Travel /
Toscana

The Coast of Dolce Vita

“There you go. We have everything, open-air, ceiling of stars, it’s a pity I forgot my cigarettes at home”.

As he opens a sun-bed Vittorio Gassman’s voice is certainly recognisable, but the place where he and Jean-Louis Trintignant find themselves in this night-time scene from the film ‘Il Sorpasso‘ (1962) is less so. After a daring trip out of town that began in Rome, here are the two protagonists of Dino Risi’s film on a stretch of beach in Castiglioncello, Tuscany. This beach no longer exists, and Bagno Ausonia, where the two protagonists play table tennis, is composed of various terraces, while a little further on in the village, the Pineta Marradi remains unchanged. Caffè Ginori is still an unmissable meeting place and the Hotel Miramare, for a long time the only 5-star hotel north of Rome before Versilia, is still active even if slightly falling apart.

When Dino Risi decided to shoot some scenes of ‘Il Sorpasso‘ in Castiglioncello and along Via Aurelia that runs along the coast, passing by Romito and Calafuria, he found the perfect combination to crown the graceful and splendidly Italian atmosphere that pervades the entire film. Yesterday, as today, in Castiglioncello, one rediscovers all those perfectly lazy routines that one would generally ignore for the lack of time or fear of falling into bad habits. Here, people have always preferred playing cards instead of going out to the sea, a cinema in the pine forest to a trendy night club, an aperitivo in the Piazzetta to a luxurious dinner. Although Castiglioncello is a very culturally active town (just look at the calendar of exhibitions and events at the Pasquini Castle), it delightfully holds an old atmosphere, the one of the dolce vita, one of many famous people, from actors and directors to politicians, who chose it as their holiday destination. Alberto Sordi discovered Castiglioncello in 1958, four years before “Il Sorpasso” made it world-famous. He found a village perfectly different from the mundanity of Versilia and the chaos of Rome: perfect for someone who, like him, spends the summer reading and napping. He bought Villa Corcos, a castle-like building near Punta Righini, which still stands out behind a hairpin curve. “Here I find myself again,” he would tell his friends, as he would indulge in long walks along the sea to Caffè Ginori. 

Many other famous people also from the world of entertainment considered Castiglioncello a favourite destination for long summers, including screenwriter Suso Cecchi D’Amico, who nicknamed Castiglioncello “the creative holiday” because its beauty and quiet inspired her films. Bice Valori (Suso and Bice were protagonists of Castiglioncello‘s cultural life for many years), Paolo Panelli, Renzo Montagnani and Luchino Visconti all vacationed here. Marcello Mastroianni must be added to the list; for him it was a “paradise on earth”, a safe haven where he could spend his Sundays in peace with his friends in the Ciucchi brothers’ garage on Via Fucini, which has gone down in history as the “Club of the 4 Smooth Tires”. Their father had been the chauffeur of Luigi Pirandello, Vittorio De Sica, Silvana Mangano and Franco Zeffirelli, but with the arrival of Mastroianni, it became a club far from being exclusive but perfect for enjoying peaceful moments away from the spotlight. Together with the Ciucchi brothers, the four founding friends were Mastroianni, Montagnani, Panelli and Valori. Still, all the people from the town and the rest of Cinecittà people who frequented the area were welcome. There were no barriers, no distinctions: at the Circolo (club), chatting was free and open to all. Mastroianni arrived in Castiglioncello thanks to his wife, Flora Carabella, who took him on their honeymoon. With the same smooth serenity that always distinguished him, he took possession of it and made it his own.

But Castiglioncello’s family charm goes back further, to the end of the 19th century, to the years when the Macchiaioli painters came here to winter and work, and slowly the town welcomed musicians and intellectuals such as the historian and theatre critic Silvio d’Amico. In addition to the d’Amico family, the writer Emilio Cecchi (father of Suso Cecchi d’Amico) and the journalist Aldo Valori (father of Bice Valori) arrived. In the 1920s, it became a meeting place for many musicians until ten years later, Pirandello appeared in the pine forest, spending his summers writing for Marta Abba and playing bocce. In a letter dated 4 August 1932, he wrote to her: “The place is charming here: a paradise. A silence! A stillness! I am enchanted by natural beauty; far superior to that of Viareggio and Camaiore and Lecco; I tell you, a real paradise. I stay all day working, in front of the sea.”

Indeed, Castiglioncello is located in a rather exceptional part of Tuscany, the stunning Etruscan Coast, just 15 km from Livorno. Here, the coastline is steep, with cliffs and stones dropping sheer into the sea, offering breathtaking views and sunsets. The long flat beaches of Versilia give way to small secret bays whose rocks are lapped by crystal-clear waters. On clear sunny days, the islands of Gorgona and Capraia appear on the horizon, almost as if you could touch them. At the end of the day, as the same ceiling of stars as Gassman returns once again, Castiglioncello reveals its secret: its discreet, elegant yet affordable character, almost domestic and relaxed, so much so that those who stay here can also enjoy the incredible luxury of boredom.

 

WHAT YOU CAN’T MISS

Caffè Ginori

Ristorante Il Piccinino

La Piazzetta

Il Cardellino

La Baracchina

Il Fortullino (on the coast towards Chioma)

La terrazza di Giorgia (Quercianella)