Discover the most prettiest of places for Prosecco Princesses… Located along the northern Tuscan coast, this is where the Hamptons meet the beaches of Miami… in Europe!
Airport & Transfer
We chose the nearest airport, Pisa (though it’s very accessible from many Italian cities) Super-fast flying though passport control, etc, though we had no hold luggage so we were off the plane and through in 15 minutes (Also note post Brexit passport it could take longer!)
We had arranged an airport transfer despite an excellent train service as it was quite late and we wanted to maximise our first evening. Booked through Airport Taxi Transfers, it was €84 one way. They were waiting in arrivals with a name board and within 40 minutes we were checking in at our hotel.
(For departure was all straight forward, we had checked in online and had no luggage so sailed through. What appeared to be a big airport became very small airside. 3 shops all similar, 2 tiny cafes selling mainly pizza – so don’t go any earlier than needed and buy all souvenirs on your hols, don’t wait or you’ll be disappointed (oh and remember snow globes contain liquid… nearly didn’t fit in my plastic bag!)
We arrived at our charming destination – California Park Hotel. Nestled in a quiet street up from the beach, it felt like an oasis of calm and tranquillity, oozing with character. As it was my friend’s birthday, they had a bottle of Prosecco waiting for us in the room. They couldn’t have been more attentive and thoughtful. A great arrival!
The hotel itself has boutique vibe. You feel like you’ve stepped back in time but with all the modern amenities you need – such as door handles still on the room doors but a touch key card to actually lock the doors.
We had a standard room with a balcony that looked out onto bushes so we didn’t really use it. The room was fine and bathroom fully modernised. Breakfast was served in the gorgeous garden area..
…with beautiful china. The choice was more limited than I’m used to but it’s a smaller hotel than am used to! Cold buffet was as expected but the hot was thin on choice – just scrambled eggs and bacon (unless you wanted to pay more for off the menu which felt a little tight).
The pool area is small but beautifully maintained with thoughtful picture-perfect areas to chill in with2 cabanas, sofas, rocking chairs, and the most comfy sun beds ever, and with chill out areas are in the shade too.
As you venture into Forte Dei Marmi, you realise that, whilst most hotels have a pool, their beach clubs are the place to be. This hotel is quite unusual with a different offering – namely a place to hide from the hordes of tourists with one of the nicest pools in the area.
Staff are friendly and clientele was older but we were out of season – it’s very much the place for Italian families in July and August where all ages descend. One lady I met had a brilliant routine every day- pool in the morning, lunch at a beach club, snooze by the pool late afternoon, dinner at the hotel, bike up to town for late night shopping, when her kids would then go out out! Genius! Holiday goals right there.
Venturing out of the hotel
The only way to do this is on bike! Well of course you can walk/ get a taxi and the hotel runs a €10 shuttle if you want to go that bit further, but bikes are the way of life here – the pavements are marked more for bikes than pedestrians. And they even do tricycle hire for those less balanced! (The hotel can arrange all this for you)
Forte Dei Marmi has one huge long stretch of beach – it’s vast in length and depth. One the most stunning places lined with beautiful beach clubs and insta worthy beach huts.
September, being out of season, a lot of the clubs were either only open for lunch or dinner or neither! It’s fascinating how this place is packed a month earlier and then just like that it’s so quiet. If you are coming in season, then it’s essential you book if there’s a restaurant you particularly want to go to. You may be fine to rock up but you certainly won’t get the seat you want closest to the ocean – and by close I mean actually you may need binoculars. But the view down is stunning – an aisle to the ocean in fact. On either side of the aisles are sun loungers to hire and not just a lounger – you can hire table and chairs, shade, a storage box etc. They know how to do beach time here!
But note the beach is in fact privately owned by each club, so you can’t pitch up with a towel and sunbathe at the water’s edge. There are lifeguards at regular intervals who will move you along. They call the water’s edge the walking beach – whilst private you can walk up and down it – just don’t stop! You can also go swimming in it – and I would fully recommend it – especially for nervous swimmers – it’s shallow for quite some way out.
Eating and drinking
There are some real extremes in food here – from Michelin star restaurants to very average food. I’m not a massive foodie but this isn’t a place I will remember for the food but then I didn’t do the high end places this trip. Still it wasn’t cheap. There were some little quirks I loved, like the amount of snacks you get with a drink – it’s crazy! Like olives and crackers and cheese and crisps! One night we forgot dinner as we’d eaten so many!! Note the bread is chargeable, there isn’t service charge – it’s called cover charge and be careful ordering fish, that’s not a fixed price, it’s done by weight or you could get stung!
Restaurants and bars
As I mentioned, there are rows and rows of beach clubs and restaurants and it is completely daunting so here some we tried:
Bangno Ristorante Dalmazia -which is the beach club for Principe Hotel where you can have pizza dolce – sweet pizza for pudding! Chilled tunes and fantastic service.
Ristorante L’Orsa Maggior – I couldn’t find any bad reviews of this place and it was just perfect!
Maito – a great place for dinner, often with live music to warm you up before hitting the bars or as its own destination.
Twigga – this is a famous day to night party vibe beach club bringing a bit of Ibiza to this area. Animal print everywhere and a giraffe entrance has made it a hugely popular spot.
Nikki Beach – was closed for the season when we were there but as it wasn’t overly publicised, if you like the familiar and know the brand, then it’s always good to soak up their guaranteed tunes and fun.
La Capannina Di Franceschi – the oldest nightclub in the town known as the ‘dance restaurant’, open for late dinner, then open for dancing from midnight usually – this is where you put on your little black dress and dance where JFK once had a drink!
Almarosa bar – if you are looking for a bar not on the beach and close to the hotel, (one for the road only it’s never just one) then this is your place – brimming with Italians spilling out into the street.
On a Wednesday and Sunday mornings is their market. It’s like no other market I’ve been to – stall to stall of cashmere, leather jackets, swimwear (and yes little changing rooms) it’s worth a bike ride up to see the Italians in action and boy are they fast! I found it a little grabby and pushy but still found me a bargain. A coffee taking in the gorgeous town is a must before heading back to the beach for some well-deserved lunch and an aperol spritz just as it gets too hot to shop anymore.
We decided to get the 35 minute train back to Pisa – €10 shuttle to the train from the hotel that took 15 minutes and €9 each for train. Not just cos it was cheaper but, as we only had hand luggage, we could do a pit stop in Pisa and get that all-important holding up the tower shot! Click here to read how to maximise an afternoon in Pisa getting that all important tower pic and views from a rooftop!
Back in Forte Dei Marmi… what we didn’t have time to do but would have: Pietra Santa village & a visit to neighbouring Lucca. The whole area is a Tuscan hidden gem the Italians have kept secret for years … have a fabulous time! (You know you are googling flights)
If you like Italy… then you’ll love Crete: click here for incredible Crete