FORTE DEI MARMI, Italy — This charming enclave in northern Tuscany initially drew tourists for its pristene beaches and, in fact, was one of Italy's first beach resorts, luring wealthy Italians who settled in expansive villas nestled in the mountain pines. Over the years, the village has evolved into a popular summer playground where high-style shopping leads the extracurricula agenda.
I started coming to Forte dei Marmi with my father in the 1990s. It was a logical destination for the family business — Cangelosi, a luxury provider of marble, granite and limestone products. It didn't take me long to fall in love with this lazy yet energetic, casual yet luxurious beachside town with beautiful people, amazing architecture and Italian vintage style.
What's not to love about the glorious sparkling beaches lining the shore that is paralleled by the Apuan Alps, their glistening white marble caps giving the appearance of snow in the distance?
Aside from Milan, Forte dei Marmi's is the only Prada boutique in the company that showcases the name of the city on the bag.
The village itself, quaint and yet quite fashionable, is centered around a market and a marble fortress built in 1788. Famed Carrara, known for its marble quarries, is the next village over and decorative marble abounds throughout Forte dei Marmi. There are even white Carrara marble street curbs and glistening marble door pulls.
Gucci, Prada, Escada, Dolce Gabanna, Mui Mui, Tod's and Moncler all have boutiques here. In fact, I still carry the orange Prada tote that I purchased here several years ago. Aside from Milan, Forte dei Marmi's is the only Prada boutique in the company that showcases the name of the city on the bag. As a bag connoisseur, I was sold on my glorious find.
Passing through the cobblestone streets lined by buildings where balconies are brimming with flowers, I was drawn by the window displays at Morini, where brightly-colored bags, skull images and camo bags beckoned. Hermés-style canvas bags, Celine-style luggage bags and shoes that looked like they could rock their way down a runway were the rage. The neon colors were an instant, appealing jolt.
Morini was full of surprises inlcuding the wedge platforms I fell for — they were Brian Campbell from California. How frustrating is that? Shopping in Italy, but buying American. They were just too cool and too comfy to pass up. A Courreges patent/vinyl retro style jacket in an amazing sky blue was my splurge. I couldn't resist when I learned that it wasn't for sale in the States yet, and was available only in Italy and France.
As I continued my journey through the cobblestone streets, I was stopped in my tracks by the window display at Fiacchini. There was the much-coveted and rarely-available Celine Luggage Tote. According to the incredibly stylish and sexy store manager, only 16 of these bags are received by the store each season, making me appreciate even more the exclusive shopping opportunities in Forte Dei Marme.
One of my absolute favorite shopping experiences is Forte dei Marmi's outdoor market, held each Wednesday.
One of my absolute favorite shopping experiences is Forte dei Marmi's outdoor market, held each Wednesday. The markets in Italy offer an amazing opportunity to see a melting pot of goods in a small location. For the most part they accept cash only so plan ahead to trade your dollars for euros.
Italians in Forte dei Marmi and surrounding areas were astonished to discover that we had traveled so far to vacation in their beachside oasis. In fact, we never heard another American accent until we traveled to Florence.
In the markets of Forte dei Marmi and Florence, the bright and exotic colors were enticing while the smell of leather belts and bags were reminiscent of my grandfather's shoe shine shop in Bryan/ College Station. For this reason and many more, I will keep returning to Forte dei Marmi with its engaging people, deep-rooted culture, scrumptious regional Italian cuisine and impeccable style.
Donae Cangelosi Chramosta, the owner of The Vintage Contessa, writes about travel, design and fashion.