15 of the Best Beaches in Italy
Whether huge stretches of sand full of sun loungers, or tiny, remote coves, Italy's more than 7500 kilometres of coastline are packed full of amazing beaches.
San Fruttuoso, Liguria
You can only reach San Fruttuoso Bay, a small cove surrounded by lush vegetation on the Italian Riviera between Camogli and Portofino, by boat (ferries run from nearby towns in summer), or by descending a steep track from the mountain above. Set right on the pebbly beach, the beautiful 12th-century Abbey of San Fruttuoso was once home to Benedictine monks, while the turquoise bay is home to a submerged bronze statue of Christ of the Abyss, designed by Guido Galletti. Apparently, on a calm day you can see it if you’re snorkelling, but if you want a proper look, you’ll have to scuba dive. There are a few restaurants scattered along the shore and cliffs, too.
Vendicari Reserve, Sicily
In the southeast corner of Sicily, close to Syracuse and Modica, the Vendicari Nature Reserve is an unspoilt landscape of dunes, scrub, and lagoons, and is a habitat for birdlife including flamingos, plovers, herons, curlews, and storks. It has some great beaches, too — one of the gems is the small sheltered cove of Calamosche, which has calm, clean waters, and gently shelving golden sands. It's a one-kilometre walk from the car park, and there are no facilities, so bring everything with you, including a sun umbrella. This slight remoteness helps keep visitor numbers down. As well as birdwatching, the reserve also offers walking and cycling trails.
Sansone Beach, Elba, Tuscany
Elba has some of Tuscany's best beaches, and perhaps the finest is on the island is Spiaggia di Sansone, on the north coast. Situated at the base of cliffs and accessible via a steep path, this beach is a mix of sand and shingle, and has shallow, turquoise water, so is popular with families. It offers great snorkelling opportunities due to the clarity of the sea, and you can get a good look at the fish. There are umbrellas and sun beds to rent, but it's a small beach, so get there early to ensure a spot. The adjacent Spiaggia La Sorgente is smaller but equally attractive.
Spiaggia delle Due Sorelle, Marche
Where the mountains of the Conero Regional Park, just south of Ancona, meet the Adriatic, there are some beautiful and secluded white beaches, tucked beneath steep cliffs and spectacular rock formations. They include Spiaggia delle Due Sorelle, the Beach of the Two Sisters, with its fine pebbles and sand, and deep blue sea. The beach is named after the Two Sisters rock stacks at its northern end, and is only accessible by boat, or by heading down a steep path through scrubland. There are easier-to-reach, but busier, beaches, including Spiaggia San Michele, to the north and south of the headland.
Lido di Jesolo, Veneto
Set on a 15-kilometre stretch of golden sands on the Veneto coast, the resort of Lido di Jesolo was designed for tourism, so it's easy, clean, safe, and full of things to do. The town's main beaches have sun loungers to hire, but get busy in summer. For quieter stretches, head along the shore towards Punta Sabbioni. Lido di Jesolo has shops, restaurants, cafés, gelaterias, bars, and accommodation, plus many events and activities, such as bike hire, amusement arcades, mini golf, an aquarium, paddleboarding, and windsurfing, for all the family. If you need a sightseeing fix, Venice is about an hour away by bus.
Baia dei Turchi, Puglia
Close to Otranto, Baia dei Turchi features more than a kilometre of white sand, plus gin-clear water. There's a feel of being close to nature on this Blue Flag beach — the sands are punctuated by rocky platforms with small coves where you can find your own little private nook to spread out your towel. The beach is within the protected Oasis of Alimini Lakes and has a backdrop of pine forests — you can take in the scent as you walk in from the car park. It can get busy during peak season, but Puglia’s warm climate means you can enjoy beach weather from May until the end of September.
Baia di Ieranto, Campania
One of the best beaches near Sorrento is spectacular Baia di Ieranto. The narrow bay is a 45-minute walk (some of it steep) from the village of Nerano, which is itself half an hour's drive from Sorrento (there's also a bus service). It's a pebbly beach that's surrounded by headlands, so is sheltered, and swimming conditions are ideal. Look along the bay for tantalising glimpses of the island of Capri. The beach itself is small, so expect it to get busy in summer, and there are no facilities, so go prepared.
La Pelosa, Sardinia
At the end of the Stintino peninsula in northwest Sardinia, picture-postcard La Pelosa is one of the most attractive beaches in Italy. It's got fine sand, and crystal-clear sea that's so shallow you can wade out for a long way without getting anywhere near out of your depth. While you're standing in the warm waters, you can take in views of the isles of Piana and Asinara, and the Torre della Pelosa, a tower built on a small island in the 16th century to defend Sardinia from invasion. The beach is understandably popular, so numbers are limited and it's necessary to buy tickets during peak periods.
