Cecina Italy. “Click your heels together three times and say ‘There’s no place like home‘ and you’ll be there.” These are the magic words that Dorothy pronounces to leave the land of OZ and return home.
Your hometown might not be the most beautiful location on earth, but is a place where you are happy to go whenever is possible. It doesn’t have to be necessary the city you were born in but also where one feels to ease. You may have left old friends, your family, and tons of good memories. There is always a reason to come back.
This is how I see Cecina Italy, my hometown. With this little guide, I will help you discover this lovely town on the Etruscan Coast of Tuscany, giving you some reasons why you should consider it as a destination of a trip to Italy.
This little town by the sea has been the perfect setting for romantic “summer nights” for thousands of teenagers, for the first crushes and kisses given under all the stars of the summer sky. Those romances that last the time of summer. A bit like life in Cecina, which blossoms every spring, shines in summer, and hibernates at the end of September, waiting for the next season.
The town is relatively quiet, nestled in a valley between the green hills of Tuscany and the blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Being a summer destination, it becomes livelier in July and August but is not a destination for parties and crazy nightlife. It is, then, a good place for families and people who love peace and stay away from noisy crowds.
Where is Cecina Italy
Cecina is a seaside town of a little less than thirty thousand inhabitants on the Etruscan coast of Tuscany. On the map you find it looking south of Pisa and Livorno, which are less than an hour away.
Is Cecina worth visiting?
I consider Cecina in Italy a perfect base to explore Tuscany. This would be my reply if you ask me why you should Cecina for the holidays. It is located next to the sea, in the center of the region, and you can reach some of the most famous destinations in a short time either by car or train.
Here are some examples with the indication of distances and travel times by car:
- Bolgheri Wine Region: 14 km (8,7 mi), 20 minutes.
- Livorno: 42 km (26 mi) with scenic seaside road, 46 minutes.
- Pisa: 60 km (37 mi) with highway, 50 minutes.
- Volterra: 39 km (24 mi) with panoramic road, 45 minutes.
- San Gimignano: 70 km (43,5 mi) along a panoramic road, 1 hour and 25 minutes.
- Siena: 94 km (58,5 mi) with panoramic road, 165 km (102 mi) with highway, 1 hour and 45 minutes.
- Lucca: 85 km (53 mi), 1 hour by car.
- Firenze: 116 km (72 mi), 1 hour and 40 minutes.
Driving a car is the best way to enjoy Cecina and its surrounding. Once settled in town, the train is comfortable to get to cities like Florence, Pisa, or Livorno. Instead, for a daily trip from Cecina to San Gimignano or Siena the best means of transport is the car. The countryside is awesome, and you can stop everywhere to admire the panorama and take some pictures.
How to get to Cecina Italy
Pisa International Airport “Galileo Galilei” is only 40 minutes away by car (60 km, 37 mi). From there, you have two options:
- rent a car which is the best option if you plan to explore Central Tuscany,
- get the train. From the airport to Pisa Central Rail Station, you get the train shuttle called Pisa Mover, then you catch a train direction Cecina.
You may be interested in knowing how to fly to Tuscany. Here is all you need to know.
- Coming from North, take the highway A12 direction Rosignano. Pay the toll at the final traffic barrier and keep driving until you reach the exit of Cecina Centro.
- Coming from Rome, get the highway A12 towards Civitavecchia. After that, keep drive along the freeway E80 for about 260 km. Take the exit called La California and drive for other 5 minutes to reach the town center.
You find Cecina Train Station along the coastal rail line that connects Rome to Genoa. There are direct trains from Rome (both Regionale slow trains than fast trains like Intercity and Frecciabianca), Pisa, and Florence. My suggestion is to download the Trenitalia App to check timetables and buy tickets.
Best time to visit Cecina Italy
The best time to visit Cecina is from June through September. As every summer destination, mass tourism arrives in Cecina in July and August. The weather is hot and the sun shines most of the time, so this is perfect for enjoying beach life.
To avoid the big crowd and still enjoy swimming and sunbathing, the best period is from the middle of May, June (weekends may be crowded), to September. The weather is pleasant, not too hot not too cold, and you can alternate days by the sea with a few trips around. And you also get more affordable accommodation prices.
April and October are a bit chilly for beach life, but they are good months to explore surroundings and have lovely walks by the water without getting wet.
Winter is only for real sea lovers. This is my fav time because I love walking along empty beaches, waiting for powerful sunsets that color the sky much more intensely than in summer.
