Looking for a local’s top spot on the Tuscan coast for kids? Here’s my plug for Cecina. Stay tuned for what makes Cecina so great if you’re headed to the Tuscan coast with children!
I’ve been going to Cecina at least twice a year for over 15 years with my husband. And he’s been going every summer since he was a kid! A lot of these highlights are things my husband grew up doing as a child, and now our kids do them every year too.
Find out my favorite beaches and food spots for kids, and how to choose the best beach in Cecina for your family. Learn about Tombolo di Cecina Nature Reserve, a hidden treasure that sets Cecina apart from neighboring Tuscan beach towns.
Learn about where to walk, bike rides, Cecina’s playgrounds, boats, horses, and even a larger-than-life bouncy house park. There are amusement parks, and rainy day activities nearby too!
Table of Contents
WHY CECINA IS GREAT FOR KIDS
Of all the towns along the Tuscan coast, why is Cecina my pick for families with children?
- It’s flat and stroller friendly
- There are lot of fun activities within walking distance
- Enjoy a variety of beautiful beaches: go to a beach club one day and a nature reserve the next
- It has charm that neighboring sea towns lack
- Hang out in the shade of Cecina’s pine forests
- Acqua Village Cecina, a water park right in town
The pronunciation of Cecina is: CHEH-chee-nah
Listen to how to pronounce Cecina here:
Cecina, with the accent on the second syllable, is the name of a Tuscan street food made from chickpea flour. Make sure you pronounce Cecina with the accent in the right spot so Italians can tell if you’re talking about Cecina the place or Cecina the food!
WHERE IS CECINA?
Cecina is a small city on the Tuscan coast about 43 km (50 minute drive) south of Livorno, and 58 km (55 minute drive) south of Pisa. The part of Cecina right on the water is called Marina di Cecina or Cecina Mare. It’s a beach town with a lot to offer people of all ages– especially kids!
This part of the Tuscan coast is called the costa degli etruschi, or the Etruscan Coast. It runs from Livorno down to Piombino, and has a large number of Etruscan necropoli.
CECINA BEACHES WITH KIDS
Cecina’s coastline is good for kids because it’s sandy and water access is relatively flat, with a slight descent getting into the water. That means plenty of room for making sand castles and playing in the sand.
A few meters into the water, it gets about a meter deep. Depending on the tide and weather, there are usually small waves.
Cecina Mare’s beaches fly the coveted Bandiera Blu, or Blue Flag, awarded to clean beaches by the Foundation for Environmental Education. The water is clean, but not transparent.
Choose the type of beach that’s right for your family:
PRIVATE BEACH FACILITIES
The Tuscan coast is largely devoted to beach clubs. At a private beach (spiaggia privata) or beach facility (spiagga attrezzata) you must pay to rent an umbrella in order to access the beach. There are bathrooms, changing rooms, and a coffee bar that usually serves sandwiches and light meals.
A private beach or beach facility is like a beach club, but you don’t have to pay to be a member all season: instead you can pay per day to rent an umbrella (ombrellone), sun lounger (lettino) and/or beach chair (sdraio).
Many Italian families have a beach club that their family has been going to for years, where they rent the same umbrella station and chat with the same people summer after summer.
Most of the beach in Cecina Mare (besides the Tombolo di Cecina Nature Reserve) is devoted to beach facilities. We have had good experiences at:
- Bagni Sirena: Viale della Vittoria 64
- Bagni Olimpia: Viale della Vittoria 68
- Bagni La Perla: Viale della Vittoria 72
PROS of beach facilities:
- All amenities and conveniences are right there, like bathrooms and food
- You don’t have to lug your own shade and chairs to the beach
- Sun loungers are more comfortable than the ground
CONS of beach facilities:
- Little privacy: you’re right next to the people at the next umbrella and you can hear each other’s conversations
- Smoking is allowed so you may end up smelling cigarette smoke at the beach
- You have to pay
FREE PUBLIC BEACHES
In Italy, a spiaggia libera is a free public beach. You don’t have to pay to access the beach, and you bring your own umbrella and beach chairs. Space is first come first serve. The downside is that free beaches in Italy are often not as clean or well-maintained as private beaches, and there are no bathrooms.
In Cecina Mare there are free public beaches:
At these beaches you’re still close to the main drag’s bars and restaurants, so you don’t have to go far for food and bathrooms.
Locals recommend the public beach in Le Gorette, an area of Cecina just north of the boat marina. It’s very flat, and the water stays shallow further out. However, I’m not a fan because the beach is pebbly, and there is often flotsam and jetsam floating around.
