With summer fast approaching and me constantly daydreaming of warm sand and that sweet scent of salty air with sunscreen notes, I think it’s time to share my personal list of some of the top beach towns in Italy.
Italy is a great destination to visit all year round and although its primary attractions are art, architecture, and cuisine, the country is home to some amazing beaches and coastal towns, too. With over 8,000 km of coastline and over 400 Blue Flag beaches, you can find anything from tiny secluded coves to glamorous resorts and family-friendly beaches with lines of colorful ombrelloni (parasols).
Below are the Italian coastal towns I’ve carefully noted down in my travel diary over the years. It’s gonna be quite a long read, but I’m sure it’ll give you some good ideas for your summer holidays in Italy, appealing to both beach lovers and those who are thirsty for culture. And if you won’t be able to travel internationally for obvious reasons this year, you can always save them for when the right time comes.
I’ve divided the list by region so it’s easier for you to locate them on the map. Ready? Let’s start…
The best beach towns in Liguria
Tellaro is a teeny tiny cluster of colorful houses perched on top of a cliff overlooking the Gulf of Poets. Located near the Cinque Terre rockstars, the village develops around a small piazza with its iconic pinkish church looking out onto the sea. Quaint alleys lead to beautiful panoramic spots where you can sit and relax to the sound of the waves or enjoy a stunning sunset. There’s not much to do really, but the beauty of Tellaro lies precisely in its simplicity.
The sea in Tellaro is crystal clear. The marina is dotted with colorful fishing boats and is a quiet place with shallow waters that are perfect for children. The coast here is mostly rocky, with strips of free beach known as Spiaggioni that are wild and beautiful (accessible only by foot or boat). You can also walk to the nearby town of Fiascherino where there are two pretty bays with sand.
Val’s tip: while strolling around Tellaro, look for the little alley leading to the Trigliano rocks, a great spot to enjoy a beautiful sunset.
Levanto is a charming town close to the Cinque Terre National Park that offers a friendly atmosphere, great sights and lots of adventures. Here you can enjoy some fabulous biking trails, take surf classes or just laze on the sandy beach. The town is filled with interesting landmarks, such as the Church of Sant’Andrea with its iconic black and white stripes. There is also a lovely waterfront promenade punctuated with beautiful villas, including Villa Agnelli (yep, the founder of Fiat).
The coast around Levanto is rich in hidden coves that can be easily reached by bike along the Ciclopedonale Maremonti. This is an old railway line turned pedestrian and cycle path that connects Levanto to the sleepy hamlets of Bonassola and Framura.
Val’s tip: Levanto is a great base to explore the Cinque Terre, as it’s quieter and offers many lovely, affordable B&B’s and hotels. There’s a train departing every 30 minutes or so from Levanto that stops at each village. To give you an idea, it takes about 15 minutes to reach Manarola.
Located between Finale and Pietra Ligure, Borgio Verezzi is a lovely Italian coastal town that was established from the union of two municipalities, each with its own unique character.
Borgio is the typical Ligurian seaside resort bathed by shallow waters. Its main attraction is an impressive system of underground caves that will make you feel like you are at the center of the earth! They are said to be Italy’s most colorful caves because of the great polychromy that characterizes their stone formations.
Verezzi, on the other hand, is a very ancient hamlet whose origins date back to the Saracens. Sitting high up the hill, it’s a charming cluster of ancient buildings and arcades in the local pinkish stone, with some truly stunning viewpoints over the Ligurian coast.
Val’s tip: every summer the hamlet of Verezzi hosts a prestigious Theatre Festival staging classics like Shakespeare and Goldoni under the stars.
The best beach towns in Veneto
Caorle is one of those typical Italian seaside villages rich in traditions and sights. It boasts a super colorful historic center that looks like a miniature copy of Venice and a picturesque little port where you can see fishermen at work mending nets or unloading boxes of fresh fish that will be auctioned at the local fish market. By the way, a visit to the local fish auction is not to be missed while in town.
