Forte dei Marmi, Tuscany
In recent years the Tuscan spa and beach resort of Forte dei Marmi has become a haven for the well-heeled. Everyone from Russian tycoons to designer Giorgio Armani, singers Andrea Bocelli and Zucchero Fornaciari and Italian national soccer coach Marcello Lippi born just down the road in Viareggio all own properties in Forte dei Marmi.
Yet this serene setting on northern Tuscanys Versilia beaches has a timeless charm and elegance that down the decades has drawn people from all walks of life. And despite having more than its fair share of sprawling, multi-million euro luxury villas, it is also possible to find a dream home in Forte dei Marmi even with a much more everyday budget. Expect a small apartment to cost from around €250,000 and a house from around €350,000.
Forte dei Marmi first began to grow in the early 1500s and takes its name from a marble fortress built here in 1788 (Forte dei Marmi being Italian for marble fortress). The imposing structure and nearby marketplace form the heart of this scenic town. On Wednesdays people flock to the market from miles around as it is the place to find top-class designer clothes at a bargain. The town centre is also packed with chic designer boutiques and is ideal for late-evening shopping.
This has been an exclusive, upmarket retreat for more than 100 years, with famous visitors in years gone by including the 19th century writer Gabriele DAnnunzio and Nobel prizewinning literary icon Eugenio Montale. Today, holidaymakers are drawn here by its clean, sandy beaches, mild climate and stunning backdrop formed by the snowy peaks of the Apuan Alps. (You may be interested to know that Santa Maria Beach on Via Arenile No9 was a few years ago voted one of the worlds top 10 topless beaches by Forbes magazine.)
Most of the towns hotels are on or very close to the seafront and some have private beaches. Its blue seas offer great opportunities for lovers of water-based sports while skiers can head to the nearby mountains.
In addition to the beauty of its sands and its town centre, a number of popular events are staged here. Forte dei Marmis International Political Satire Festival, held around October, attracts more than 35,000 visitors and some 200 cartoonists and from the US, UK and as far afield as Turkey, Russia, Poland and Argentina.
July and August sees the Versilia Jazz Festival come to town while in late August spectacular celebrations are held to honour Forte dei Marmis patron Saint, St Ermete. The run-up to August 28 feature folk singers, a market fair and medieval costumed parades while on August 28 the festivities climax in a huge fireworks exhibition.
Forte dei Marmi is also handily placed to visit nearby attractions such as Torre del Lago Puccini, where composer Giacomo Puccini lived. Here, there is also an open-air theatre by nearby Lake Massaciuccoli where one can enjoy his operas. In addition, the art cities of Pisa and Florence (both of which have airports) and Lucca all lie within a 45-minute radius.