Escaping the summer heat for the seaside is one of the most Italian things you can do, and even if it wasn’t, who’s going to stop you? Not us. In fact, we’re here to tell you exactly where to go full-Italian, no matter where in ‘the boot’ you are.
With almost 8,000 km of coastline and a bevy of beautiful beaches to bask on, finding the best was a tall order. Challenge accepted. In no particular order, here are our 10 best beaches in Italy, from Capri to Calabria.
1. Marina Piccola, Capri
Do take the ferry from Sorrento to Capri to visit the famous Blue Grotto sea cave, and after you do, relax on Capri’s compact and pleasant beach at Marina Piccola. There are no sandy beaches on the island but large flat rocks more than suffice here, offering a heavenly moment of respite from your touring. Unwind with a Peroni under umbrella cover, watch the locals splash in the waves or get in the action yourself. If you are just visiting Capri for the day, pack a dry outfit for the ferry ride back.
2. Cala Tonnarella, Sicily
For anyone looking to combine a light hike with an exotic beach escape, keep reading. Cala Tonnarella is one of those special beaches you have to work for to enjoy and are rewarded mightily when you finally find it. Expect about an hour walk from the nearest car park and a splendid hidden beach, often all to yourself, thereafter. If nature hikes aren’t your thing, the beach can also be reached by boat. Inside the Zingaro Nature Reserve, this idyllic cove on the Gulf of Castellammare in one of Sicily’s most quiet and remote regions.
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3. Spiaggia Arienzo, Amalfi Coast
Marina Grande is Positano’s busy main beach perfect for people watching. To get away from the crowds, head to Spiaggia Arienzo instead - and bring good shoes. The 300 steps it takes to get down to the beach give this seductive stretch of sand its alternate name (300-Steps Beach) and the stone staircase offers some amazing Amalfi views en route. Meander past bright mimosa and fragrant bougainvillea bushes to the cove down below and its neat rows of loungers and parasols hugged by towering cliffs. If you’re short on energy or good walking shoes, opt for a short boat ride from Marina Grande instead.
4. Marasusa, Calabria
Calabria, in Italy’s sun-soaked southwest, offers many natural attractions, including some of Italy’s very best beaches. Marasusa is one of those beaches, complete with rugged cliffs, some of Italy’s cleanest water and powdery white sand, just when you’ve had enough of the pebbles. In the medieval town of Tropea along the Coast of the Gods, Marasusa features plenty of private accommodations, and on a clear day, views of the Stromboli volcano smoking off in the distance.
5. Cala di Volpe, Sardinia
If you make it out to the island of Sardinia, you’ll be blessed with numerous breathtaking beaches, none more spectacular than Cala di Volpe. Costa Smeralda is Sardinia’s most luxurious stretch of coastline boasting yacht-filled bays and a bevy of glamorous villas, resorts and retreats. The best news for daytrippers is that you don’t have to be a guest of the resorts to enjoy this brilliant beach and to swim in its translucent sea.
6. Fiordo di Furore, Amalfi Coast
The most unique beach on this list looks like it was formed by a fjord, giving it its name. Once a quiet fishing hamlet, this tiny cove holds an annual cliff-diving competition and a perfect pebble beach that’s the envy of anyone driving over the bridge that overlooks it. This is a beach for morning swims only as the steep rock walls shade it entirely in the afternoons.
7. Baia dei Turchi, Puglia
Puglia is home to Italy’s sweeping beaches, some stretching an entire mile like Baia dei Turchi. A dense pine forest backs this pristine coastline offering a raw, unmanicured beachscape highlighted by the azure Adriatic Sea. Baia dei Turchi flaunts a white sand beach, consistently boasting Blue Flag status, affirming its cleanliness. When you’re done sunning and splashing around, visit nearby Otranto and its 15th-century Aragonese Castle and the walkable Centro Storico.
8. Scala dei Turchi, Sicily
Many of Italy’s beaches feature stunning backdrops, but none are more striking than the limestone cliffs that hold Scala dei Turchi (Scale of the Turks) on the coast of Realmonte. Near Porto Empedocle in the south of Sicily, the sand turns a deep bronze in the golden hour, playing off the pale cliffs that tower behind it and the lapping bright blue of the Mediterranean Sea. The contrast is brilliant and so is this beach, accessed by naturally formed stone steps best scaled barefoot. ‘Scala’ is unique and utterly photogenic. Bring your best camera and prepare to snap away.
9. Gavitella Beach, Amalfi Coast
The picturesque Amalfi Coast is a series of deep bays and quiet coves, each hiding a charming town and its perfect crescent-shaped beach. Its only setback is that these mountainous bays tend to keep the sun out for a large part of the day unless you’re in Praiano. Gavitella Beach is one of the lucky few facing southwest, providing all-day sun and sublime sunsets, along with striking views of neighbouring Positano. Rent a lounger for the day or bounce between the sea and the naturally formed swimming pool in the beautiful beachfront grotto.
10. Baia Della Zagare, Puglia
Whether you get there by boat from Mattinata or through the hotel the beach is named after, Baia Della Zagare is a must-see for any beach-loving visitor to Puglia. Once there, it won’t be hard to find a patch of sun along the half-mile of gorgeous sand to peer out at the captivating rock formations jutting out from the sparkling sea. Apart from guests of the cliff-top resort, only 30 people are permitted on the beach on any given day, adding to its prestige and exclusivity. Go. Early.
Go on, pack that Speedo, rent that Fiat and hit the beach. Italy should be sipped and savoured and exploring it slowly is a dream.