Easy, Affordable Living in the Hamptons of Italy

Often referred to as the Hamptons of Italy, Forte dei Marmi sits on northern Tuscany’s Versilia Coast. Just as New Yorkers head to the seaside when summer debuts, wealthy Italians from Florence, Milan, and Genoa descend on Forte dei Marmi for balmy summer air. The population of 7,700 triples in July and August when the town becomes a people-watching mecca.

The town has everything you could ever need…and then some. Sidewalks are literally paved in creamy marble. The streets were lined with well-heeled shoppers laden with bags from Prada, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, and Roberto Cavalli. There were no high-rises, just tidy, pastel beach clubs set against the backdrop of the majestic Apuan Alps.

But you don’t have to be one of the rich and famous to live in this town, surrounded by Michelangelo’s Marble Mountains, as the locals refer to them, skirted by thick, fragrant pine forests, pampered pooches, and chatty pelotons. My family and I lived here in the off-season (October to May) when most of the villas were closed for the winter and the weekenders still made an appearance. The weekend buzz paired with a tranquil work week and jaw dropping natural beauty filled our life with ease.

Forte offered us a designer-clad party every weekend, without the peak season price tag. We rented a fully furnished, villa apartment for $1,000 a month, including utilities. Resort towns like this are remarkable bargains for renters like us in the fall, winter, and spring.

Our children always anticipated sunny Sundays in Forte when Piazza Marconi was full of kids driving little Porsches or riding ponies around the circle. Four generations of families would find a table and sit for hours in the sun for a leisurely lunch. We typically opted for a casual pizza on the patio at Pizzeria da Gennaro, where they sold pizza by the kilogram. The bargain price did nothing to diminish the quality…for under $34 our family of five could dine in style.

We’d then head to Bella Mia Gelateria and splurge on two scoops of gelato stuffed in a brioche for $4.50 or a small but perfect scoop in a cone for just $1.20. Our favorite flavors were: cannella (cinnamon), mascarpone e fichi (mascarpone and fig), and pistacchio (pistachio).

The Wednesday market was always overflowing with designer labels and the aroma of earthy Italian leather and linen. A new leather handbag, made in Tuscany can be had for just $23 and it’s even possible to find designer seconds, such as a Burberry trench coat for under $45.

With an average of 200 days a year of sun, Forte dei Marmi is the perfect place to sit on the beach and watch the fisherman at their craft or go searching for treasures washed up by the crashing Ligurian Sea. And if you feel the itch to explore, Lucca, Florence, Cinque Terra, Pisa, and Milan are all easy day trips.

For us, we were content with quiet beaches and magnificent sunrises and sunsets that we organized our days around. We embarked on lazy beach-combing excursions where many important questions about life were discussed, such as which cafe will we go to for our morning cappuccino and cornetto for $3.50.

There are many vantage points from which to view the benefits of a romantic life in a new culture, and the Italian seaside makes it a breeze…

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