The Freshwater Ponds of Malbacco: Tuscany's Best-Kept Secret
Halfway between tourist hot spots Cinque Terre and Pisa, Malbacco's freshwater ponds are Tuscany's best-kept secret. Shaded by towering pines and refreshed by cool mountain stream waters, this series of ponds is a welcome respite from the hottest days under the Tuscan sun—and the most crowded days on the Mediterranean coast. Finding the ponds isn't easy, which contributes to their local appeal. Driving the small winding road uphill from Malbacco, look for signs marking trails on the left and cars or Vespas parked along the right.
Sounds of running water waft through the trees along the lightly-beaten path to the most beautiful of the ponds. The few scrapes and scratches from the hike are worth the prize on the other side. Brilliant, clear water fills a bowl of Italian marble, accented by large stones perfect for basking. At my favorite pond, adventurers climb the rock to slip down the gushing natural water slide, while only the bravest jump headfirst into the deep pool. Pack a lunch, bring a bottle of local vermentino, and prepare for an afternoon that's altogether peaceful and adventurous, relaxing and invigorating.
Just don't tell anyone you're not a local.