Italy's Best Beaches: Italian Concierge Top Picks by Region
On the blog, we usually like to keep things short, but we recently did a feature on Italian beaches in the newsletter, and I couldn’t contain myself.
With 4,725 miles of coastline with beaches of every color, temperature, variety and backdrop, it’s impossible not to gush.
Since Roman times, the coasts of Italy have hosted vacations to stars and powerful political figures from around the world. But they're not just for the rich and famous, of course.
For the summer, Italians everywhere decamp to the coast, whether near, such as the lucky Ligurians and Puglians who really don't have very far to go, or far, like the Romans who head to glamorous Amalfi or Ponza, undiscovered by US market, or the well-heeled Milanese who like to spend their summers "roughing" it in Calabria or travel down to the heel to Puglia.
Here’s our guide to Italy’s best beaches on each coast of the boot:
Best Beaches in Northern Italy
In Liguria Ponente, where the French Riviera coast continues into Italy along the Ligurian Sea, you're spoiled for choice. The Cinque Terre, a national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site composed of five villages built into cliffs, are very popular with visitors.
This area, the eastern Liguria the coast that stretches from Genova to La Spezia, is known as the Liguria Levante. The easiest way in my opinion to explore this area is to take the regional train along the coast and get off wherever you see a shore that suits you.
Versilia, which sits on the border of Liguria and northwestern Tuscany, is a the place to find beach resorts, while the Art Nouveau gem, Viareggio, is not my favorite but provides a nearby beach escape for Florentines. Prepare to pay for a lettino (lounge chair) and umbrellone (beach umbrella) and to sit close enough to your neighbor to apply his sun lotion for him.
Not to be missed in this area is Pietrasanta, the artsy town where Michelangelo stayed when obtaining his marble from the caves of Fantiscritti. Filled with galleries, sculpture workshops and hip trattorie, Pietrasanta is also home to the famous sculpturer Fernando Bottero, who was having his lunch at the table beside me at Gatto Nero in Pietrasanta one day.
The marble caves behind Massa Carrara are also worth a stop between Cinque Terre and points south. You can easily take the tour inside Fantiscritti marble cave and then lunch at Colonnata, best known for the production of Lardo (more on that in the next newsletter).
Further south in Tuscany, the Maremma, the area of Punta Ala and Castiglione della Pescaia has a more relaxed, nature-park atmosphere with small beaches you can more or less have to yourself (outside of August at least). Alan Ducasse co opened L'Andana with Bellavista winery from Franciacorta as their luxury resort near the sea.
Best Beaches in Southern Italy
I could go on and on about Sicily, and her satellite and archipelagoes where you can visit a different type of beach every day of the week, running the gamut from sparkling white sand to deep black. Among my favorites is Cala Junco on Panarea, now a UNESCO world heritage site for natural beauty.
On the Amalfi coast, you'll find splendid views, but primarily pebbly beaches, and small coves. In Positano, known for the breath-taking view of the city crawling up the hill behind the beach, check out the public Fornillo and Spiaggia Grande beaches.
On the eastern coast, the beaches in Abruzzo, Le Marche, and Puglia are well loved by Italians. In these regions many beaches outside major towns are protected natural areas, so you'll be free from colorful umbrellas. Just remember to bring all your own food and water and follow park rules regarding waste disposal.
Though I dislike superlatives, if I had to say where is the "best beach in all of Italy," I do have an answer. For those who prefer a long beach with white sand, there is the Peninsula Sinis, a pristine beach near Oristano on the western side of Sardegna. Nearby, you can visit the Phoenician site of Tharros, definitely worth a visit.