Our favorite free beach is the Tombolo di Cecina Nature Reserve, which has an entire 5 km stretch of free beaches. Read on right below for more about this special spot.
PROS of free public beaches:
- You’re usually not right on top of your neighbors
- You don’t have to pay
- Unobstructed sea views
CONS of free public beaches:
- In Italy, free beaches are usually not well-maintained and you may find litter
- First come first serve
- Have to bring all your own stuff
TOMBOLO DI CECINA NATURE RESERVE
Tombolo di Cecina Nature Reserve (La Riserva Naturale Tomboli di Cecina) is a special oasis along this built up section of the Tuscan coastline. Cars and motorcycles are not allowed, so you can enjoy it worry-free (just watch out for bikes).
Tombolo di Cecina Nature Reserve is a 1000-acre pine forest along the coast made up of stone and maritime pines. These pines look like giant umbrellas and cover the entire park with a tall blanket of shade high in the trees. Locals simply call it la pineta, or the pine forest.
The reserve is flat and has a wide, 5 km path that runs its entire length. The path is fantastic for walking with a stroller, jogging and bike riding in the shade. There are sporadic picnic tables scattered around the park, and a water fountain at the northern entrance.
Not only that, there are 12 paths that lead through the pine forest to the beach. Even though it’s far from food and amenities, Tombolo di Cecina Nature Reserve is worth it to get away from the buzz of town.
Access to the nature reserve and beach is free. There are no bathrooms or dining facilities inside.
PROS of Tombolo di Cecina Nature Reserve:
- Natural scenery
- Away from the buzz of the built up part of town
- Plenty of room so that even in August you can find a spot
CONS of Tombolo di Cecina Nature Reserve:
- Have to bring all your own food and gear
- It’s a good walk to the beach
- No bathrooms or food in the immediate vicinity except (at La Capannina and Ole Tapas Bar).
TAKING A WALK WITH KIDS
There are plenty of great spots in Cecina for taking a passeggiata– or stroll– with kids, or walking your kid in the stroller.
The waterfront promenade, or lungomare is along Viale della Vittoria at the north of Cecina Mare. It’s flat and closed to cars. It is lined with coffee bars, restaurants and beach facilities, and decorated with palm trees and fountains.
Just one block away is a pine forest along Viale Galliano that runs parallel to the promenade. The tall trees offer plenty of natural shade for a lovely walk. Benches, playgrounds and benches dot the pine forest.
BIKE RIDING WITH KIDS
Our favorite way to get around Cecina Mare is by bike, like the locals.
The Tombolo di Cecina Nature Reserve has a nice flat, wide path, so you and your kids can ride your bike to the beach or do the 10 km total trip down and back. I recommend this for older children and enthusiastic bikers, since the full trip may be too long for younger kids.
In town there are plenty of bike racks and places to park your bike. Make sure to always lock your bike up.
RENTING A BIKE IN CECINA
If you don’t have your own bikes, rent one in Cecina Mare:
There are two shady stretches of pine forest along Viale Galliano with playgrounds and benches. These are great when you need to get out of the sun, but the kids have plenty of energy to play.
There is another playground in front of the parking lot at the intersection of Viale Galliano and Via F. Gioia, but be warned: there’s not a lick of shade!
BOUNCY HOUSE BONANZA
Parents, prepare yourselves. This is the real reason my kids love Cecina: the larger than life, technicolor bouncy house park that seems to go on forever. It’s a couple blocks from the beach at the corner of Via Raffaele Rossetti and Viale Galliano.
For € 7 (in 2022), your kid can have the time of their life bouncing all over the place inside the park until closing time. Parents watch their kids from the chairs right outside.
Some surprising things about the bouncy house park:
- It’s open from 16:00 to 19:30, and 21:00 to midnight. In the summer Italian kids stay up extra late so they don’t miss out on the coolest part of the day!
- There is a kiosk that sells snacks, water and . . . beer for parents!
- There’s a hair dryer because Italians believe you can get sick from having a wet head, even when it’s a million degrees out.
- It wouldn’t pass US safety standards, but it hasn’t been shut down and I’ve never seen anyone get seriously hurt
Do you and your kids like boats? Cecina’s new boat marina, or porto, is a great place to take the kids and admire all the different yachts, catamarans and fishing boats. It’s located in Via Guado alle Vacche, a 2 minute drive from the main drag in Cecina Mare.
If you’re looking for a change of scene, take your kids to visit the horses at the stables, or maneggio. The Centro Ippico Cecinese is located a few blocks from the beach in the pine forest at Via del Galoppatoio 1 (galoppatoio means horse track). There is a restaurant and snack bar too.
