When I found myself in Pisa this June after attending my first ever travel blogging conference in Trento, my friend Helene and I were determined to find a quiet Tuscan beach where we could enjoy the sun and unwind from a very hectic week of early mornings and networking.
‘Beaches? In Pisa?’ I can almost see your brow furrowing as you wonder whether I’ve totally lost the plot.
Well dear reader, I am here to tell you that just a stone’s throw away from the centre of Pisa is Marina di Pisa, the quiet Tuscan beach town where you can wander around the peaceful streets completely uninterrupted and where the coastline stretches as far as the eye can see.
(Hey – this is a guide to the small town of Marina di Pisa, but if you’re planning a bigger Italy trip then be sure to check out this awesome 2 week Northern Italy itinerary over at The World As I See It! or this Puglia road trip itinerary!)
Getting to Marina di Pisa from Pisa
Getting to Marina di Pisa from Pisa is super simple. From the main bus station in Pisa you can buy a return ticket to Marina di Pisa. It costs about €7 and the 10km journey only takes 20 minutes.
When the bus reaches Marina di Pisa, simply walk towards the sea and you will find the main promenade, a quiet road with sleepy cafes and – of course – the beach.
Marina di Pisa – the perfect Tuscan beach town?
Lying on the west bank of the Arno River, Marina di Pisa used to be a bustling holiday destination for Italians, but when I visited in the middle of June, it was extremely quiet. Marina di Pisa has a population of less than 4000, and with its lonely promenade, buildings with peeling paint and quaint cafes serving espressos to handfulls of elderly Italian men, there is a real sense that Marina di Pisa is the land that time forgot, but that’s all part of its charm, and it makes a wonderful change from the overtourism seen in places such as Rome and Venice.
The first port of call for Helene and I when we got to Marina di Pisa was the beach. The area of coast closest to where the bus stops is stony, with craggy white rocks giving way to smaller pebbles. This beach is free to use and there were a few local families who had set up camp for the day and were enjoying the early summer sun.
The beauty about Italian beaches is that Italians will rarely go to the beach outside of the summer months, and so visiting Italy in shoulder season will grant you mile upon mile of near empty coastline!
However, living in Southeast Asia for 18 months has turned me into somewhat of a beach snob, and so I was determined to find some sand – Helene’s only requirement was somewhere that she could rent a parasol – her pale skin means that she needs to be super careful not to turn into a lobster, and so when we found an area that had both, we were sold.
Along the coast of Marina di Pisa there are a number of ‘bathing establishments’ or lidos which are private sections of sandy beach where you can rent a sun lounger and parasol, use the toilets, showers and changing areas and grab a drink from the bar. Now, I wrote in a recent post about Italy that I hate the concept of paying to go to the beach, but the cost here was only €5 each for two sun loungers, a parasol and access to the facilities for the entire day which I thought was very reasonable.
Exploring Marina di Pisa – Villa Santa
After we’d sunned ourselves for a few hours, we decided to wander around and see what the town of Marina di Pisa was all about. As we ambled along the promenade, taking pictures admiring the buildings, which were somewhat dilapidated but had once been beautiful, we stumbled upon a gateway that opened onto some type of religious garden.
After noticing a small sign saying that entrance was free, we decided to have a nosy inside and spent some time admiring the various shrines and paintings of Jesus and the Virgin Mary that were dotted around the garden, enveloped in flowers and radiating an aura of absolute tranquility.
It was only after this that we paid closer attention to the white stone building that is sort of a cross between an igloo, a hobbit home and Santa’s grotto. Drawing closer, we spied an open door and decided to investigate.
Inside this bizarre little structure was perhaps the prettiest place of worship I have ever seen. With rosary beads and paintings of Jesus hanging from the walls, a hodgepodge of chairs and decorations including silver love hearts and plastic flowers, the Villa Santa cave house is a church like no other.
After spending so much time travelling throughout Europe, seeing yet another church doesn’t usually appeal to me, but Villa Santa was so unlike anything else I’d ever seen that it was difficult to pry myself away.
After we’d finished marvelling at this hidden sanctuary, we decided that it was time for food and so we continued our walk through the quiet streets of Marina di Pisa until we spied a seafood restaurant named Le Pescotto with wooden chairs and tables outside in the road and nautical props which were definitely a little tacky but up my street nonetheless (come on guys, you know me by now).
Helene decided to go for an old favourite, spaghetti allo scoglio (spaghetti with seafood) and I opted for a selection of grilled seafood with rocket and fresh lemon. It was absolutely delicious and just what we both needed!
Eventually, with our bellies full, we decided that it was time to make the trip back to Pisa for an evening of blogging and drinking coffee in our hostel (I highly recommend Safestay Hostel so if you like, you can book your stay here!). As we paid the bill and waited for the bus back, we both agreed that Marina di Pisa is a wonderful getaway from the bustling city of Pisa and the perfect little Tuscan beach town. If you want to enjoy Italian beaches without the crowds (or the price tag!) of more popular Italian destinations, or you’re just looking for a day trip from Pisa, then Marina di Pisa is the place for you.
Have you ever been to Marina di Pisa? Maybe you know of another Tuscan beach worth visiting? Let me know in the comments section below!