A journey by the sea along Italy's most beautiful coastlines. We are about to reveal our favourite spots. And don't expect just beaches.
With around 8 thousand kilometres of coastline, organising a holiday with a view of the Mediterranean can be a challenge for the most indecisive travellers. Well-equipped beaches or small, wild coves? Adventures on the road or total relaxation in a stylish hotel? What if I want to go trekking? No more pre-departure anxiety; we are here to help you put your plans in order. Here is our list of the most beautiful rivieras in Italy. With some surprises.
10. Basilicata coast to coast
To be honest, seascapes aren't exactly the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to Basilicata. The region famous for the world's tallest Tibetan bridges and the Sassi di Matera makes you think more of lunar landscapes of badlands and small villages perched like timeless cribs than of pleasant riviera scenarios to dive in.
Yet, it is washed by two seas, the Ionian and the Tyrrhenian, and although there are not many beaches in Basilicata, it would be a pity to overlook them.
Maratea, in the province of Potenza, is probably the best-known seaside resort, a mix of Rio de Janeiro (it also features a statue of the Redeemer) and Côte d'Azur, with an ever-increasing number of international tourists and qualified accommodation facilities. The Spiaggia d'I Vranne is a real gem.
The beaches of Policoro, on the Ionian side, are part of the WWF Policoro Heracleia Oasis, where you could even spot dolphins and herons. Metaponto, as well as equipped beaches and more secluded coves, boasts an attractive archaeological area too.
9. Riviera of the Cyclops, in the land of Polyphemus
We move to Sicily, along the coastline known as Riviera dei Ciclopi. We are not far from Catania, between Acireale and Aci Castello. Here, in the waters interspersed with towering volcanic rocks that have inspired stories and legends, your holiday will take a "literary" and epic turn.
According to legend, Polyphemus hurled the giant rocks into the sea to stop Ulysses or, as another version goes, to eliminate a love rival, Acis.
The sight of the seascape along this stretch of coastline will make you take these tales for granted for a moment, or at least you'll wonder how the so-called Faraglioni dei Ciclopi (stacks of the cyclops) can be where they are.
Stop at Aci Trezza, the town of Giovanni Verga's I Malavoglia, with La Casa del Nespolo, the home of the novel's protagonists, the faraglioni and Isola Lachea. Continue to Aci Castello, with its Norman castle that seems to be one with the rocky outcrop from which it rises. And call in Acireale, a marvellous Baroque city that hosts the most beautiful carnival in Sicily.
8. The coasts of Calabria
The coastline near Catanzaro in Calabria has the evocative name of Riviera dei Tramonti. Are there any goosebumpy sunsets on the horizon? Of course there are! In the twenty-five kilometres gliding along the Tyrrhenian Sea from Nocera Terinese to Curinga, the sun hides in the Gulf of Sant'Eufemia. Sometimes the view stretches as far as the Aeolian Islands and Mount Etna.
From Tortona to Paola, Costa dei Cedri is 80 kilometres long, passing through twenty-two Calabrian municipalities to the border with Basilicata. The name comes from the local cultivation of cedar trees. The Arcomagno beach, with its small lagoon, is one of the most photographed.
In the province of Reggio Calabria, you will find Costa dei Gelsomini (Jasmine Coast) on the Ionian Sea, with places like Riace Marina, Roccella Ionica, Marina di Gioiosa Ionica, Siderno and Locri, with its famous archaeological park.
Costa dei Saraceni, in the province of Crotone, stretches to the island of Capo Rizzuto with its distinctive red sand beaches.
7. Riviera Romagnola
Kilometres of comfortably equipped beaches, fine sand and shallow waters criss-cross the cities of Emilia Romagna overlooking the Adriatic.
Cattolica, Riccione, Rimini, Cervia and Milano Marittima are popular destinations for tourists and locals, who are welcomed with an unrivalled range of accommodation options: amusement parks, discos, a multitude of hotels, and a cuisine that is an irrepressible symphony of flavours. Add the proximity to many of the region's artistic and cultural attractions, and you get the secret of the Riviera Romagnola's success.