Along the waterfront stands the atmospheric fishermen’s Shrine of Our Lady of the Angel where a unique religious procession takes place every five years. All around are wonderful sandy beaches awarded with the Blue and Green flags, in recognition of both their high quality and kid-friendly amenities.
Val’s tip: Explore the Caorle Lagoon and go on a hunt for its casoni, typical constructions made of wood and canes that local fishermen once used as shelters and deposits. You can even sleep in some of them!
Another miniature copy of Venice – far less crowded than the real one and equally enchanting – is Chioggia, an adorable town nestled on the southern tip of the Venetian Lagoon. Located only one hour’s drive from pretty Padova, Chioggia boasts a unique herringbone-shaped urban plan crisscrossed by tiny canals.
A long bridge takes to Sottomarina, the neighborhood with wide beaches and numerous equipped lidos. It’s also a great place for a sundowner while enjoying the gorgeous colors of the sunset on the lagoon.
Val’s tip: In the summer months there are boat tours from Chioggia to Venice, the islands of the Venice lagoon, and the southern Po Delta.
The best beach towns in Friuli Venezia Giulia
Once the seaport of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Trieste is a splendid border town close to Slovenia. It’s mostly famous for its strong Bora wind, the regal palaces dotting the city center and a very unique character that resulted from its different past rulers. Top attractions include Piazza dell’Unità d’Italia (the largest seafront square in Europe), the impressive Miramare Castle on the outskirts of the city, and the Rive seafront offering spectacular views.
The Ausonia bathing complex on Riva Traiana and El Pedocin on the Lantern Pier are some of the places to note down for a truly authentic beach experience in Trieste. El Pedocin, in particular, is the historic lido that still preserves two distinct bathing areas for men and women. Not to miss are also the beaches located along the Bay of Sistiana, abut half an hour’s drive away.
Val’s tip: in October Trieste hosts a special event called Barcolana, one of the world’s biggest sailing regattas attracting both expert sailors and sea lovers.
The charming seaside town of Grado spreads over an island amid the lagoon between Trieste and Venice, along Italy’s northeastern Adriatic coast. It boasts a delightful historic center that oozes Venetian charm, sprinkled with ancient churches, quaint medieval buildings and little squares lined with picturesque fishermen’s homes.
Grado is a top beach destination in Italy thanks to three kilometers of sandy beaches with direct sunlight for most of the day (hence the nickname of ‘sunny island’). The town is also a renowned spa center offering curative sand baths.
Val’s tip: a ten minute’s drive from Grado is the ancient town of Aquileia, one of the most important archaeological sites in Italy and a UNESCO World Heritage. It can be reached also through a delightful biking path.
The best beach towns in Emilia Romagna
Cervia is a popular seaside resort on the Adriatic Sea, with lots of kid-friendly beaches surrounded by lush pinewoods. There are numerous recreational activities for the whole family, including a stunning House of Butterflies and an adventure park with anything from swings to suspended bridges. Night howls, on the other hand, can go clubbing to nearby Milano Marittima, the glamorous capital of nightlife filled with trendy bars and discos.
Cervia has much more to offer than just beaches, though. The town has been a major center of salt production since ancient times and boasts a stunning system of saltworks producing what is called Cervia’s white gold. This amazing natural environment is home to some 100 species of birds, including hundreds of flamingos, and its waters are used in various curative and beauty treatments that can be enjoyed at the Cervia Thermal Center.
Val’s tip: treat yourself to a boat excursion through Cervia’s saltworks at sunset. It will be a precious memory to bring back home.
Rimini is the place where most Italians used to spend their first holiday without mum and dad, living an authentic rite of passage to adulthood. I still remember my summer trip after the maturità (the final high school exams)… good old times!
More in general, Rimini is a gorgeous seaside town that perfectly combines beach fun, nightlife and culture. Traces of its glorious past as a Roman stronghold and a thriving cultural center can still be seen in the town’s historic center, which hosts the triumphal Arch of Augustus and the imposing Malatesta’s Castle.
