Along the glittering Gulf of Follonica is the city that is referred to as the "Miami of the Maremma". Fronted by sandy beaches and dotted with sky-rise buildings, it has a certain similarity, but Follonica is more beach resort and less bustle. Laid back and welcoming, it's a town that attracts tourists for its wide sandy beaches that have a Bandiera Blu designation, the green hills inland, and the nature parks nearby. In fact, Follonica may be a busy seafront town, but it's practically surrounded by nature preserves, with the Riserva Naturale Scarlino to the south, the Riserva di Padule Orti Bottagone to the north, and the Riserva Poggio Tre to the east. That gives visitors the best of beach life as well as nature.
The town has a history that dates back to the Etruscans; the remains of the Castello di Villi perched on the high point above town dates to 884. But Follonica is mostly a modern city with lots of life. It is said that the name derives from "fulloni" - in reference to the bellows used in the foundries. It was the iron industry that spurred economic and population growth of Follonica, thanks to the initiatives of Leopoldo II, one of the last grand-dukes of Tuscany, with ties to the Bourbon dynasty. He took advantage of the "metallic hills" of the Maremma for mining and planted the Royal and Imperial Foundries in Follonica, which at one time was the second most important point in Europe for the trade.
Fine examples of cast iron can be seen around town as a result. Look for intricate designs on the Church of San Leopoldo (humbly dedicated to the city's patron by himself!), the lovely gate known as Cancello Ex Ilva, the Palazzo Granducale, which was the beautiful Liberty-style villa of Leopoldo, and the summit of the Torre del Orologio (clock tower). There is also a museum, the Museo del Ferro, dedicated to the history and working of the precious metal here, housed in a former factory.
Art lovers won't want to miss the picture gallery, Pinacoteca Amedeo Modigliani, dedicated to Italy's premier contemporary artist who was from nearby Livorno, with works by Picasso, Dali', Sabatelli, and more. Walk along the seafront promenade starting in Piazza al Mare, where you'll find loads of gelato shops, then stroll along to see the Liberty style villas that face the sea. For a great beach, head to Torre Mozza, where you can swim in the shadow of a Saracen watch tower. North of the city center, the beaches are backed by shady umbrella pine trees.
Follonica has an abundance of restaurants, shops, groceries and discos, and are used to giving tourists a warm welcome. It is near Scarlino and other hill towns scattered inland. Grosseto, Massa Marittima and Livorno are nearby, as well.
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