Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Top Ten Italian Beaches

 Everyone has a favorite beach along Italy’s 8,600 kms of coastline, but if you ask ten Italians where their country’s best beaches are, nine will give you the name of an island, usually Sardinia.
After  almost  50 years in Italy  I have visited  most of the islands and beaches but since   I am more of a  history  & museum person, I got a little help from my friends  to  put together this insider list of  Italy’s ten  best beaches.  

This  article  has  been read   by  thousands of people, it is the absolutely most popular  post in my blog. I would love to  know  who  you are, so why not leave  a quick comment below. 

Most of Italy's beaches  are covered  with stabilimenti, where one pays for entrance, beach chairs, changing rooms, etc.  
Considering  the current crisis  the country is going through,  yesterday's issue of Corriere della Sera (June 30, 2012)  published  an article  about  FREE BEACHES. 

Here is the list journalist Carlotta Lombardo  put together. You will need a detailed map and local knowledge  to find most of them. 

Sicily-Cala Mosche in the National Park dello Zingaro near San Vito lo Capo 
Sardegna-Cala Sisina near the Gulf of Orosei 
Tuscany-Cala Violina in Maremma
Calabria -Capo Bruzzano 30 kms from Locrì
Liguria-Monterosso and Vernazza 
Puglia -Dune of Campomarino
Campania-Buon Dormire near Capo Palinuro
Marche-Due Sorelle Beach near Conero 
Basilicata -Spiaggia Nera  at Cala Jannita near Maratea
Veneto-Cà Roman di Venezia on Pellestrina a 11km long  beach

1.     Italy has about 400 islands, some just uninhabited rocks, others organized as stunning  summer resorts. Crystal-clear water, unspoiled nature and unique folklore and culture can be found on the island of Sardinia.
a beach in Sardinia

 From the little peninsula of Stintino  to S. Teresa di Gallura in the north-eastern corner, lies a Riviera of emerald water and fine sandy beaches, some of them with pink sand and some only large enough for a couple of beach blankets.
the spiaggia rosa ,Sardinia
 Old towns, many dating from the 12th  century are dominated by castles and walls which once held pirate raiders at bay. Summer villages and hotels are modern, elegant and offer facilities for water sports, swinging nightlife and fine eating.
A relatively unknown part of Sardinia is the island of San Antioco in the south-western corner. Here gourmets can gorge themselves on local lobster and tuna and the wines of Calasetta.
Unless you are a  millionaire, avoid the expensive resorts on the Costa Smeralda and  stay clear of  beaches near large cities, like Cagliari's Poetto unless its low season.

2.     The 400 inhabitants of Stromboli island are not jittery even though they live on a still-active volcano in  the Aeolian archipelago north of Sicily. Famous for its black lava sand beaches, the comforts of civilization are assured although drinking water is brought in by cistern ship during the dry summers. Stromboli is memorable  for its natural  firework displays that awe   cruise  ship passengers  when they sail past in the night. 

 Closer to the Sicilian coast is the greener island of Vulcano, with lovely  beaches and mud baths. Both Stromboli and Vulcano can be reached by ferry from Milazzo in Sicily.

Stromboli island 

3.     The Tuscan island of  Elba, reachable  by ferry from the port of Piombino,  is  known for having once  housed the exiled French emperor Napoleon. Its green rolling hills, beaches like Biodola near Portoferraio, and laid-back lifestyle make it a perfect getaway. This is the only one of  the Tuscan  islands  I have yet to visit, but  this September  I'll be lecturing on a luxury cruise  that stops there.

4.     In northern Italy the Venetian lagoon holds several islands worth a visit. The Lido is a quick vaporetto ride from crowded St. Mark’s Square and is probably Italy’s most beautifully equipped beach with exclusive beach cabins, tents, white-jacketed waiters scurrying with ice buckets from the Excelsior’s bar and a famous gambling casino and annual cinema festival.

Chioggia, at the southern tip of the Venetian lagoon, is 40 miles from Venice by road or a two-hour cruise from Riva degli Schiavoni. An important fishing center, it boasts the lively Sottomarina beach, plenty of good hotels and nightlife.
Lido, Venezia

5.     Ligurian beaches include those of Diano Marina  and the picturesque  hilltown of  Cervo Ligure a few miles up the coast from San Remo of music and casino fame.