Rimini’s seafront features wide sandy beaches with endless rows of colorful parasols, while its famous nightlife attracts young crowds from various parts of Italy.
Val’s tip: take a walk up to Borgo San Giuliano, the charming neighborhood where Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini grew up. His memory is still very much alive on the colorful buildings, covered in murals depicting characters and places from Fellini’s movies.
The best beach towns in Tuscany
Nestled between the Tyrrhenian and Ligurian Seas, the Gulf of Baratti is a dreamy stretch of Tuscan coastline dotted with wide beaches and pristine nature. The clear waters of this area are great for divers and snorkelers, while the beach bars hidden in the pinewoods are perfect for a relaxing after-swim drink.
Together with the nearby hamlet of Populonia, Baratti was an important Etruscan trading center and today the Archeological Park of Baratti and Populonia offers a splendid open-air museum filled with precious historic remains to explore.
Val’s tip: those looking for a truly wild experience should look for the Fairy’s Hole, a magical rocky cove overlooking the Elba island that can be reached with a delightful trek through nature from Populonia.
Orbetello is a fascinating town stretching across a strip of land in the middle of a lagoon, in Tuscany’s Maremma region. It’s connected to stunning Mount Argentario through a road that seems to be floating on the water and leads to the popular seaside resorts of Porto Ercole and Porto Santo Stefano.
Orbetello is another ancient Etruscan settlement and has its good share of historic remains to explore, but its top attractions are the long, sandy beaches and the pristine nature. The beautiful Orbetello Lagoon is a protected natural reserve hosting an important bird sanctuary that can be visited with guided tours to the best observation spots.
Val’s tip: one of the most iconic views in Orbetello is the ancient windmill that sits splendidly isolated in the middle of the lagoon. It’s the only remaining one of the nine windmills that were built here to grind wheat using the power of the water and the coastal winds.
Portoferraio is a small harbor town located on beautiful Elba, the largest of the seven islands of the Tuscan archipelago. The town’s history is linked to two great historical figures: Cosimo I de’ Medici, who fortified Portoferraio and turned it into a strategic port, and Napoleon, who made Portoferraio a thriving iron production center while exiled on the island.
Beach lovers are spoilt for choice, from long strips of golden sand like Biodola Beach to pebblier spots like Le Ghiaie Beach. If you’re looking for a little pampering, Portoferraio is also home to some fabulous thermal baths immersed in a large park overlooking the sea, offering numerous beauty and curative treatments.
Val’s tip: you can reach Portoferraio with ferries departing from Piombino, check out Blu Navy as they usually have good rates. When you arrive, rent a car or scooter at the port, it’s the best way to explore all the beauties of the island.
The best beach towns in Le Marche
Numana is one of the 16 official villages of the Riviera del Conero, a corner of rugged beauty along Italy’s Adriatic coast. Here, Mount Conero plunges into the sparkling blue sea, creating marvelous beaches and hidden coves.
The village consists of a lower part (Numana Bassa) with the touristic harbor, and an upper area (Numana Alta) with the lovely historic center, accessible via a scenic stairway. Don’t miss Spiaggia del Frate, a lovely secluded cove backed by white cliffs and bathed by crystal-clear waters.
Val’s tip: Numana is also known as the ‘City of Turtles’ because it is where sick sea turtles are released after being treated in a specialized clinic in Riccione. The area dedicated to turtles is called ‘Caletta’ and is located close to the Spiaggia del Frate beach.
READ MORE: “Exploring Le Marche: 1-week itinerary”
Grottammare is a delightful coastal town located along Le Marche’s Palm Riviera, boasting a modern beachfront and a timeless historic hamlet. The beach is wide and sandy, lined with a cycling path that connects Grottammare to its neighboring towns.
The lovely old town sits up the hill overlooking the Adriatic and consists of a little cluster of colorful houses and narrow cobbled lanes opening onto scenic spots. One of these is the six-arched portico in the adorable Piazzetta Peretti. The buzz of the beaches just below truly feels miles away here.
