carrara-the quarry made
famous by Michelangelo) line the bank of the river. As you look north, you will see some fishing huts on stilts, their nets hung from large poles above the water.
On clear days from this quiet parking area you can see north up the coast toward the Cinque Terre (the Five Lands). The long arc of the coastline invites further exploration and the desire to walk along the sea (read on) strengthens.
The town of Marina is Pisa is a very small and unassuming place. One main road leads you through the town to a sharp curve to the south. It is from the city front park you can see south along the coast to the port city of Livorno. If you have time, I recommend leaving the main road and exploring the side streets of the town.
Laundry hangs from balconies, a few dogs amble down dusty, quiet streets and a few locals peer inquiringly from their front doors. This is a place that seems straight from a 1950’s Italian film; only during the months of July and August is it filled with daily or seasonal visitors who desire the sun and sea. During the other months of the year, the town folds up on itself and just exists as do so many village across Italy.
Many excellent seafood restaurants line the ‘beach’ as you head south along the coast. I use the word beach a bit loosely , as visitors literally lay out on huge boulders brought in to protect the sea front. There are stretches of level beach, yet even those are stone. If you plan to spend time getting some sun and sea, bring thick towels and plenty of padding!
Our family was fortunate to live in this small village during my father’s military assignment at the port of Livorno. My brother and I attended the school at US Military Base at Camp Darby. We shopped in the stores, ate in many of the restaurants and actually stayed in a hotel along the main road when we first arrived.
There are plenty of ‘private beach clubs’ along the road as you drive into Tirrenia. You are welcome to approach any of them if you desire a more private beach experience; be aware, however, that these places all charge fees since they provide a place to change clothes, umbrellas and beach chairs.
The town is becoming more popular for the summer season visitor. Private villas abound on the eastern side of the main road, and a short trip to view some of them is well worth the time.
You can continue on the road that parallels the beach all the way to the port city of Livorno. My next blog will be all about that interesting city.
IF YOU GO:
The closest cities, to use the train system, are Pisa or Livorno. Both have regular service to Florence. From either train station you can take a bus, or if you prefer you can take a taxi. Negotiate the rate with the driver before you leave the station and before you get in the taxi!
Average fares between Livorno Centrale and these villages is Euro 40 each direction. Between Pisa Centrale Station and the villages, Euro 45 each direction.
Marina di Pisa
Via Repubblica Pisana, 7/8
Marina di Pisa, (PI) Italy
Tel: 050.353.86 or cell number +39.393.788.4775
I’ve eaten here a few times. A VERY informal place with exceptional seafood. Often crowded, so I go either early for dinner. The latter you go, the busier this place is during season. Call ahead to make sure that the restaurant is open if you want to eat here off season, especially November through April.
56128 Marina di Pisa (PI)
I’ve eaten here twice. It is a pretty pricey place, but in exchange for the prices you get one heck of a meal. This is Tripadvisors #1 rated restaurant in Marina di Pisa. Make reservations for certain – and you will enjoy a great meal.
Hotels in Marina di Pisa
You are only twelve to fifteen minutes from the center of Pisa from this village. If you wish to find very inexpensive accommodations along the sea while exploring the city of Pisa, Marina di Pisa offers some alternatives for you to consider.
Do not expect luxury AT ALL in this small village. These two hotels offer acceptable accommodations, but please – again – do not expect big city comforts. This is a small fishing/seaside village, after all! Please use the links below to go directly to the property’s web site.
Hotel Manzi (Three Star)
The place offers the simplest possible accommodations, while keeping clean and safe. Run by an amicable Marina di Pisa family.
Via Repubblica Pisana (Lungomare) , 25
56013 Marina di Pisa (Pisa) Italy
Hotel Boboba Il Villaggio (Three Star)
This place is like Disney World on Italian steroids. Water park, close to beach, huge pool. Accommodations are mostly apartment like spaces. Clean and safe.
Via Litoranea 7, 56013 Marina di Pisa, Pisa, Italy
A bit more upscale than the Manzi.
This family owned restaurant, in the same family for generations, offers up flavorful fresh seafood at modest prices. In high season, I recommend
reservations in advance. Season in Tirrenia runs from mid June to early September.
Via dell’Edera, 16 Tirrenia
56018 – (PI) Italy
Tel: +39.05.0 37.592
Ristorante lo Squalo
Located just off the south side of the main traffic circle, this unassuming place is near a gas station, of all things. Don’t be fooled by all of that. Specialties include shark (Squalo) and other fresh and beautifully prepared seafood.
Ristorante lo Squalo (No Web Site)
Via delle Rose, 1
56128 Tirrenia (PI), Italy
Grand Hotel Continental
As it name implies, this is a large, convention style hotel located directly on the beach. Close to the main traffic circle in town, it has a loggia full of shops – everything from magazines to gelato. Large private beach areas are reserved for guests, complete with umbrellas and beach chairs. Room rates average Euro 110.00 per room per night.
Largo Belvedere, 26
56128 Tirrenia (PI) – Italy
Located very close to the main traffic circle in Tirrenia, this is an old stand-by. Do not expect fancy or a lot of frills, but the location and cleanliness of the rooms – added to the rates which are between Euro 36.00 for a single to Euro 67.00 for a large double – make it a very attractive choice.
V.le del Tirreno 217 Tirrenia
Hotel Florida, Tirrenia
Located about 300 meters from the main traffic circle, this lovely small hotel offers very affordable rates, between Euro 40.00 and Euro 60.00 per room per night, with very good service. Guests can access many of the private beach clubs (remember, you can enter – just pay for the day and you can use the facilities) easily from the hotel.
Viale del Tirreno 227
56128 Tirrenia – Pisa, Italy