Diano Marina, Liguria 

6.The stretch of beaches near Rimini on  the Adriatic coast is a swinging summer spot with 15 kms of white sand, clean water and droves of Scandinavians, Russians and Anglo-Saxons from spring to autumn.  Each year the best beaches are awarded prizes signalled by a   “bandiere blu” flag.

7.Fregene and Ostia are Rome’s seaside resorts where a midday dip in the Med is possible before returning to the city. These beaches are fine during the week but are guaranteed to be very crowded on weekends. Ostia is connected to downtown Rome by a rapid train and has the added attraction of the archeological site similar to Pompeii, Ostia Antica.  

8.Campers love the sandy coastal beaches backed by pine groves  between Albinia and Talamone near Grosseto because of several inexpensive campgrounds .   Gastronomic delights of the area include wild boar stew in the inland medieval hill towns , like Capalbio . Try La Parrina estate for  cheeses made on site, farm produce, local wine  and oil.
deer in La Feniglia  nature reserve
Beaches  on  the Argentario peninsula are  renowned vacation spots: choose from La Feniglia where the topless ratio gets higher every summer, near  Porto Ercole and Porto Santo Stefano and La Giannella , a family beach.

9.In southern Italy folks dote on the Calabrian coast and the islands of Pantelleria and Lampedusa which are  invaded by water and scuba-diving enthusiasts each summer. The swimming is great here even in October since the latitude is the same as northern Africa.

 10. Since naturist  always  find the best, isolated  beaches,  I asked  Fulvio, who has been checking out Italy’s  beaches for  over  50 years, to give his vote. 
His number one beach is Cala Coticchio  ( the locals call it Tahiti)  on the  island of Caprera in Sardegna. I only knew Caprera as the  refuge of Italy’s national hero Garibaldi, so its best to ask the experts. 
Fulvio's second choice was  Cala Brigantina , a fiord like beach where a French  club even set up a resort.  Both of these are reachable only  by boat or after  a long, hot  walk .

 Remember that most Italian beaches  are at their best in July, September and on weekdays, rather than weekends.
  The peak season of mid-August and the  Ferragosto holiday will see you paying  up to 50% more for rental accommodations. In late spring and  other summer months  you can save and enjoy better  service.

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Thanks to Laura  who updated it after  12 years !

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  1. This is making me long for the warmer weather to come! Thanks for the wonderful suggestions :-)

  2. Summer... summer... summer...
    My vote goes to Cala Goloritze' by the Tacchi dell'Ogliastra in Sardinia. Awfully hard to get to (about 1.5 hours hike down a mountain- and then up again!) but the water is crystal clear and full of fish!

  3. Thank you Maria (in Sicily) and Giulia (in North Carolina).
    What about you? What's your vote for the best beach in Italy?

  4. Hello everybody, hello Mary Jane!
    I d like to suggest some of the beaches I prefer here in Sardinia especially in the southern regions.

    This is "Su giudeu" in Chia, one of my favourites:

    This is Piscinas which is at the end of a sandy desert:

    This is Tuarredda, a bit crowded in high season months (july, agoust) but still lovely:

    And this is Porto Pino:

  5. Thanks Marra, so far Sardegna/Sardinia is winning the vote for best beaches. Let's hear it for some other areas.

  6. Everywhere, and i mean EVERYWHERE, in "Costa Verde" and "Golfo di Orosei".

  7. Sardegna is truly beautiful, but the most magical place for me is Pantelleria. The colors and fragrances change with every season. The thermal waters energize in a way that I've never experienced elsewhere. The Nikà beach offers hot thermal waters that gently mix with the cool sea waters, and the colors are spectacular. In the evening, I usually go to the thermal lake, lago di Venere, for free mud treatments as I watch the sun set. It's not overrun with cheesy resorts, and understatement rules. Not a place for families with young children, as most of the beaches are rocky and some require climbing or walking. Great idea to collect people's special spots! I'll check back.

    Spiagge sarde nel comune di San Vero Milis
    from FRancesca Ceci

  9. From Francesca Ceci
    The best beaches in Sardegna are
    Spiagge sarde nel comune di San Vero Milis

  10. Rose beach!!!!!!!!!!!! My lovely land...sun, sea and relax... what else? :D

  11. I appreciate your blog tips about Italian beaches as we are there often. Both of my daughters have been to Sardinia and highly praise the beaches there.

    Last September, we spent several days at the beach near Lucca/Pisa as it was only a short drive from our house. We chose a wild beach which meant a short walk from the parking lot through some pine woods. It was really nice. It was south of Marina di Torre do Lago Puccini.