Val’s tip: the delightful beachfront library near Piazza Kursaal is a great place to find some good reads during the summer months.
On the northern side of Le Marche, Fano is blessed with some high-quality beaches and a splendid historic center that bears testament to its past as a major Roman settlement on the Adriatic Sea.
Particularly remarkable is its subterranean, with summer itineraries that take visitors to ancient Roman ruins, like the amphitheater and the old market. Not to miss is the Church of Santa Maria Nuova, where splendid artworks are preserved. The two main beaches in town are the pebbly Spiaggia Sassonia and the sandy Spiaggia Lido, separated by the small harbor.
Val’s tip: Fano is home to one of the oldest Carnivals celebrations in Italy, perfect for an off-season Italian escape!
The best beach towns in Lazio
Santa Marinella is a lovely seaside town located just one hour’s train ride from Rome. It’s a diver’s playground, with a seabed rich in marine life and even an old shipwreck to explore. What’s more, its Banzai Beach is a popular surfing destination and hosts numerous surf events. The municipality includes also Santa Severa, a lovely seaside resort renowned for its beautiful medieval castle right on the beach.
Back in the 1950s, Santa Marinella was a glamorous gathering place for the rich and famous. Italian film director Roberto Rossellini and Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman chose Santa Marinella as their sweet retreat, opening the doors of their villa on Via Aurelia to movie stars like Marlon Brando and Gregory Peck (who visited the couple while filming Roman Holidays in the capital).
Val’s tip: reaching Santa Marinella is really easy, go to Roma Termini station, catch a regional train to Civitavecchia and get off at Santa Marinella station.
Nestled on a promontory overlooking the sea, at the border between Lazio and Campania, Gaeta is definitely one of the best beach towns near Rome. Often nicknamed the ‘city of a hundred churches’, Gaeta was a favorite holiday spot of consuls and patrician families at the time of the Roman Empire and today it’s the ideal destination for a relaxing weekend break.
The town is guarded by a grandiose castle and its historic center features a maze of quaint alleyways lined with colorful buildings, opening onto marvelous viewpoints. Those looking to take a dip should make a beeline for Serapo Beach, Gaeta’s main beach covered in golden sand.
Val’s tip: look for the steep staircase leading to the Turkish Cave, a natural grotto that was once a pirates hideout, where the seawater creates beautiful light effects.
Ponza is the main town on the homonymous island off the coast of Lazio, where visitors are welcomed by rows of brightly colored houses lining the harbor. With its laid-back vibe and slow pace of life, Ponza is a popular summer destination for Romans, who flock here to escape the scorching heat of the capital. If you are looking for some authentic island life, then Ponza is your place.
Awarded with the prestigious Blue Flag, beaches around the island are mostly rocky and can be best explored by boat. (for soft sand you should go to Cala Feola). There are also some interesting archeological areas such as the stunning Pilato Grottos, a network of tunnels and pools where Romans used to farm moray eels.
Val’s tip: Ponza is believed to be the home of Circe, the legendary enchantress who seduced Ulysses and turned his crew into pigs in Homer’s Odyssey – look for the mysterious Circe’s Cave on the western side of the island, between Chiaia di Luna and Capo Bianco!
The best beach towns in Campania
Salerno truly captured my heart. Often overshadowed by Naples and the Amalfi Coast, Salerno is a coastal gem in its own right, with lots of interesting things to see and a vibrant nightlife. It is also an important cultural center that welcomed Europe’s first medical school back in the 11th century.
There’s a gorgeous waterfront promenade lined with palm trees where the evening passeggiata (stroll) is in full swing over the weekend. One end of it opens onto the urban beach of Santa Teresa, which is a real open-air lounge where people go to linger over a drink by the sea.
Salerno is guarded by a medieval castle and its old town is home to many historic jewels, including a stunning 11th-century cathedral built (whose crypt is perhaps the most beautiful I’ve ever seen) and the stunning Minerva Garden (the first-ever botanical garden in Europe) that offer splendid views across the town and its coast.