Rimini, Federico Fellini's hometown, is an ancient city, where the nighttime entertainment alternates with the millennial history that forged it. In Cervia, the "city of salt", sea and thermal baths go hand in hand with mills, wheat fields and orchards.
Sports enthusiasts will be spoilt for choice: just think about how many activities you can do on the endless beaches of the Riviera. And if sweating on the sand is not your thing, you can always enjoy the show: the International Kite Festival and the World Sand Sculpture Championship are among the competitions to attend.
6. Versilia, sea, nature and history in Tuscany
Expanses of sand, social life and places overflowing with culture. Versilia, a region of Tuscany stretching from the Apuan Alps to the riviera, conquers with its bathing establishments popular with the jet set, the olive groves and vineyards on the hillsides, towns full of life and nature trails that even the less experienced can enjoy.
Forte dei Marmi is a refined and elegant seaside resort. Its pier was once used to load merchant ships with the prized Carrara marble, Michelangelo's marble extracted from the nearby quarries.
Pietrasanta, the city of marble and artists, defined as little Athens for its strong links with the artistic dimension; Camaiore, with its ancient parish churches and the lido loved by Gabriele D'Annunzio and Vittorio Emanuele III; Art Nouveau architectures and a legendary carnival in Viareggio; Torre del Lago, where Giacomo Puccini lived and wrote his most beautiful works.
You only have to travel a bit further inland to discover unexpected landscapes, such as the park of Monte Corchia, Lake Massaciuccoli and the marble quarries.
5. Salento, between Maldives and Middle-earth vibes
For some years now, Salento has been the fetish of the Italian summer. More than 150 kilometres of Apulian coastline from the Ionian to the Adriatic Sea form the heel of Italy, which becomes the navel of the world between June and August.
Pack your swimming costume and beach towel and, with panzerotti and pucce in hand, head for Salento. Drive (or cycle, why not) through towns and villages overlooking an extraordinary and never-banal sea, from Maldives-like landscapes (lie in the sun on Pesculose beach), to wilder and rockier stretches where you can swim in hidden caves and narrow fjords (try a dip in the Ciolo canyon). Porto Selvaggio and Punta Prosciutto are tremendously appealing.
Anyway, focusing only on the beaches would be an unforgivable mistake. The "Florence of the south", Lecce, is a masterpiece of honey-coloured Baroque; Otranto will win you over with its historic centre still protected by mighty defensive walls; then there is the white city, Ostuni. It looks like Minas Tirith, but the expanses of olive trees and the view of the sea will take you back from Tolkien's Middle-earth to the Itria Valley.
4. The Italian Riviera in Liguria
The Italian Riviera, an ideal continuation of the French Côte d'Azur, glides like a ribbon along the Maritime Alps to Capo Corvo, in Liguria.
Genoa conventionally separates the Riviera into two sections, Riviera di Ponente and Riviera di Levante. A unique spectacle that attracts visitors with the straightforwardness and originality of the places that slip away along rocks, cliffs and inlets.
The harbours, whether small or grandiose, ancient or ultra-modern; postage-stamp-sized fishing villages in sparkling colours; elegant resorts where you can dream of romantic adventures ("I found my love in Portofino”, as a famous Italian song goes).
Bite into cheese focaccia in Recco; wander through creuze (ancient mule tracks) and stairways in Camogli; dive into the waters in front of the Basilica di San Fruttuoso; discover the art of lace-making in Rapallo; explore UNESCO Cinque Terre; relax in Varigotti, where even the houses have the colour of the sun.
Go as far as Riviera delle Palme and Riviera dei Fiori, immerse yourself in the gardens of Imperia, stroll among the palm trees of Bordighera and smell the flowering wisteria of Villa della Pergola in Alassio.
3. Riviera del Conero, between sweet hills and the sea
"If you drink at the fountain, you'll return to Ancona". We invite you to follow the advice suggested by an old local saying referring to the Calamo Fountain. Ancona, like the entire stretch of the Marche region in the shadow of Mount Conero, amazes and marvels, and you'll want to return again and again.
