By the third week of August, locals begin to take on the colour of
terracotta and alliances have been formed and reformed based on smoking
habits, lovers, and one's command of prompt wait service in the various
rows of the beach clubs - known as bagni in these parts. You don't go
for a few days or even a week, rather, Forte dei Marmi requires a full
summer and then another to truly get to know it, like the families that
have been coming from Florence and Milan for generations. Visitors
arrive through the mountains where Michelangelo once forged his Carrera
and carted it down and through town with donkeys. Soon after, a fishing
harbor emerged and later the town became a summertime destination for
Florentine elite that built many of the charming houses and villas that
dot the manicured streets of town.
Ideally, as for myself, a first time in Forte de Marmi comes as a guest in a private home in neighborhoods like Roma Imperiale where descendants of 20th Century industrialists share street addresses with the likes of Giorgio Armani - who came to Forte dei Marmi in the 1980s. If you hotel it, old and new worlds seems to be at odds at established properties like Hotel Augustus where manicured gardens surround a neoclassical villa that once belonged to the Agnelli Family - owners of Italy's Fiat. Augustus benefits from a more recent remodel than other former-residence hotels like Hotel Franceschi that still feels like a stay at a very wealthy aunt’s. New money opts for Principe Forte dei Marmi with its valet of Lambos and sleek Italian style with be-seen pool and glam eatery that’s just off the beach.
And it's the beach that defines life in Forte dei Marmi with its endless rows of beach clubs that's reminiscent of any worthy Italian resort town. At 3pm on a summer day you will see your café workers, housewives, teenage girls and men in full suits doing superman changes in picture-perfect cabanas and emerging in very Italian swim trunks and bikinis. There is no elitism in Forte dei Marmi beaching, as there’s one to suit every budget from the uber-posh Bagno America with its equally impressive restaurant to Anetta more geared towards 20-somthings and Piero with its private pool and 1930s styling. With beach days that linger til 8pm, dinner is a less formal affair with pizza eateries outnumbering fine restaurants in town, with the exception of hotel eateries like La Magnolia and Bistrot with its fresh Michelin-starred beach dining. Others opt for a short drive to Pietrasanta, once a hilltop town of artesian sculptors, whose main square is home to eateries like L'Enoteca Marcucci, with wine bar and family-style appetizers, the quintessential culinary conclusion to a day spent in the Tyrrhenian coast hotspot.