Val’s tip: Salerno enjoys a strategic position that makes it a perfect base to visit Pompeii, Herculaneum, Paestum, and the Amalfi coast.
Castellabate is a charming centuries-old village perched on top of a hill amidst the Cilento National Park, one of Italy’s best-kept secrets. Castellabate is one of those places still untouched by international mass tourism, where life flows slowly and a stroll through the tiny lanes is almost certainly accompanied by the scent of homemade cooking and the sweet sound of dishes clattering.
The village is dominated by a majestic castle built in the 12th century to protect Castellabate from the Saracen pirates and develops around the cutest little piazza that offers some truly amazing views.
A rather twisting road takes you down to Santa Maria di Castellabate, a marine protected area where many Italians escape to in the summer, attracted by the beautiful sandy beaches, the turquoise waters and the quiet atmosphere.
Val’s tip: If you are a history geek, don’t miss the amazing archeological site of Paestum, just half an hour’s drive from Castellabate.
Praiano is one of my favorite villages on the Amalfi Coast. It’s a charming little town with a local flair, lovely beaches, and a unique artistic vibe, as seen in the beautiful ceramic plaques and sculptures that decorate its streets.
It’s located on the main road halfway between Amalfi and Positano, so it’s easy to reach by bus. What’s more, it’s one of the starting points (although not the easiest one) of the beautiful ‘Path of Gods’ hiking trail and is home to the only beach on the coast that gets sunlight until late in the afternoon, La Gavitella.
Val’s tip: don’t miss a sunset view from Cafè Mirante while lingering over an Amalfi Coast Mojito!
Acciaroli is another atmospheric fishing village in the Cilento National Park. Inhabited by roughly 1,000 souls, it is particularly renowned for its healthy Mediterranean cuisine and for being home to one of the world’s highest concentrations of centenarians who seem to have found the legendary “fountain of youth” here!
Spiaggia Grande is the main beach in Acciaroli, boasting golden sand and crystal clear waters. The whole area around the village is dotted with splendid beaches and secluded coves, such as Torre Caleo and Pioppi.
Val’s tip: less than an hour away from Acciaroli, Marina di Pisciotta is famous for its anchovies, which are still caught using centuries-old fishing techniques. Visitors can go out with the fishermen to experience first-hand this amazing tradition.
The best beach towns in Basilicata
People often limit their exploration of Basilicata to Matera, but the region is full of enchanting places to explore and one is certainly Maratea. Maratea is a picturesque corner of paradise on Basilicata’s small stretch of coast overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea. To me, it’s one of the best places for a beach vacation in Italy, offering a number of lovely beaches, from rocky bays to hidden coastal coves and even a “black beach”.
Known as the ‘city of 44 churches’, Maratea has a charming historic center full of little details for the enjoyment of photography lovers, from pastel-colored houses to quaint alleys and elderly locals chatting in tiny piazzas.
Val’s tip: the symbol of Maratea is a giant statue of Christ the Redeemer located on top of Mount San Biagio, which offers stunning panoramic views over the coast. With a height of about 21 meters, it’s one of the biggest statues of Christ after the one in Rio de Janeiro.
The best beach towns in Abruzzo
Close your eyes and picture yourself on a sandy beach, surrounded by crystalline waters and the fresh scent of pines… pure heaven, right?! Well, such a place does exist and is called Pineto, a delightful Italian seaside town that takes its name from the strip of pine trees lining the seafront.
A 40-minute walk from Pineto is the protected area of Torre del Cerrano with a fabulous stretch of beach guarded by an ancient fortress. Here, the Adriatic Sea hides the remains of an ancient Roman port that was swept away by an earthquake and today can be explored with a diving excursion.
Val’s tip: enjoy a scenic bike ride on ‘Corridoio Verde Adriatico’, a beautiful bicycle path running along the Adriatic.
