Italian seaside destinations
Italy is surrounded by the Mediterranean and has a long and varied coastline. The sea (il mare, il Mediterraneo) takes different names around the coast: to the west of Italy is the Ligurian Sea (Mar Ligure), and south of that is the Tyrrhenian Sea (Tirreno). Around the sole of Italy’s boot lies the Ionian (Ionio) and to the east is the Adriatic (Adriatico). A few sections are protected marine reserves, others (particularly in the south) have been spoiled by tacky half-constructed villas.
Traditionally Italian villages were constructed in defensive locations, often in the hills above the sea. And until the first half of the twentieth-century, many coastal lowlands were malarial. Often nowadays you’ll find a historic town centre inland or up a hill, with a modern beach suburb along the sea.
Historic fishing ports, although situated on the sea, favour rocky natural harbours and defences. Consequently these more attractive destinations usually lack long beaches, and often the rocky coastline hasn’t permitted much space for development. So many of these, like Portofino and Positano, have become picturesque and exclusive destinations, a million miles away from the long, heavily-developed mass-tourism beaches of resorts like Rimini.
If you want to avoid the crowds, avoid August and late July, and weekend afternoons. Italians don’t believe in bathing out of season, so during early warm spells (May, early June) independent-minded tourists can find plenty of space. Before the private beaches are up and running, it’s often possible to wander through freely.
On this page you’ll find a list of Italian seaside resorts, grouped by category of destination.
> Seaside resorts – a selection of the best holiday destinations – some suggestions to get you started
> Beaches – more about the paying beach experience in Italy.
These are destinations whose principal appeal is their beautiful scenery; generally former fishing villages which have been geared for tourism without losing their charm. There is usually some access to the sea, but beaches may be small or rocky.
> Amalfi Coast – very small beaches, smart resorts and staggering scenery
> Cinque Terre – less developed and a marine reserve, the Cinque Terre are five steep villages joined by footpaths
> Monte Argentario – a mountainous Tuscan promontory with attractive fishing village resorts
> Portofino – tiny harbour nestled into a rocky headland; an exclusive destination
> Porto Venere – yet another fishing village which now caters for holidaymakers, in Liguria
> Sorrento – a popular seaside destination although it lacks a sandy beach
> Taormina, Sicily – high above the sea, but with beaches nearby
> Camogli, Liguria – authentic fishing village with a couple of boutique hotels
There are lots of small islands off the coast of Italy which offer relaxing seaside holidays and lots of blue sea.
> Ischia – an island of pretty beaches and thermal springs, crowded with Italian and German families in summer
> Procida – alongside Ischia; a small and picturesque island with some good sandy beach
> Capri – beautiful and expensive island destination close to the Amalfi Coast
For the beach
These places are primarily seaside resorts, sometimes with a bit of culture thrown in (this is Italy, after all).
> Rimini – Italy’s most famous beach resort, with a surprisingly interesting old town a little way inland
> Venice Lido – uninspiring but extensive stretches of beach
> Santa Margherita Ligure – old-fashioned resort near Portofino in Liguria
> Lido di Jesolo – purpose-built beach resort near Venice
> Cefalù, Sicily – an attractive resort with lots of history
> Grado – in the north-east of Italy, Grado sits between a lagoon and the head of the Adriatic. It has a historic centre and is near the Roman ruins of Aquileia.
> Pesaro – pleasant Adriatic coastal resort with beaches and a historic centre, and only a bus ride from the cultural destination Urbino
Ports and coastal towns
These busy ports and larger towns on the Italian coast are not ideal locations for a seaside holiday, but they do make bases from which you can take boat trips and explore the nearby coastline. Most have beaches in the town or not far away, although they may not be the cleanest.
> Genoa – vibrant port city with lots to do and beaches nearby.
> La Spezia – a naval town close to Porto Venere and the Cinque Terre
> Naples – a hectic city, but with ferries around the Bay of Naples
> Trieste – port up in the north of the Adriatic, near Italy’s border with Slovenia.
> Siracusa, Sicily – an ancient town most visited for its architecture and archaeology
> Trapani, Sicily – a port with ferries to outlying islands
> Anzio – a fishing and ferry port near Rome
Don’t know where to start?
> My list of some of the top seaside holiday destinations in Italy
On this site