A brief history of Cecina
The origins of Cecina date back to some centuries before Christ, first during the Etruscan Era, and then with the Roman Empire. The founder was Albinus Caecina, a consul of Roma and descendant of an ancient Etruscan family from Volterra, that also gave its name, Cecina, to the town and the river.
Thanks to its coastal position and proximity to Volterra, the area of Val di Cecina had a strategic role during the Etruscan and Roman Eras. Between the 8th and 6th centuries B.C. local communities used to trade with Cyprus, Phoenicia, Egypt, and Greece, so the valley became an important commercial crossroad on the Mediterranean Sea. The vicinity to the sea made Cecina also a holiday destination for rich families of the Roman Empire. The remains of numerous villas with private thermal baths show that wealthy politicians and aristocrats came here to relax and laze about.
With the fall of the Roman Empire, the area was gradually abandoned, plundered by bandits thus falling into degradation. It became a wild, swampy, and not very hospitable area.
During the splendor of the Tuscan Renaissance time, both the Medici and the rival Albizi family controlled the area without leaving relevant traces. In fact, the real rebirth of Cecina took place only during 1800 when Grand Duke Leopold II of Tuscany ordered its reclamation. The valley became livable and the land cultivable, and the process of economic development definitely started.
Nothing remains of the Risorgimento period, swept away by forty-four bombs during World War II that destroyed almost the entire city. In modern times, thanks to its beaches, its wonderful pine forest, and its enviable position in the center of Tuscany, Cecina has become the lovely holiday resort we know today.
The Best Things to do in Cecina Italy
You get the most of a holiday in Cecina combining beach life with daily trips to the most famous destinations of Tuscany. Here are the things you cannot miss during your holidays in Cecina Italy.
Stroll Around the Town Center
The downtown, located about 3 km (2 mi) from the sea, is the commercial district of Cecina Italy. The town, destroyed during the 2nd World War, has a modern appearance. Along the pedestrian area are various shops, bars, pizzerias, and bakeries. You can peacefully stroll around, making some purchases, and then sip an aperitif or a coffee at one of the outdoor tables.
Visit the Duomo and the Fountain
Right in the middle of the pedestrian zone stands the Duomo, built-in 1851 by Grand Duke Leopold II. The parish church is dedicated to saints Joseph and Leopold. Take a look inside to admire Vincenzo Lami’s decorations on the walls.
Food Fact about Cecina. Saint Joseph is our Patron Saint. We celebrate him every March 19 which is also Italian Father’s Day. On this day, every grandma prepares sweet rice fritters/doughnuts. Here is the recipe if you wish to make them at home.
On the other side of the square, there is the monumental fountain made in 1919 to replace the public fountain where all people got water. Made in marble, travertine, and bronze, it shows two naked bodies: Hercules that represents the hard men’s work, and a lady, representing the citizenry, who is drinking water.
Tuesday is the street market’s Day. Every week from early morning till lunchtime dozens of stands enlivens the town center selling clothes, home products, fresh fruits and vegetables, cheese, and other Tuscan delicacies.
Taste the Torta di Ceci
Don’t miss to taste the mouthwatering Torta di Ceci, a kind of soft crunchy flatbread made with chickpeas flour. There are two good places downtown: the historical pizzeria Enri and pizzeria Lapo. You can try it plain or in a sandwich called Cinque e Cinque (five and five). It is funny how in some places in Tuscany, this traditional Tuscan Street food is named Cecìna, like the name of my town but with different stress. To know more about Torta di Ceci and how to make it, here is the Chickpeas Flatbread recipe.
Marina di Cecina
An iconic tree-lined avenue of about 3 km, that we call Il Viale, connects the two main districts of Cecina: the downtown and the Marina.
The heart of Marina di Cecina is the Passeggiata, the pedestrian street that runs along the beach. Here is where families, couples, and friends take their evening strolls during the summer. There are bars, gelaterie, restaurants, and a few shops. This is the place where I spent most of my summer nights with friends during my childhood. We used to walk back and forth two or three times every single night chatting, laughing, making new friendships with other guys on holiday, and looking for the special person to live your summer romance with.
Relax at the beach
Depending on your needs and preferences, you can choose between the facilities of a dozen of beach clubs in Marina di Cecina. Here, you can rent a beach umbrella and sunbeds for the day, and enjoy also the bar and restaurant.
If you prefer, there are also two wild beaches in Cecina. One is the long sandy shore of Andalù in Marina, right next to the seaside promenade. The other one, a bit smaller, is located in the area of Le Gorette, five minutes driving from Marina and fifteen from Cecina town center. Both have pinewood behind them. If you rent a bicycle it is lovely to take a ride in the pine forest and then go to the beach for a swim and sunbathing.