Ortona is an ancient town at the top of a sheer cliff that dominates the sea to the south of Pescara. Backed by the stunning Majella National Park, this coastal town had a turbulent past that saw it at the center of a bloody battle during the Second World War. Today these tragic events can be retraced at the Museum of the Battle of Ortona, exhibiting photos and war relics. There is also a Canadian War Cemetery, the final resting place of the soldiers who died in that battle.
Ortona is popular with Italians who come here for the variety of splendid beaches, from wide strips of sand to cliffs covered in Mediterranean vegetation. The town has a splendid Aragonese Castle standing high on a panoramic point, and a lovely “Oriental Walk” promenade, perfect for a relaxing stroll overlooking the sea and the port.
Val’s tip: don’t miss the famous “Costa dei Trabocchi” that extends to the south of Ortona up to Vasto. It’s a stretch of coast punctuated by old wooden stilts used for fishing called trabocchi – a truly unique view!
The best beach towns in Molise
Last year I set foot on Molise for the first time in my life and it was love at first sight. That trip took me to enchanting places that are hardly ever mentioned in travel literature (although the trend is changing this year) and one of these is Termoli.
Termoli is an Italian coastal gem with an adorable historic heart developing around the splendid Cathedral of San Basso and a more modern center running along Corso Nazionale, the town’s main street lined with bars and shops.
Guarded by the stunning Svevo Castle, Sant’Antonio Beach is wide and sandy, with infinite rows of colorful parasols and deep blue waters. At one end of the beach, right at the foot of the castle, there’s a curious trabucco that symbolizes Termoli’s seafaring tradition.
Val’s tip: don’t leave Termoli without trying the brodetto di pesce, one of the town’s specialties.
The best beach towns in Puglia
Vieste is a popular destination for summer holidays in Italy. Its location is stunning, right on top of a promontory that juts into the clear blue Adriatic Sea, on Puglia’s Gargano peninsula. The old town is a picturesque maze of little alleys and whitewashed houses combined with interesting historical, such as the 11th-century Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and the Norman Castle.
Beaches in Vieste are covered in soft, golden sand and are backed by white limestone cliffs. Some stretches are free, while others are equipped with colorful parasols and offer canoes and pedalos for rent. There are two main beaches in the town center, San Lorenzo Beach and Castello Beach (with a pretty spectacular white monolith rising from the sea), while a few kilometers away are beauties like San Felice Bay and Campi Bay.
Val’s tip: while holidaying in Vieste, consider taking a trip to Foresta Umbra, an ancient forest characterized by thick vegetation that ensures lots of shade – a great relief on a hot summer day! The forest offers a number of paths for both walkers and mountain bikers, with lovely picnic spots.
Otranto is one of Puglia’s most charming coastal towns, boasting a charming historic center enclosed by thick fortified walls. The town’s Cathedral preserves a stunning 12th-century mosaic floor representing the tree of life, while the waterfront promenade offers views that span over the Albanian coasts on a clear day.
There are some stretches of fine beach in town, like Cala dei Normanni. However, the best beaches in Otranto can be found a few kilometers from the city center. These include the fascinating Baia dei Turchi to the north and the jagged coastline of Porto Badisco to the south.
Val’s tip: a quick drive south of Otranto takes you to the Lighthouse of Punta Palascia, Italy’s easternmost point. It’s traditional for locals to go there on the night of December 31st to watch the first sunrise of the new year… so cool, right!?
READ MORE: “Puglia: 4 days in Salento”
Polignano a Mare
I’m sure it doesn’t come as a surprise, but Polignano a Mare is truly one of Italy’s most beautiful beach towns, and one of those places where Instagram matches reality. With poetic alleys, palaces glowing in sunshine and the most enchanting panoramic terraces, Polignano’s old town looks like a movie set.
The main (and most photographed) beach in Polignano is Lama Monachile – free, pebbly, and bathed by emerald waters. However, I strongly suggest exploring the surroundings, like Cala Incina, an enchanting natural spot to the south of Polignano, or the beach in San Vito, guarded by an ancient Benedictine abbey.