Rimini’s beaches fill up during summer, but if you're looking for somewhere with all the facilities you'll need, plus a clean, safe environment, it's a great option. Rimini has more than 15 kilometres of fine sands that slope gently into the Adriatic, and there's plenty of choice. You can opt to go on one of the paid beach areas, which range from offering just sunbeds and simple facilities, to luxury spots with spas and gyms. There are several free beaches too, all with toilet facilities and lifeguards. Rimini is also famous for its nightlife, and there are all kinds of clubs, pubs, and bars, which are packed in summer. You could also stay in the old town, with its shops, restaurants, historic buildings, and Roman ruins.
Spiaggia di Sabaudia, Lazio
The small town of Sabaudia has one of the best beaches near Rome, and is a 90-minute drive from the centre of the capital. Spiaggia di Sabaudia holds a Blue Flag, and is home to a long, relatively undeveloped stretch of fine, soft sand that slopes into the clear Tyrrhenian Sea. Closer to town there are more facilities, plus paid beach areas, while the free beach to the north is much wilder, surrounded by vegetation-covered dunes that are backed by the lagoons of the 8500-hectare Circeo National Park, which welcomes many migratory bird species. You may need to walk, cycle, or take the bus to get further along the beach from the town as parking spaces fill up during summer.
Tropea, on the Costa degli Dei (Coast of the Gods) on Italy’s toe, has some of the best beaches in southern Italy, with soft, pale sands that gently slope into crystalline waters, plus dramatic rocky outcrops. The charming clifftop town of Tropea has spectacular sunsets and distant views of the volcanic Aeolian Islands, while you can also explore its alleyways and piazzas, as well as the cathedral and monastery. Spiaggia della Rotonda, right below the town, is a spectacular beach. Alternatively, head to Spiagga Michelino, set in a small cove, to feel like you’ve arrived in some secluded Caribbean bay, while Spiaggia Villaggio L'Olivara has great views back to the Old Town.
Cala Goloritzé, Sardinia
Nestled beneath high limestone cliffs, Cala Goloritzé is a small but stunning beach on the rugged east coast of Sardinia. Here, a shoreline of white sand flanked by boulders slopes into an impossibly turquoise sea. Look out for Monte Caroddi, a near-150-metre pinnacle that towers over the beach and is a popular climbing site, plus there's a rock arch jutting out in to the sea. You have to hike down a 3.5-kilometre path along a ravine to get to the beach (many boat trips visit the bay too, but they can't approach the shore), and there's an entrance fee to limit visitors in high summer and pay for the site's upkeep, but it's worth it.
Cefalù Beach, Sicily
Hop on the scenic coastal train from Palermo to the stunning little seaside town of Cefalù, with its cobbled streets and pretty piazzas, cheap trattorias, and a beautiful sandy beach mainly populated by Italians. The crescent-shaped beach has a public area near the Old Town, and you can hire umbrellas and sunbeds there. It's popular in summer, so get there early for a good spot. Elsewhere, there are sections where you’ll need to buy a ticket. Best of all, you don’t have too far to crawl from your lounger to find a delicious gelato and huge arancini.
La Fontelina Beach, Capri, Campania
The exclusive beach club at La Fontelina attracts wealthy visitors to the southeast tip of the island of Capri. It has a restaurant where you can dine on local seafood, while there's a private stretch of rocky shoreline complete with sunbeds and umbrellas. Go for a dip with views of the nearby Faraglioni sea stacks — it really is like something from a film set. Talking of Hollywood, the club has welcomed the likes Brigitte Bardot, Sophia Loren, and Clark Gable in the past, and you may just spy one or two movie stars making the most of this secluded spot.
Torre Guaceto, Puglia
Torre Guaceto, on the stretch of coast between Bari and Brindisi, is a protected nature reserve rich in flora and fauna, and of all Puglia's beaches, this is among the least developed. There are many kilometres to explore, while beneath the warm sea you can go snorkelling among the coral, congers, moray eels, lobsters, octopuses, and much more. Back on land, look out for the 16th-century Aragonese tower on the headland that gives the reserve its name. You can make the most of a visit to the reserve, with plenty of organised activities on offer including hiking tours, bike rental, astronomical evenings, and theatrical performances.
Amy Lindsay, Krystina Rees, Anne-Sophie Thivolle, and Nick Elvin contributed to this post.