Other beaches nearby and Nude Beach of San Vincenzo
Taking the car, you can easily reach other great beaches in about 30/40 minutes. A particular mention goes to the Gulf of Baratti and its dark sandy beach. Another wild spot is the long beach of the natural park of Rimigliano in San Vincenzo. If you practice naturism, here you also find the authorized nudist beach of the Nido dell’Aquila. A known nude beach, but not officially recognized, is also in Marina di Bibbona.
The marvellous pinewood
The pine forest is the brightest jewel Cecina has. A wonderful oasis of peace to enjoy nature, breathe good air, walk, run and cycle. Many paths lead to the sea and the wild dark sandy beach of Andalù. During the hot summer season, there is no better place to cool down and shelter from the heat.
We have to thank Grand Duke Leopold II for this amazing environment. During the 1800s he decided to create the pinewood to protect the plantations from the breeze and saltiness coming from the nearby sea.
The natural reserve of the Tombolo di Cecina extends for about 15 km. You can admire different kinds of plantations like maritime pines, Aleppo pines, juniper trees, holm oaks, and juniper bushes. During the spring, the cyclamen bloom colors the undergrowth of the pine forest with vibrant shades of pink and purple.
The main trail of about 5 km (3 mi) long crosses the wild forest connecting the Marina di Cecina and Marina di Bibbona. To keep fit, locals usually walk this way back and forth for a total of 10 km (6 mi), but there are also other paths of different lengths for training. You also find equipped areas with tables and benches to rest in the shade and enjoy a picnic.
The natural reserve is kept neat thanks to the efforts of the City Administration. But it is so important that also users help keep the environment clean acting responsibly, especially without leaving any garbage and respecting plants and trees.
To follow, you can admire the pinewood of Cecina in the recent music video of the famous Italian singer Elisa. Isn’t it wonderful?
A walk along the river Cecina
Another good place to take a little walk is along the path next to the river. Starting from the town center, you can reach the Marina and come back. Easy, flat, it is perfect for adults and kids.
During your summer holidays in Cecina, you have to spend a day at Acqua Village. This water park is one the biggest in Italy with water slides and a big swimming pool where every hour you get waves. Fun is guaranteed both for children and adults. When I was a kid, I remember that my dad brought me to Acqua Park almost every Monday morning when our family shop was closed. Growing up I kept going there every summer with friends, becoming a champion down the Kamikaze slide, the steepest, scariest but also the most adrenaline-pumping. Usually, the park is open from June to mid-September. For more info visit their official website.
Archaeology and museums
The museum of Villa Guerrazzi
At the Museum of Villa Guerrazzi, you find traces of the ancient history of the Valley of Cecina. The exhibition will take you back in time at least 10 thousand years to the Lower Paleolithic, and then move on to the subsequent Etruscan and Roman Era. The museum houses a collection of artifacts found in various archaeological sites of the area, especially valuable grave goods that give clear evidence of the wealth of the aristocracy who lived here in huge, luxurious villas.
The archaeological museum usually is open all year round, but only during the weekend (Fri – Sun). From June to September also on Thursday afternoon.
The Archaelogical park of San Vincenzino
One of those elegant Roman villas was just outside the modern center of Cecina, not far from the shore of the river and just a couple of kilometers from the sea. You can admire the remains of the villa that belonged to the Roman consul Albino Cecina at the archaeological park of San Vincenzino. Worthy of note is especially the visit to the large underground cistern that guaranteed the supply of water to the entire villa. I have a childhood memory of this place. When the museum opened about 30 years ago I was 12 years old, and I helped my uncle to make the glass cases that protect the archaeological finds and the marble furniture dating back to the Roman era.
Sadly, the site of the villa San Vincenzino in Cecina is partially in decay. Only the cistern is well preserved and worth the visit. I hope that sooner or later the municipal administration will manage to restore this important place for the history of the valley so that citizens and tourists can return to enjoy it.
Surfing in Tuscany
We are not in California or Bondi Beach in Australia but surfing in Tuscany is possible. Marina di Cecina has nice waves during the winter season. Every winter swell, locals and also surfers living nearby flock to the waterfront of Andalù to ride as many waves as they can.
Cecina is also a good spot for windsurfing and kite surf. At Le Gorette beach there is a surf club called Spot One where you can rent your board or take lessons. And after a day on the crest of the wave, you can relax with an Aperol Spritz while waiting for the sunset.