Val’s tip: try a caffè speciale, the special coffee invented at Il Super Mago del Gelo Mario Campanella, whose recipe includes amaretto liqueur.
READ MORE: “A Week in Puglia”
Gallipoli is a lovely coastal town on the Ionian Sea. The location itself is quite unique, with the old town sitting on an islet that is connected to the mainland through a bridge. There are many interesting sights hidden among the alleys of the historic center, such as the Cathedral, a great example of Salentine Baroque, and a Frantoio Ipogeo, an old underground olive oil mill.
The area gets very crowded in summer, as it’s blessed with fantastic beaches. Purity Beach is right at the foot of Gallipoli old town and is the perfect spot for an after-lunch pennichella (siesta). Not to miss in the surroundings are the beaches of Padula Bianca and Baia Verde.
Val’s tip: about half an hour drive north of Gallipoli, Porto Selvaggio is a natural park with an idyllic, pristine bay surrounded by thick pine forest. Definitely one of the most beautiful spots in Puglia’s Salento region.
The best beach towns in Calabria
Tropea is one of the (many) jewels of Calabria and one of my all-time favorite places in Italy. The town is perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea and it’s a maze of atmospheric lanes lined with old palazzi in golden stone and quaint little piazzas.
The sea here boasts spectacular aquamarine shades and the powder-sugar beach is guarded by the rock of San Leonardo, on top of which stands a monastery. Sunset from up there is really magical!
Val’s tip: there are various panoramic terraces around Tropea, but my favorite is in Largo Migliarese, right above the sea … go and look for yourself!
Not far from Reggio Calabria, Scilla is another gorgeous village on Calabria’s Tyrrhenian Coast. Its origins are shrouded in legend. It’s believed to have roots in the myth of Homer’s Odyssey, which talked about a monstrous creature called Scylla who frightened those daring to pass through the Strait of Messina.
Scilla is split into two parts. Chianalea is the old fishing neighborhood that will steal your heart with its quaint lanes opening onto the most charming sea views, while the town center is perched on top of a rock and offers amazing sunset views. For beach lovers, there’s a long strip of beach guarded by the Ruffo Castle and bathed by crystalline waters.
Val’s tip: one of the symbols of Scilla is the swordfish sandwich, as the village is one of the few to carry on traditional swordfish fishing. One of my favorite places to taste this sandwich is Civico 5 in Chianalea.
Located on the Ionian Coast, Soverato is a top summer destination in Calabria thanks to its splendid beaches and crystalline sea. Just to give you an idea, this stretch of coast is inhabited by cute seahorses, which are considered to be essential indicators of the quality of the environment!
High up on a hill stands the old town, where you can enjoy some beautiful panoramic views over the Squillace Gulf. Not to miss up there is the Church of Maria Santissima Addolorata, preserving a piece of art still unknown to many: La Pietà by Antonello Gagini, a stunning marble sculpture reminiscent of Michelangelo’s Pietà.
Val’s tip: if you visit Soverato around April, you can see the famous Coral Tree in full bloom. It’s a beautiful exotic plant native to South Africa that line the town’s seafront promenade.
The best beach towns in Sicily
Siracusa is one of the most beautiful coastal cities in Sicily, attracting visitors with its remarkable historical heritage. The islet of Ortigia, which is connected to the city via three bridges, enclosed the historical heart of Siracusa. Everywhere you look you’ll see grandiose Baroque palaces, pretty lanes full of charm and atmospheric churches like the tiny Church of San Martino, boasting a splendid mosaic decoration in the apse. A must-see is Piazza Duomo, possibly one of Italy’s most beautiful Baroque squares, framed by splendid white stone buildings shimmering in the sunlight.
The stretch of coast along Siracusa is home to some of the most beautiful beaches you can find in Sicily. These include Fontane Bianche, Arenella and the Vendicari Marine Reserve. And the great thing is that you can easily reach them by public transport!
