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Italy is home to over 4,500 miles of stunning coastline with aqua clear waters kissing long alluring stretches of sand on both the mainland and on an array of idyllic nearby islands.
In-between marveling at Italy’s astounding art and magnificent cathedrals, dining on mouth-watering food, sipping espresso, shopping for fashions and tasting vino overlooking rolling verdant vineyards, be sure to take some time to soak in some sunshine and relaxation (sole e reposare). Although the number of impressive beaches could fill volumes, here are the highlights of some of the most beautiful beaches (bella spiaggia) in Italy. Some are ideal for swimming (nuoto) or snorkeling, and all of them are extraordinary for relaxing in a sun chair (sedia a sdraio), taking in the breathtaking views and enjoying the good life (la bella vita).
Although the country is known as a Mediterranean country, in addition to the Mediterranean Sea, four other bodies of water surround Italy: the Ligurian Sea, the Tyrrhenian Sea, the Ionian Sea and the Adriatic Sea.
Northwest, The Beaches of the Ligurian Sea
Starting in north west Italy, the rocky glamorous town of Portofino has no beaches, just a jaw dropping yacht-filled harbor, but you can take a boat to Paraggi Beach - the only sandy beach near Portofino. You’ll see a lot of swaths of sand reserved just for private beach clubs’ members who live in extravagant homes in the hills, and the striking holiday homes of the illustrious designers Dolce and Gabbana. Paraggi Beach is also a spectacular spot for scuba diving underneath clear blue waters to admire red coral and the riveting remains of an old shipwreck.
Traveling further south along Italy’s sparkling coast, Cinque Terre is a string of popular, historic seaside villages on the rugged Italian Riviera, fronting the turquoise waters of the Ligurian Sea. In each of the five main towns, colorful houses and vineyards hug steep cliffs, towering over harbors filled with well-used fishing boats. The biggest beach here is in Monterosso al Mare and it is the only sand beach in the area - all the other beaches are stone covered. It offers amazing coastal views, is close to the train station for easy access and has a lovely promenade, perfect for strolling hand-in-hand and watching the sunset.
One of the most intriguing beaches lies in the town of Vernazza. This little town has a castle and vibrant orange, pink and yellow homes surrounding a marina. It has not one, but two beautiful beaches. There’s a small one near the town’s main square and the larger one has the added appeal of only being reached through a caved passage in the rock, off the main square.
The Island of Sardinia - Where the Tyrrhenian Sea Meets the Mediterranean Sea
The large island of Sardinia, off Italy’s western coast, is situated at the base of seven undulating hills in the town of Cagliari, where the Tyrrhenian Sea meets the Mediterranean Sea. Here, explore the main beach of il Poetto. This vast beach is wide and long, drawing both locals and tourists to its sandy shores. Everything you need is here, from showers and toilets, to bars and restaurants where you can refresh, refuel and hydrate. If you want to avoid the crowds, on each side of il Poetto, visit the isolated beaches of Calamosca and Cala Fighera. Calamoca boasts fine white sand, while Cala Fighera is an inlet with a slightly rougher white pebble beach.
Central Southwest Italy – The Beaches of the Tyrrhenian Sea
South of Naples, in Amalfi, the pastel colored houses stack in zig-zag patterns up and down the cliffs, perched over the Tyrrhenian Sea. Take the 400 steps down the hillside to Duoglio Beach, where you can rent equipment to scuba dive, canoe or windsurf. The village of Positano, is a popular holiday destination with a pebble beachfront and steep, narrow streets, lined with high-end boutiques and cafes, well worth exploring. Positano's central beach, the bustling Marina Grande Beach features seafood restaurants, bars and a famous disco. Recline on vivid orange and blue sun bathing chairs under large beach umbrellas gazing at the sea, with a back drop of confetti-hued houses. Everywhere you look is an iconic postcard view. If you seek a quieter beach, just a few-minutes-walk away you’ll find the more peaceful Fornillo Beach.