Daily tours to take from Cecina Italy
Set by the sea along the Etruscan Coast, Cecina has an enviable position if you wish to discover many wonders of Tuscany. When you’re tired of beach life, you are spoilt for choice. Below are my recommendations
If you don’t want to drive too much, small villages like Montescudaio, Casale Marittimo, and Bibbona, or the most famous wine region of Bolgheri are only 10/15 minutes away.
Out of the main tourist trails, I highly recommend driving to the marvelous Gulf of Baratti with its dark sand beach and visiting the Archaeological site of Populonia. Don’t miss a summer sunset there, it is one of the best in the world.
Not far from Baratti there is the lovely burg of Suvereto that deserves a visit. This area produces an excellent red wine I invite you to try.
To get a taste of the classic Tuscan landscapes, enjoy a slow drive along the panoramic SS68 road that leads you to Volterra. You will be there in about thirty minutes. If you still have time, you can add a stop in San Gimignano driving other 20 minutes. Instead, to reach the cities like Livorno, Pisa, and Florence, I suggest you use the train. It is easier, comfortable and you won’t get stressed looking for car parking and avoid the Limited Traffic Zone (ZTL).
Summer Events in Cecina Italy
Every summer the pedestrian areas of Cecina and Marina di Cecina host many different events to entertain locals and tourists. There are music concerts and street shows for kids. Moreover, on August 15 takes place the traditional boat procession followed by fireworks to celebrate the Holy Mary and the Ferragosto, a traditional Italian festivity.
Take also note of the special street market called Sbaracco, taking place twice a year, in February and mid-August in the center. You can make very good deals buying stuff from the stands that every shop in town prepares for the occasion.
The Targa Cecina
September is the month of the so-called Targa Cecina, an event that includes a foot race and a kind of belated carnival parade.
This event has been part of the culture and folklore of Cecina since September 1929 when the first edition took place during Italy’s Fascist Era. At that time 21 runners representing the eight districts of the town ran the 4 km to win the Targa, the trophy of the competition. Starting from 1952, besides the run, they introduced a street parade with paper-maché floats and people in costumes parading and dancing to the rhythm of the music.
When I was a kid, I attended the event several times. I still remember the fun during the summer rehearsals when we had to learn steps and choreography. The entire community could not wait for September to take part in the parades, eagerly awaiting the race and the winner. With time habits changed and the passion has died down a bit in town. Despite everything, the event fortunately still survives. Thanks to dozens of volunteers behind the organization, floats, masks, music, and confetti still animate the center of Cecina every year. Today like seventy years ago. One of them is my old friend Rudy from primary school. He became an artist and every year he creates masks and floats for the event and also for the big Carnival of Viareggio.
Holidays with Kids Cecina Italy
As I already said Cecina is a small and relatively quiet town, even during the top season. It is plenty of places to bring your kids. All beaches are sandy and you can choose between beach clubs with kids facilities or the wild beach. The pinewood is a good place to rest in the shade during the hottest hours of the day. On the Passeggiata by the sea, there are carousels and other games for kids. You can also bring them to the Acqua village water park where they may have fun with special areas, pools, entertainment, and slides for children
In the town of Marina di Donoratico, just 15 minutes driving, you find the amusement park Cavallino Matto, a little heaven for kids.
Restaurants in Cecina
Here are a few suggestions for nice restaurants where to eat in Cecina Italy.
Marina di Cecina:
- El Faro. They say to be the oldest restaurant in town. It is definitely one of the best for fish. They prepare dishes with high quality products using the fresh fish they catch all year round with their own boat. They have a terrace with sea view.
- Pizzeria Oltrepizza. Super recommended for delicious pizza Neapolitan Style. You can also taste the Pinsa Romana, made with a long-leavened dough, and therefore easier to digest.
- Pizzeria Moka. My favourite pizzeria in town to taste the real Neapolitan style Pizza. Even the ones with stuffed crust.
- Enoteca Coccolino. When I crave for good meat in Cecina, Coccolino is the place to go. Great value for money. Together with a juicy bistecca, you can also order antipasti, first courses of the Tuscan tradition, and obviously a bottle of excellent red wine.
Where to sleep in Cecina Italy
There are not many hotels in Cecina and most of them are at the Marina side. Instead, more are the options if you like camping or renting an apartment. The best way to move around is by renting a bicycle. You can easily the different beaches and take lovely rides in the pinewood.
Another option to sleep is to book one of the many Agriturismo in the near countryside and then go to Cecina by car to spend the day at the beach.