Val’s tip: enjoy a great meal at A Putia delle Cose Buone, a charming little restaurant on Via Roma where I had the most delicious pistachio-encrusted tuna steak. Be ready to queue, though…
Sitting at the foot of Mount Erice, Trapani is the city of salt and windmills, having produced high-quality salt for centuries. Its salt plans are one of the most cherished sights in Sicily, with their white piles of salt and red-capped windmills.
The historic center is a treasure trove of golden-stone buildings, while the town’s little port is the departure point of ferries to the beautiful Egadi Islands and the remote island of Pantelleria. Beaches along the Trapani coastline are incredibly beautiful, with soft sand and aquamarine waters. Urban beaches include San Giuliano and Porta Botteghelle, while Scopello and San Vito Lo Capo are two gems located a quick drive out of town.
Val’s tip: about one hour drive from Trapani is Selinute, Europe’s largest archeological park. There, you can explore the remains of an ancient Greek town, including seven stunning temples.
There’s something truly poetic about this old fishing village on Sicily’s south-eastern coast. The heart of the village is Piazza Regina Margherita, which many consider being Sicily’s most beautiful square. Honestly, it doesn’t surprise me, because every time I go there I feel like jumping into the pages of a fairytale book. The piazza is lined with low-roofed little buildings made of local sandstone, which used to be the houses of local fishermen and now host an array of colorful cafés, restaurants and artisanal shops.
The most central beaches are Marinella and Spinazza, but not to miss is also the stunning Vendicari Marine Reserve, about twenty minutes’ drive away from Marzamemi.
Val’s tip: about one hour’s drive from Marzamemi is Punta Secca, the fictional hometown of Italy’s famous Inspector Montalbano. By the way, did you know that you can even sleep in his house? Check out this article about my Montalbano tour to know more.
The best beach towns in Sardinia
The capital of Sardinia is often overlooked by tourists, but the truth is that it offers a great array of things to see, from historic sites to gorgeous beaches and stunning sceneries. And there’s a great local vibe, too! Cagliari’s past as a medieval walled town is still visible in the historic center, dominated by an ancient castle. There are also a number of fabulous panoramic terraces to admire the coast.
The best beaches in Cagliari include Poetto, a wide stretch of white sand popular with kite-surfers, and the more secluded Cala Fighera (a nudist spot) and Calamosca.
Val’s tip: don’t miss a sunset view from the terrace of Via Santa Croce, in the historic neighborhood of Castello… wow factor guaranteed!
Located in the northwest of Sardinia, Stintino stretches over a peninsula that juts into the sea and is the true rockstar in the region. It was founded in 1885 by 45 families that had been forced to leave their homes in Asinara after the Kingdom of Italy decided to establish a quarantine station and a penal colony on the island.
Today Stintino is a lovely fishing village and one of Sardinia’s most popular attractions thanks to its stunning beaches. The best ones are La Pelosa, an idyllic stretch of white sand bathed with shallow, turquoise waters, and La Pelosetta, a smaller beach with an islet hosting an Aragonese tower that seems to be emerging from the sea.
Val’s tip: Stintino is the nearest place of embarkation to visit Asinara Island, an unspoiled and wild national park that can be visited only through authorized operators.
Bosa is a picturesque little town along the banks of the tranquil Temo river, on Sardinia’s western coastline. It’s a jumble of multicolored houses nestled on a hillside and guarded by what remains of a glorious 12th-century castle.
Bosa Marina is the town’s wide beach, but only a few kilometers from Bosa you’ll find magical spots like Cala Cumpoltitu, an unspoiled stretch of white sand, and Cala Managu, a fantastic snorkeling spot hidden among the hills.
Val’s tip: Bosa is a great place to visit also off-season. In February, for example, the town comes alive with some of the craziest Carnival celebrations in Italy!
If you’ve made it till here, well done! I know this was quite a long article, but hey, we have so many beautiful coastal gems in Italy – and this is just a shortlist!
Now tell me, what’s your favorite beach town in Italy?
A super hug from Italy,