East of Positano, the less-crowded Maiori Beach offers the longest beach on the Amalfi Coast. This is a rare stretch of sandy beach, not the typical white-pebbles beaches of the area. Since it faces south, it’s almost always sun-drenched. There are plenty of convenient beachfront hotels, plus restaurants, bakeries, and charming shops to discover here. In the neighboring small fishing village, made up of a maze of squares and lanes, is Minori Beach. Here you can gaze up at two ancient imposing towers, while dining on delectable fresh-caught fish at a number of casual beachfront eateries.
A secret locals and travel writers don’t want to share (except this one) is the sublime, secluded Laurito Beach. Just a quick shuttle boat ride from Positano’s main pier and you will be transported to this small, serene stretch of sand with mesmerizing views the emerald green waters of the Mediterranean Sea. If you’re lucky, it will just be you and a few locals.
At the southern end of the Amalfi Coast, on the Sorrento Peninsula, take a boat to the mountainous island of Capri for the chance to spy celebrities that flock to this gorgeous island’s beaches. Don’t miss taking a boat through the Blue Grotto. The sunlight streams through the cave walls and openings dancing and glimmering over the sea water, creating the most luminescent shades of blue you have ever seen.
Also, a ferry ride away from Naples or Sorrento is the striking volcanic island of Ischia, strewn with white-washed cliff-side homes highlighted by the bright pink flowers and green vines of Bougainvillea.
At the base of the cliffs, golden-sand beaches gleam against the aquamarine water of the Gulf of Naples, where at Maronti Beach, the views and the natural mineral hot springs will soothe your body and soul.
In the medieval town of Posada, rich in history and culture discover the shallow water, ideal for families with children, on the beach of Su Turiazu - a pristine white-sand beach lying at the base of verdant green Mediterranean hills.
The Island of Sicily, Southwest, The Tyrrhenian Sea and Mediterranean Sea
On the island of Sicily, the elegant town of Taormina – lauded for its volcano, Mount Etna, ancient Greek amphitheater and white-washed houses – is blessed with crystal clear blue waters that are ideal for scuba diving or snorkeling. On a small island near Taormina, getting to Isola Bella Beach is half the fun. Take in scenic views riding a cable car down to sandy shores, where you can rest in the shade under a beach umbrella available for rent.
The remote island of Lampedusa, off the southern coast of Sicily’s Caribbean-like, white-sand Rabbit Beach, was named by Trip Advisor users, as the “Best Beach in the World.” To get there, you have to take a short walk on slightly precarious, uneven rocky paths, but the reward of experiencing this award-winning beach is well worth the effort! The island is designated a marine wildlife reserve to protect the loggerhead turtles who nest here.
Southern Italy - The Ionian Sea and Mediterranean Sea
Located near the tip of the boot, the sparkling town of Tropea-Marasua, in Calabria, boasts the calm, clear, warm waters of the Ionian Sea and pristine white sand. It’s renowned for its steep cliffside historic town center. Known to local Italians, few tourists have discovered this beach’s astounding natural beauty.
Italy’s Eastern Shores - The Adriatic Sea
Few travelers venture to the heel of this boot shaped country, but those who do have their pick of hundreds of splendid beaches on over 400 miles of captivating coastline. Puglia’s seaside villages of Torre Colimena and Punta Prosciutto offer powder white-sand beaches, fronting the translucent waters of the Adriatic Sea. Beach shack snacks and a casual atmosphere make this area popular with families. For an undiscovered beach, a brief walk through a fragrant pine forest in a protected nature reserve will bring you to one of the cleanest beaches in the entire country - Baia dei Turchi.
Surrounded by the historic buildings of its old town, built centuries ago on the cliffs, with an opening in-between to the turquoise sea, the many beaches of Polignano a Mare have made it the perfect setting for several movies.
The Eastern Shore Islands of The Adriatic Sea
Accessible only by boat on Italy’s east coast are the Tremiti Islands, often referred to as the pearls of the Adriatic Sea. Discover three islands: Domino, San Nicola and Caprara. On these unspoiled islands that do not allow cars, simply step off the beaches and dive beneath the warm sea waters to explore fascinating underwater caves and coral reefs.
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