I was all set for my trip to the Italian coast this past summer – just needed to book that final hotel room in Cinque Terre and I’d be set.
But something didn’t feel right – I spoke with a few hotels, & even though Cinque Terre had been on my bucket list for years, the hilltop towns just weren’t gelling for me for a family vacation. I have two teens and one active 10 year old, & thought perhaps it might be too quiet for them. I also thought they wouldn’t like the rock beaches with no waves…so I slept on it – and then researched. And I’m so glad I did.
At the last minute, I was booking at the California Park Hotel in Forte dei Marmi. My impetus?
Forte dei Marmi, a resort town right on the Tuscan coast in the province of Lucca, boasts nice, clean, sandy beaches …
with waves for my kids to body surf all day. Some Italian beaches like those in Cinque Terre had smaller waves, which might be better for younger children.
Forte dei Marmi’s location in Northern Tuscany still enabled us to take a day trip to Cinque Terre – and Pisa and Florence for that matter.
(And I loved the fact Forte dei Marmi is not in any of the major guide books I checked, but it is a town worth noting for so many reasons. )
Let me warn you however, since Forte dei Marmi is a definite resort town, most of the hotels seemed sleek, and somewhat cold – not places where kids could roam freely…& the prices were not that kid-friendly either! Forte dei Marmi is not a cheap escape, but if you research, it doesn’t have to break the bank.
I felt like “Golidlocks” discovering the California Park Hotel- “this one is just right”… elegant simplicity and unpretentious.
Not to mention, the hotel is surrounded by park-like grounds…tons of grass and trees and space for my kids to run around or kick a soccer ball.
It is located in an upscale residential area, that very much reminded me of Montecito, CA..rugged but pretty surrounded by villas.The room prices are still about two times more than other areas of Italy, even with the strong dollar, but lower than others in Forte dei Marmi.
Another reason I liked the hotel is that, unlike many other hotels, it has rooms to accommodate families larger than four people. Woot woot! We had villa #506 – a simple, but clean & stylish two bedroom suite. Not the largest space, as there is no common area – just two rooms with a connecting hallway and bathroom…..but the bonus to this room is that there is an outdoor terrace that becomes the living room – late night card games, pre-dinner drinks and appetizers…
with a great view of the large, pretty pool. The kids enjoyed the pool – not stuffy, and there were other children around.
The hotel certainly has charm – it is rooted in tradition, and it still uses old fashioned keys – which, although cute, made for a longer time trying to get into the room LOL. And the super small bedside tables were for another era – one that didn’t require charging phones and e-readers bedside so one could read and check emails.
But the old fashioned elegance certainly put me in a good mood every morning when I got to drink my latte al fresco in this gorgeous china. Who does their best china every morning?!?!? What a great idea.
The outdoor dining area was so pleasant, and the breakfast buffet was filled with lovely pastries, meats, etc.
There’s also a little bar area that I loved – refreshments and cocktails all day, and late night snacks if you need.
The hotel offers bike rentals right on the property – another charming, family friendly thing about Forte dei Marmi is that you ride bikes E-V-E-R-Y-W-H-E-R-E!! The hotel is close enough to the beach, and the center of town, so we rode to each meal off the property.
Forte dei Marmi has a number of beach clubs right on the sand, but the hotel has a relationship with one that will give you a discount – it will cost $50 a day for two chairs and an umbrella to sit on that beach – it may seem like a lot, but that is typical for that area. Yes, I have spent a lot less in other Italian beach towns for a beach club, but Forte dei Marmi is an upscale resort town, so you pay for it. TIP: Here’s one way to save… that we discovered just because we were getting late starts each day due to jet lag – show up after 2PM, and some clubs give you a discount.
There is no hotel gym, but a tiny outdoor gazebo overlooking the pool with two treadmills…
The staff was very nice, and the hotel was especially clean. I would love to return for a longer time! You could stay a week, and take multiple day trips, and still enjoy the nightlife and beaches of Forte dei Marmi.
I’m so glad I listened to my gut and changed my plans from staying a few nights in Cinque Terre, to Forte dei Marmi.