NIGHT LIFE FOR ALL AGES
Between the bouncy house park, the night life along the waterfront promenade, and playgrounds in the pine forest open at night, Cecina has night life for the whole family. Don’t forget, Italian kids stay up late during the summer so they don’t miss out on the coolest part of the day.
ACQUA VILLAGE CECINA
If you’ve had your fill of the beach, head to Acqua Village Cecina water park. It’s right in Cecina Mare, about a 15 minute walk from the beach.
Acqua Village Cecina has something fun for everyone, from toddlers to adults. There are 7 water slides and 4 pools, including a wave pool. It’s well-maintained and clean. My family and I visit every year!
Tuscany’s largest amusement park, Cavallino Matto is a local favorite of kids of all ages. It’s located in Marina di Castagneto Carducci, about a 25 minute drive from Cecina Mare.
RAINY DAY ACTIVITIES
Tuscany’s premier aquarium in Livorno is just a 45 minute drive (40 km) north up the coast. Livorno Aquarium is big enough to keep kids interested, but small enough to be manageable in a couple hours. It’s right on the water, along Livorno’s beautiful waterfront promenade.
I recommend buying tickets in advance because the aquarium gets very crowded on summer rainy days.
PARCO GALLO ROSE
Parco Gallo Rose is a walk-through zoo park with over 130 animals, right in the outskirts of Cecina. The park is outside, but you can still visit in the rain as long as it’s not pouring.
EATING AND DRINKING WITH KIDS
In Cecina you’ll find seafood on almost all menus. Classic dishes to have at the beach are spaghetti alle vongole (spaghetti with clams) and fritto misto (mixed fried seafood: usually calamari and shrimp).
Do your kids hold their noses and clamp their mouths shut at seafood? Join the club. Thankfully, Cecina has plenty of pizza, and you can almost always depend on pasta bianca at Italian restaurants.
Pasta bianca= the superhero dish that’s not on the menu! Most restaurants will be happy to make it for you, and it’s a lifesaver when eating out with kids in Italy.
Pasta bianca means white pasta, and is plain pasta without any sauce. Pasta all’olio is pasta with olive oil, and pasta al burro is pasta with butter. Yes, even some Italian kids are picky eaters!
Parents: some of Italy’s most prestigious red wines come from the nearby Bolgheri area. If you like white wine, try a Vermentino from the Tuscan coast.
WHERE TO GRAB A PICNIC MEAL
If you want to grab food to bring to the beach, or the Tombolo di Cecina Nature Reserve, Cecina has plenty of options:
- supermarkets (like Conad)
- alimentari (small food shops like this one) where you can get supplies and sandwiches
- pizza to go at La Capannina, at the northern end of the Tombolo di Cecina Nature Reserve.
Buy fresh cheese made fresh on site at Mozzarellificio Cuor di Toscana, about a 7 minute drive from the beach in San Pietro in Palazzi, on Via S. Pietro in Palazzi 27. How to choose between fresh mozzarella, burrata and stracciatella? And with truffle or without?
WHERE TO HAVE A RESTAURANT MEAL ON THE BEACH
Want to have a good meal while your kids play on the beach? We have two favorite waterfront restaurants with outdoor seating.
- Il Delfino is a restaurant right on the beach in a section of Cecina called Le Gorette. The ambiance is slightly more elegant than most beach spots. The owner can be a bit gruff, but don’t let that throw you off.
Watch your children play on the beach or on the breakwater rocks while you enjoy a civilized meal. My husband and I like the seafood dishes, and our kids can vouch for the pizza.
- La Capannina sits at the opposite end of Cecina, right at the start of the Tombolo di Cecina Nature Reserve. They have a variety of seafood dishes and pizzas.
If your kids can sit through a restaurant meal, here are some tried and true family favorites in Cecina:
- Ristopescheria da Mary: Viale Galliano 5, featuring home caught seafood!
- Ristorante di Andrea: Viale della Vittoria 68
- Olinto: Viale della Vittoria, 6
- Ostro: Largo Fratelli Cairoli, 7
GELATO IN CECINA
Ice cream at the beach in Italy is a must for kids and adults!
Enjoy it while taking your evening stroll, or passeggiata, along the waterfront. Watching gelato get all over your kids’ hands, faces, and clothes is part of the charm.
Even though Cecina is a beach town where people eat tons of gelato, we have yet to find a superb gelateria, or ice cream store, to wholeheartedly recommend. That said, you can get your fix at:
- Antichi Sapori 2000: Viale Galliano 3
- Gelateria Slap: Viale Galliano 10
- Il Gelato di Cloe: Viale della Vittoria 10