Story and photos by Karl Weisel
U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden Public Affairs Office
Cabins, campground, other amenities are launchpad for exploring Tuscany
Whether you use it to explore the nearby cities of Pisa or Florence, as a stopping point on the way to the islands of Sardinia or Elba, or simply spend time there relaxing on the American beach in Tirrenia, Camp Darby has a lot to offer. Situated just down the road from Galileo Gallilei Airport and Livorno, the U.S. military base features a wide variety of accommodations including cabins, small apartments and a campground, a tours office, commissary, post exchange, car rental agency and more.
A recently renovated swimming pool, shower facilities and upgraded cabins make Camp Darby a popular stopping point for people all over Europe.
A few miles down the road from the military base lies the resort town of Tirrenia and features its own guarded U.S. beach facility complete with parking, lifeguards, beach chairs and umbrellas, boats for rent, a Greek snack stand, hot showers and more.
And if you want to enjoy Italian cuisine while relaxing on the American beach, head left on the beachfront about 400 meters to La Perla Restaurant which offers a wide array of Italian dishes served cafeteria style (bathing suits are acceptable attire) for a decent price. The daily specials at the large patio cafeteria include everything from fresh fish baked in basil and a white wine/lemon sauce to homemade lasagna, “fritto misto” (mixed fried fish including prawns and octopus) to basic pasta dishes. Washed down with a plateful of vegetables, an Italian salad and bread, a carafe of chilled local house wine, followed by some tiramisu and strong cups of espresso and it may be hard to even remember the soggy skies over Germany.
Inexpensive flights through Ryanair from Frankfurt-Hahn Airport to Pisa are one way to get to Camp Darby fast. But if you plan on camping, remember that one pays extra for more bags with Ryanair and it may be hard to transport camping gear.
To find out about the prices for renting cabins, rooms or a camping spot on Camp Darby visit www.livornomwr.com. Local SatoTravel offices can also help with planning a trip to Pisa.
Even though August is the peak tourist season in the towns and cities of Tuscany, one can still visit the sights comfortably. The locals advise getting into town early before the heat of the day or wandering through in the evening. This works well if you have children and want to spend the day at the beach before strolling through nearby Pisa in the evening. Italians, like most southern Europeans, tend to come alive after the sun sets, and Pisa is a lively town full of local students and citizens even after the tourists have faded for the night.
Simply strolling through Pisa’s many squares such as the Piazza dei Cavalieri, walking along the Arno River or marveling at the famed structures on the Campo dei Miracoli (Field of Miracles) including the Torre Pendente (leaning tower) and Duomo (cathedral) as lights cast long shadows on the medieval stone houses fills one with a sense of the wonder at humankind’s accomplishments.
About 80 kilometers north of Camp Darby lies the famed Cinque Terre region. After climbing the winding coastal roads past La Spezia by car or traveling by train through a variety of cliff-hugging tunnels, one comes to the village of Riomaggiore, the first of five towns which pour precariously down the rocky mountainsides straight into the greenish-blue waters of the Ligurian Sea. Parking is at a premium along the coastal roads leading down to Cinque Terre, so arriving early, by bus or train is recommended.
Besides the stunning views in each of the five towns — Riomaggiore, Monterosso, Corniglia, Manarola and Vernazza — the allure for tourists is the fact that one must navigate between them on foot via dramatic paths hewn out of the rocky cliffs, by train or boat. Walks range from about 20 minutes between the first two towns to five hours to make the full distance. There is a small charge to walk on the cliffside paths which were originally carved out by local farmers to join the remote villages.
If you are on a tight budget and want to forgo a restaurant meal, consider picking up a couple of pieces of focaccia (cut from large pans of pizza with everything from potatoes and rosemary on them to eggplant and pesto sauce) from a local rosticerria and munch on them while wandering the Cinque Terre walkways.
There are so many other sights located nearby Camp Darby that one will most likely only whet the appetite for future visits. Florence, Siena, the walled city of Lucca and famed painter and sculptor Amedeo Modigliani’s hometown of Livorno are all within a short distance. And if you have the time head farther east to Vicenza to pick up tips for exploring the Veneto Region — especially Verona and Venice.
Don’t forget to stop by your local library before setting out on a trip. A wide range of travel books and guides are available.