The Val di Cornia is a large area of the province of Livorno which includes a long stretch of coast and inland zones. The area extends from the town of San Vincenzo to Piombino, reaching the border with Follonica and thus includes several kilometers of coastline, as well as many beautiful villages in the hinterland.
One of the things I love most in the Val di Cornia is the fact that it offers the possibility to combine into a single holiday moments spent on the beach under the sun with short day excursions into the small villages of the area, which, especially in summer, offer different opportunities such as fun summer fairs, festivals and events for everyone.
The beaches of Val di Cornia are mainly sandy and, in contrast, with several other coastal areas in Tuscany (I'm thinking of the Versilia), the Val di Cornia actually offers a lot of "free" beaches. Unless you cannot give up the undeniable comforts offered by the establishments along the beach, free access to the beaches is a great advantage, especially for those who like to try different beaches or maybe just spend a handful of hours on the beach each day.
Below I've created an overview of some of what I consider to be the best beaches in the Val di Cornia, starting right from San Vincenzo and heading south, indicating who is sure to like one over another.
San Vincenzo is a small town, whose busiest time of the year revolves around the beach and summer holidays. The beaches here are very close to the town, with many of them colonized by the beach resorts/establishments that offer sun chairs and umbrellas, in addition to food and drink and more. Just outside the city, anyone traveling with their pets will appreciate the "dog beach", a stretch specifically dedicated for letting dogs free access and the chance to play in the water.
Moving to south of San Vicenzo, you will find the Rimigliano Park. Rimigliano has a long stretch of beach, which extends right along the Via della Principessa. Along this road, you can park and then find access points into the pine woods and Mediterranean vegetation that form a boundary right behind the beach. You can enjoy picnics under their shade during the hot summer days, and before and after enjoy the characteristic white sandy dunes that form right along this area.
The beaches along Rimigliano are very popular and busy in high season, but due to its long length, we always have found a place to lay down our towels and plant in our beach umbrella (just be careful to put them in deep, as the area is very windy and the umbrellas often take "flight"). In the park's woods, you will find picnic areas and small cafe bars, but no fully equipped beach resorts so make sure to bring lunch, snacks and water with you if you're planning to stay for the day.
The Gulf of Baratti
Heading down towards Piombino, you'll come along the Gulf of Baratti, which has a wonderful sandy beach with a very unique, dark brown color and black fragments, likely remnants of the iron which is present in this area and used since the time of the Etruscans. Behind the beach, there is a beautiful pine wood that offers lots of shade and cool sea breezes, perfect for a picnic sitting on a soft bed of pine needles. A sad note here is the parking, which is not easy to find in the summer months and is also quite expensive. In any case, the beach is free and you'll find a small bar in the pine wood for snacks and a light lunch.
Natural Park of the Sterpaia
Beyond the town of Piombino, to the south, you arrive to the Natural Park of Sterpaia. Here you can find several sandy beaches, where you'll also find several bathing establishments offering lots of services. This stretch of coast is very suitable for families with small children because the sandy coast slopes very gradually down to the sea and there is a wide area of shallow water where children can play safely.
One of my favorite beaches is definitely the beach of Torre Mozza, which features the remains of a lookout tower on the sea, very impressive to see. In the high season, it is unfortunately quite a busy beach. Equally valid and beautiful beaches are Mortelliccio, Carbonifera, Perelli and Carlappiano. The parking lots are all located in the same area, without particular distinction between the beaches, so I advice you to just park your car and walk along the beach stopping where you prefer. If you have several days, you definitely return and try them all finding your favorite!
If you prefer rocky beaches or cliffs...
If you are fond of rocky beaches, you can find a few points in Val di Cornia, with a really nice one being the the "Buca delle Fate" (the Fairy Hole) on the promontory of Baratti. The access to the Buca delle Fate is not easy as it requires climbing and a steep descent (we don't really recommend trying to reach it if you have small children with you), but it is a particularly impressive location with great views.
To find other beach areas with rocky cliffs, you'll need to move out of the Val di Cornia area moving up the Etruscan Coast to the north, towards Castiglioncello or around the town of Livorno.
The city of San Vincenzo, for its beaches and Piombino, for Sterpaia Park, has won the Blue Flag Award for the quality of its sea water, services and the environment (summer 2014).
Read our article on the top beaches in Tuscany to see which other beaches have received the Blue Flag and to get an idea of the various types of beaches as you move along the Tuscan coast.