Enchanting villages, a Blue Flag sea that will convince even water sports enthusiasts, and the landscape of the natural park, so poetic to inspire outstanding works of Italian literature. We love Riviera del Conero because it's the ideal place to spend a holiday, as it encompasses hills and sea, passing through towns that bleed culture.
Its 20 kilometres of coastline offer the widest concept of beach you can imagine. From comfortable private clubs with shallow waters, perfect for families with young children, to wild, rocky coves that can only be reached by sea. One example? The Due Sorelle Beach (two sisters) features tall, white twin rocks jutting out of the crystal-clear water. A spectacle that will leave you speechless.
Sixteen is the number of resorts dotting the Riviera. Ancona is a city of art, history and nature where taking in astonishing sunsets and sunrises on the sea. The many panoramic viewpoints are like open windows on beauty, and street art makes its way among towering churches (visit the Cathedral of San Ciriaco) and ancient architecture from the Roman era (such as the amphitheatre and the Arch of Trajan), giving a new look to the port area, the fulcrum of every city with a maritime vocation.
Stop in Numana, the "queen of the Conero Riviera", a seaside village dotted with colourful houses, archaeological sites and stunning beaches. Savour the lively sea-life of Porto Recanati, with its seafront bars, the Swabian Castle and small squares in the centre enlivened by music and shows.
Visit Sirolo, the "pearl of the Adriatic", a medieval historic centre in the heart of the Conero Park. And look out over the infinity in Recanati, the balcony-town of poet Giacomo Leopardi, taking an evening stroll through the Parco dell'Infinito under the light installation designed by Oscar-winning set designer Dante Ferretti.More info on Riviera del Conero❯
2. Sorrento Peninsula and Amalfi Coast
Among the many facets of the Sorrento Peninsula and the Amalfi Coast, there are some so seductive to activate a magnet effect that no traveller can escape. Fishing villages overlooking the Blue Flag sea, plenty of opportunities for trekking and walking in the countryside, cuisine to be handled with care (yes, it's addictive) and an irresistible dolce vita charm.
A journey into the heart of the Mediterranean goes from the history of Castellammare di Stabia to the panoramas of Vico Equense, from Sorrento's cinematic echoes to the beaches of Massa Lubrense. the great classics of the southern summer, Amalfi and Positano, and the ceramics of Vietri sul Mare.
Climbing the Sentiero degli dei (Gods' Path) will seem like reaching the top of Olympus and walking through the dense vegetation of the Valle delle Ferriere will take you back thousands of years in time, given the presence of a true living fossil, Woodwardia radicans.
Conquer the summit of Mount Faito and push on to Punta Campanella, the tip of the Sorrento peninsula. Taste the local specialities without remorse, and between a frozen limoncello and a portion of spaghetti alla Nerano, think of the time you dived into the Baths of Queen Giovanna (Bagni della regina Giovanna), just you, the turquoise water and a landscape so perfect it seemed to have been created by a set designer.
1. The enchantment of North Sardinia
Costa Smeralda, the A-list's glittering habitat for the hot summer months, and much more. North Sardinia is also the Maddalena Archipelago, Santa Teresa di Gallura, the island of Tavolara, the charm of cities such as Olbia, Sassari and Alghero, the granite cliffs of Costa Rossa and the village of Isola Rossa.
It is a wide and varied territory, with postcard-perfect coastal landscapes that need no introduction, green inland areas and legendary Nuragic sites. So, why not think about a holiday on the road? The best way to reach off-the-radar destinations and find glimpses of pure relaxation even in the middle of August.
Go in search of the most romantic sunsets, whether in Sennori, with the exclusive backdrop of the Gulf of Asinara, on a white beach in Stintino or on a terrace in Porto Cervo holding an aperitif in your hands.
The most beautiful beaches in northern Sardinia are precious visions to be approached with enthusiasm and scrupulous attention to preserve their delicate ecosystem. From the Saline beach in Olbia to the Pelosa beach in Stintino, enjoy crossing your corner of paradise.
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