Italy's Best Beaches
Surrounded by water on all sides, Italy has a unique coastline with nooks and crannies that create quiet swimming coves and picturesque seascapes. Italy's beaches are most crowded during July and August when Italians join throngs of foreign tourists to escape the heat. Whether you're searching for an upscale resort or a secluded seaside village, there's a lounge chair on the sea just waiting for you.
Most visitors experience the Amalfi Coast while navigating the twists and turns during a scenic drive on the coastal road. The view is breathtaking with jagged cliffs and blossoming flowers, but the best way to experience the coast is to visit one of its seaside villages.
The busiest stretch of the coast curves between the villages of Amalfi and Positano. Erosion has destroyed much of the beach areas in this region leaving small private beaches at hotels and beach clubs. The fanciest hotel in Amalfi is the expensive Hotel Santa Caterina where you can walk a winding garden path to the beach and take the elevator, carved into the rocky cliffs, back up to the hotel.
Positano has been a welcome beach retreat since the days of Roman nobility and even the ancient Greeks. There are 2 public beaches -- the secluded Fornillo beach and the main beach center at Spiaggia Grande. The elegant Il San Pietro di Positano hotel is the utmost in luxury with a private beach cove for sunbathing and swimming.
Located off the Sorrento peninsula in southern Italy, Capri is a rocky, mountainous island that's a favorite with starlets and jet-setters. While many of the island's hotels boast great views of the clear blue sea, the J.K. Palace Capri is the only one with direct beach access. You can easily explore the area's best beaches on your own. The best beach on the north side is the wide expanse at the Bagni di Tiberio while the south side of the island has Marina di Mulo. Most beaches are supported by beach clubs which provide beach access as well as facilities, towels and chairs for a nominal fee. Save time and avoid the steep walk back to town by taking a quick boat ride to the beach from the Marina Grande.
Visitors flock to the Italian Riviera for great hiking and sunny days at the beach. At the center of it all is Cinque Terre, 5 small villages set in the cliffs hugging the distinctive coastline. Monterosso is the resort town with charming hotels, busy beaches and plenty of restaurants to feed hungry tourists. The beach here is open to the public and free, though there are many spots where you can pay for a comfy lounge chair and umbrella for shade. Escape the crowds by hiking to the smaller town of Riomaggiore where you can relax on the rocky beach before continuing your journey along the seaside trails. Take a break from the beach to enjoy some of the town's famed pesto atop a heaping plate of pasta.
Tuscany is known for its rolling hills, great wine and classic Italian culture. But Tuscany also has a beach scene with sandy white shores and quaint seaside villages. In western Tuscany, Maremma has a booming cowboy culture as well as almost 100 miles of coastline overlooking crystal clear water. Castiglione della Pescaia is an affordable beach town with plenty of water sports including sailing and windsurfing. The best scuba diving can be found further south in Monte Argentario's coves and bays.
Tuscany's largest beach town is one of the farthest points south on the Italian Riviera. Viareggio is a classic resort town with art nouveau buildings, bustling nightlife and endless food. While the town has pleasant beaches and an active seafront promenade, it's best known for its wild Carnival festival, a tradition since 1873.
The beaches around Sicily range from sandy white shores to exotic black sands, making for unique beach getaways around the island. If you're visiting the capital city of Palermo, the beaches at Mondello Lido are just a few miles away. This stretch of beach is lined with hotels as well as restaurants and bars making for a vibrant nightlife. On Sicily's east coast, visitors to Taormina can easily get to the best beaches at Lido Mazzaro. The journey to the beach is part of the fun as beachgoers climb aboard a funicular, or cable car, for a quick ride down to the beach. For a vastly different beach experience, adventurers can take a boat from the town of Milazzo in northeast Sicily to the exotic black sand beach in the Aeolian Islands. Located on the island of Vulcano, Spiaggia Sabbie Nere has calm waters and dark volcanic sand. It's also conveniently located near the island's hot mud baths.
The sunbathers and fancy yachts compete with the natural beauty of the beaches along Sardinia's Costa Smeralda, or Emerald Coast. Sardinia's northeast shore, with its stunning azure waters and still blue grottoes, is a getaway for royalty, with tony resorts and 35 miles of gorgeous coastline. But the luxe life comes with a hefty price tag at the area's most posh resorts including the dreamy Cala di Volpe with interesting archways and turrets adding to the royal Mediterranean flair. The Cala di Volpe private beach is a 5-minute boat ride from the resort. Nearby, The Prince's Beach, or Spiaggia del Principe is a secluded paradise, surrounded by thick dense shrubs providing even more privacy. The area comes alive in the warm months with most resorts opening just from April through October.
The Tremiti Islands, often called the pearls of the Adriatic Sea, are a string of islands including San Domino, San Nicola and Caprara. San Domino is the largest and most developed of the 3 and is known as the "green pearl" thanks to its wild vegetation including pines, orange blossoms, myrtles and fig trees. These green forests meet the sea with craggy limestone cliffs and both rock and sand beaches. Because it's the only island with hotels and restaurants for visitors, San Domino's beaches can get crowded. The island is reachable by hydrofoil boat from various coastal towns including Termoli and Pescara.
Venice may be surrounded entirely by water, but there are few beaches in the city. The best beaches are found on Lido, an almost 7-mile long sandbar sitting in the Venice Lagoon and Adriatic Sea. Just 10 minutes by waterbus from St. Mark's Square, this area has the well-earned nickname of the "Island of Gold" thanks to its unique beauty and sandy golden shores. The loveliest beaches are in front of Lido's historic grand hotels. The Hotel des Bains, immortalized in Thomas Mann's "Death in Venice," is lined with thatched beach huts while the Hotel Excelsior beachfront sports elegant white cabanas. The beaches are open from May through September and there's an admission fee to access the beach and amenities.