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Piombino is situated on a promontory high over the Thyrrenian Sea, just in front of the Isle of Elba. Piombino, modern and active town, has always been an important strategic place thanks to its particular geographic position which allowed both the control of the Tuscan Sea and the access to the peninsula. Because of its iron resources, it was also the most important centre of the Republic of Pise. Piombino has been the capital of an indipendent State for over 400 years, and many important civilizations settled here: so, Etruscan, Roman, Spanish and French people lived in this beautiful strip of land, leaving beyond them artistic and historical traces of their presence, as for example the fortess of Populonia and the Gulf of Baratti.

The numerous beaches of Piombino present different features according to the morphology of the territory. This is why you can find long expanses of sand, cliffs overhanging the sea or pebble beaches. The sea water is here clean and transparent.

The first impression of Piombino is an unforgettable panorama of the ugly port next to the giant steel factory belching wicked black smoke. The scirocco wind blows foul smelling dirty air from the steel plant in the direction of a McDonalds just across the via della Principessa; a sight ugly enough to turn off even the most adventurous traveler. But Piombino is not the "ugliest town in Tuscany" as described but Piombino is still worth visiting.

Everywhere you walk in Piombino you feel the constant sea breeze and hear the song of seagulls. Piombino is a port town that has lived off industry for centuries. Unlike many towns in Chianti that have lost their character, Piombino is self sufficient and not geared only towards tourism. It passed under various dominations between the Etruscans to the Granducato della Toscana including the Gambacorta, the Appians, Cesare Borgia, and even the sister of Napoleon, Elisa Buonaparte Baciocchi. Then in 1893, there was the beginning of what is now the modern steel factory, the Magona. The steel factory expanded rapidly in the period of industrialization in the early twentieth century and now it is so big that one can drive 17 kilometers from one end to the other. While the giant steel factory is an eyesore, it has a fascination; we are reminded that Italy is one of the eight most industrialized nations in the world. Piombino being a city that has lived mostly off of industry was confined in tearing down old to build new, thus losing much of its monumental history.

The little fisher's port - Porticcioli di Marina - once called Porto Falesia, was used by the Etruscans to dock when the rough sea did not permit them to take the minerals they had mined on the Island of Elba to the more northern port of Baratti. In September 2005 it will be the movie set for a film about Napoleon, with Monica Bellucci.

There are many things to see in Piombino. Rivellino is a fort built in 1447 that helped protect the city along with the remains of the fortified wall designed by Leonardo Da Vinci. To the south of the historic center but within walking distance, directly on the sea is the Castello. The core of the Castello was built between the XIII-XVI centuries and eventually surrounded by the actual construction that was ordered by Cosimo de'Medici. The more modern construction that has been built attached to the Castello detract from its original grandeur and tend to hide the star-like plan that was typical of the Tuscan coastal fortifications of the Renaissance period. In the summer the Castello is animated with concerts and lectures.

From the Castello you can walk down the street along the sea to Piazza Bovio where the lighthouse signals dangerous waters. There you can watch the ferries going to Elba which is right in front of you. Piazza Bovio in summertime comes alive with all kinds of evening activities from star gazing with professional telescopes that are provided by the members of the nearby observatory on Punto Falcone to the Festa del Pesce and fireworks at the end of July. After visiting Piazza Bovio walk down the steps on the north side of the square and have an aperitif at one of the cool bars in Piazzetta del Mare. Just around the corner is a tiny aquarium that hosts indigenous fish of the Tyrrhenian Sea.

But most of all don't miss the Museo Archeologico del Territorio di Populonia. It hosts over 2000 artifacts from the lower Paleolithic on. The artifacts on the sand of Baratti inside display cases or even underwater in aquariums to best preserve them. There are wonderfully translated signs in English that will leave you wondering why you have never been here before. The most prized pieces are the silver amphora of Baratti and the bizarre mosaic from the II century BC that represents a shipwreck and several ancient fish types.

In Piombino there are a few hotels but the most striking is right on the water, theHotel Esperia. It is on the road between Piombino and Salivoli.

If you are staying in a place where you can cook and want some fresh fish the best place to buy it is at the supermarket Coop in Piombino.

There are many restaurants in Piombino that you can find walking down Via Vittorio Emanuele from Rivellino to Piazza Bovio, the place for the passeggiata. The passeggiata in Piombino is packed almost wall to wall with locals before and after dinner. Some other restaurants that are recommended by my neighbor and are not on the main street are Ubaldino in Via Benvenuto Cellini, Da Balestra behind the covered market where you can eat ostrich meat, venison and other unusual things orLo Scoglio di Orlando that is in the Marina of Salivoli.

The Marina of Salivoli with its luxurious yachts is just north of Piombino in the adjacent modern town of Salivoli that does not have even one hotel. The locals have kept it to themselves. Just north of Salivoli directly on the sea is Punto Falcone an area of natural interest that has descriptive signs hanging on much of the flora. A few inactive cannons and giant artillery from WWII are placed in strategic points and the astrological observatory is there. From Punto Falcone you can hike all the way to Populonia or vice versa (almost seven hours). Many people ride mountain bikes on the trail.

From Salivoli you can hire a yacht with or without a crew at one of the charter services in Marina of Salivoli. Sandro Scatena who manages the Salivoli side of the Gruppo Nautico Italiano has twenty yachts available. He is a dynamic person that loves to create new adventures for those willing.

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