Summer’s definitely on its way, and where better to soak up the sunshine than in Italy? With so many lovely towns and villages by the coast, it’s hard to know where to choose – so we interviewed our team of Italy Experts and got their votes for the prettiest seaside town in Italy.
Settle down with an ice-cold Peroni (and perhaps a few biscotti too) and join us as we count down the top 10 most beautiful coastal spots to check out this summer…
When it comes to Italian seaside towns, Positano is a classic. This pastel-painted gem has lured holidaymakers in for decades with its good looks, great restaurants and stylish boutiques. Houses and hotels are built into the steep cliff-sides, with narrow lanes and stairways threading between them. At the bottom is the main piazza, home to the Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta, with steps leading down to the beachfront. Loungers and parasols line the curve of course sand, and a sprinkling of bars and restaurants edge the prom, ready for morning coffees and seafood lunches.
Where to stay: If you want to be right in the heart of the action, Hotel Covo dei Saraceni is a good pick – it’s right on the seafront.
Polignano a Mare’s Blue Flag beach is bookended by cliffs – you’ll regularly see people hurling themselves off into the clear blue Adriatic during the summer months. The old town itself is built on top of these and is a labyrinth of little lanes and winding streets. Get lost wandering through them, passing beautiful old churches and whitewashed houses – every so often you’ll emerge on one of the town’s sea-view terraces, so don’t forget your camera. It’s popular with holidaying Italians, so visit outside August if you want to dodge the crowds.
Where to stay: The luxurious Borgo Egnazia is less than half an hour’s drive from Polignano a Mare, set among olive groves.
Spectacular views come as standard in Taormina. This Sicilian town is perched on a clifftop overlooking the Gulf of Naxos, with Mount Etna looming in the distance. You’ll find some of the best views at the Greek amphitheatre, the Teatro Antico. The tree-lined streets are filled with beautiful old churches and balconied townhouses, and there are some lovely piazzas for sitting an enjoying an espresso in (Piazza IX Aprile, with its black-and-white paving and parasol-shaded café terraces, is one of our favourites). Cable cars take beach-goers down from the main part of the town to Taormina Mare, where you’ll find lots of picturesque pebbled coves and beachfront restaurants.
Where to stay: We have plenty of hotels in Taormina, from family-run villas to grand five-star hotels. For a real luxury break, split your time between Taormina’s two Belmond hotels – the Grand Hotel Timeo is in the main part of town, while Villa Sant’Andrea sits down by the beach.
Sprawled across a green cliff-side, Praiano likes to keep a low profile compared to its glamorous neighbours, Amalfi and Positano. This quiet corner of the Amalfi Coast boasts a handful of pocket-sized beaches and some of the best sunset views in this part of Italy. The narrow lanes are lined with colourful houses and cottages, often adorned with flower-draped balconies and colourful majolica tiles. Sun-worshippers should make a beeline for Cala della Gavitella, one of the few beaches on the Amalfi Coast that gets the sun all day.
Where to stay: Hotel La Conca Azzurra is less than 10 minutes’ drive along the coast from Praiano, in the small town of Conca dei Marini. It’s right on the cliff-side, with superb views from the restaurant, the rooms and the private bathing platform.
Minori’s another lesser-known spot along the Amalfi Coast (although Italians have cottoned on to its charms). There’s an impressive cathedral with a white and yellow-painted façade, a cluster of grand hotels along the sandy beach, and some great little trattorie and pastry shops hidden down backstreets. Interested? Find out more about Minori in our mini-guide.
Where to stay: The Minori Palace – it’s right in the centre of town and just a few steps from the beach.
The whitewashed houses of Vieste’s old town are piled on top of a rocky promontory that juts out into the Adriatic. Cobbled lanes weave through the town, and on either side there are beautiful sandy beaches (one of which is considered the best in the area). The steep streets are lined with little restaurants and craft workshops – come evening, they’re packed with people out for their daily passeggiata.
Where to stay: The boutique Canne Bianche Lifestyle & Hotel is in Torre Canne. It’s a few hours’ drive down the coast from Vieste, but it’s well worth making the trip north for a day.
Picking the prettiest of Liguria’s Cinque Terre towns is a hard one, but we think Riomaggiore just nabs the title. The last in the chain of colourful seaside towns, Riomaggiore’s red, orange and yellow-painted houses are built right up to the waterfront, with just a narrow sliver of sand for boats to moor up on and a handful of flat rocks available for sunbathers (head out onto them even if you’re not the sun-worshipping type – they’re the best places to get photos of the town).
Where to stay: Right beside the harbour in nearby Portovenere is the Grand Hotel Portovenere. From here, it’s a lovely hike to Riomaggiore, which takes a few hours – for a slightly quicker (and easier) option, you can take a boat along the coast.
The region of Cilento isn’t particularly well known, despite the beautiful sandy coastline and national park countryside. Santa Maria di Castellabate sits in the north of the region, half an hour’s drive from the famous temples at Paestum. Its historic heart centres around a sandy bay, and is filled with elegant palazzi and quaint fishermen’s houses. There’s also a grand Aragonese watchtower to one side. Running alongside the sand is a wide prom – perfect for sunset strolls.
Where to stay: The family-run Hotel Sonia is on sandy Marina Piccola beach, just around the corner from the harbour and the main beach.
Cefalu is a postcard-worthy jumble of honey-coloured buildings and narrow medieval lanes, crowned by a twin-towered Normal cathedral. It sits on a curve of sandy beach, and boasts a lovely harbour filled with small fishing boats. Looming over everything is La Rocca, a mini-mountain that’s topped with the centuries-old Temple of Diana. It’s not an easy climb, but worth it to see the temple ruins – and the stunning views of Cefalu below.
Where to stay: Cefalu Sea Palace is only a 10-minute stroll from the centre of town, plus it sits on its own private beach. Perfetto!
Santa Teresa di Gallura is nestled on Sardinia’s northern tip, within easy reach of the Maddalena Islands and Corsica (the local dialect is actually similar to southern Corsica’s). Some of Sardinia’s beaches can be found close by – think flour-white sands and waters so blue they almost look Photoshopped.
Where to stay: The secluded Resort Valle Dell’Erica is about 15 minutes’ drive from Santa Teresa Gallura and boasts four pools and a Thalasso & Spa centre.
Do you have any favourite seaside towns in Italy?