  12. I really like Lido di Venezia in September... the Film Festival, the parties and the melancholy of the end of the summer...
    (but I live not far from Venice, my opinion counts for nothing!)

  13. Dear Mary Jane

    I have lots of favourite beaches in la Maremma in Tuscany, but if someone is visiting for the first time I always recommend:
    1. The cove of Cala Violina not only because it well deserves its title as the most beautiful beach in Italy, but because the trek through the Mediterranean macchia of the Bandite di Scarlino to reach it with the ever so evident wild boar rootings of the night before, is part of the wonderful experience of visiting there. I first saw Cala Violina from a boat and swam ashore in the early morning. Having the place to myself for a couple of hours was simply magical.
    2. The Gulfo di Baratti in Maremma Livornese because you can swim and sunbathe in one of Maremma's prettiest locations - its not the site of the only Etruscan city built by the sea for nothing - and then take a walk through the adjacent woods full of tombs to a necropolis that is simply stunning in the glow of an afternoon light. And then there is the medieval fortress on the hill, a view for miles along the coast and a bar for an aperitivo...
    3. Capanna Civinini with its white medieval Torre Civette, where the beach of wide golden sands stretches far into the distance and you can beachcomb for miles and miles... and then watch the sunset over the Isola d'Elba.
    4. But no mention of Maremma beaches isn't without the wild Marina di Alberese. It lies within Maremma's protected nature park and its white sands with their sculptural driftwoods are backed by a pineta that is home to wild boar - but then most of Maremma is! Its just a pity about the rubbish some people decide to leave there sometimes. I love it for the sight of the medieval look out towers on high points along the coast, fortifications built to guard against the devastation of frequent Barbary pirate raids.

  14. Am partial to the beaches of the Aeolian Islands, home of my ancestors. There is a reason why Italians go there in vacanza! This is not to denigrate any of the beaches mentioned. There are so many beautiful beaches along the Tyhrennian Sea. The most secluded that I have visited is at San Frutuosso, just above Portofino.
    Hope the cruise liner is removed from off the coast of Tuscany without damage to the ecology.

  15. Thanks Pensionato for your comments..its hard for any one of us to know the best of the Italian beaches. Usually we go back year after year to the same ones,to those near our homes... at least this is my experience. Visitors from abroad instead get a chance to pick and choose a different place each year, getting a better view.

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  17. I have to admit when I start planning my summer holidays I have the mountains in mind. I am in love with the Dolomites. I just have not gotten into beach culture in Italy, though I did spend two weeks in southern Puglia one summer. Too many people and too many umbrellas. My heart is for the cold and wild Pacific Ocean. This year I am taking my husband to Catalina Island off the coast of California and the Sequoias. As for swimming in the summer in Italy, after a long and hot tour at the Vatican, I like to dive into the cool and refreshing depths of Lago di Nemi. I feel kissed by Diana.

  18. Really helpful article! I will recommend it to my friends who are interested in this. Thanks for the information and the list!

  19. This is such a great resource that you are providing and you give it away for free,especially for whom wanted to go beaches. Thanks!


  20. Once you're in, you have the use of the beaches changing rooms, lockers, sun loungers and sometimes even the luxury of a life to take you directly down the cliff to the beach. No more struggling to work your way down those narrow winding paths! Some of these beaches can seem expensive at about EUR10-15 per person but once you're sunning yourselves on a beach like Eco del Mare, Fiascherino. You won't regret spending that little bit extra.

  21. Those Italian beaches was so stunning! I love all of them. Wish I just have time to see those beach on person. Love it. Thanks for sharing.

  22. Great info on this blog as always Mary Jane!! Going to re read and take a few notes, Thank you for your efforts:)

  23. Another great info packed blog, Thank you Mary Jane!

  24. All the mentioned destinations are worthy to be visited at least once. Good recommendations!

  25. Thanks for the information regarding Italy. I m planning to visit Italy for which I got idea from an Italy Travel Video and trying to figure out the best places to visit in short period of time.

  26. Thanks Maria for sharing wonderful places of Italy. from your list of 10 beaches i visited Lido, Venezia which is awesome and i cant forgot the days which we spend here together. we was here in 2009 on Travel visa

  27. Great information about Italy.I appreciate your blog tips.It's great idea to visit this place.Thanks for sharing.