With more than 7,600km of coastline and a bewildering array of resorts to choose from, picking your summer destination in Italy can be a difficult task. Let us be your guide to where to holiday under the bright Italian sun this summer.
Scene stealer: Sorrento
If you like your summer holiday to have a healthy dose of the best views in the world, Sorrento is ideal. Perched on a cliff top, hotels, restaurants and the houses of the friendly locals seem to tumble down the hill towards the Bay of Naples, meaning there are incredible vistas from almost every hotel here. Some 200 steps will take you down to the town’s harbour, Marina Piccola, where you will find chic Italians relaxing under clear Sorrentine skies.
Beaches tend to be pebbled or shingle – but all are well tended. Pick up a boat from the harbour to visit some of the lesser known coves for a secluded swim, or stay in one a hotel in the neighbouring villages of Sant’Agata and Sant’Agnello, home to the delightful La Marinella beach, accessed in summer months by its own lift.
Away from the coasts: The Italian Lakes
While many flock to the coasts in summer, the Italian Lakes, sitting just under the Alps in northern Italy transforms from a winter playground to a sun-worshippers paradise. There are four main lakes: Como, Garda, Orta and Maggiore and each offers something different.
Garda is the largest of the four, with dramatic changes in topography from its low-lying south to its fjord-like north, while Como is said to the be the prettiest, surrounded by lemon and olive groves and with lovely beaches and manicured gardens to explore.
Orta may contest that ‘prettiest’ label – she is known as the ‘Cinderella of the lakes’ as she keeps her beauty under a bushel – while Maggiore’s waters are so clear, they are said to have been created by the tears of spurned lovers.
An island of contrasts: Sicily
Sicily is unmatched for the sheer diversity it offers to summer holidaymakers. Many will visit the island to stay in picturesque Taormina, a charming village packed with winding streets on Monte Tauro and overlooking two dramatic bays below. But there are several resorts here – unified by a coastal road that is easy to navigate – that make it an ideal destination for people looking to stay in two or more places on the same holiday.
Why not head north to Cefalu for some of Italy’s best beaches and a buzzing nightlife, and the cosmopolitan capital of 2,700-year-old Palermo, with its bustling streets, eclectic architecture and sensational gastronomy. Or take the coastal route south to find lesser known villages that are dramatically different.
The ancient Greek city of Syracuse lies between two natural harbours and has been recognised by UNESCO for its Greek, Roman and Baroque heritage, crowned by the magnificent Baroque Duomo, while Vulcano is home to a beach with waterside caves that are ideal for swimming.
Swim with the stars: Sardinia
Add a dash of glamour with a summer holiday in Sardinia. Lying some 160km west of the mainland, the island is home to some of the best white sand beaches and clearest waters in the Mediterranean, which is why the resorts of Costa Smeralda, or Emerald Coast, are a magnet for the international jet set. The streets, lined with designer boutiques, buzz with excitement, restaurants drip with style and sun lovers turn chocolate brown on loungers by the pretty harbour.
Also on this north coast are Baia Sardinia, a small village set on an idyllic bay, and Cala Capra which has some languid coves surrounded by low wooded hills. Away from the beach, Oliena, on the slopes of Monte Corrasi, offers hill walks and handcrafts such as silk shawls and silver. Head south and there may be fewer well-known faces, but the draws remain the same.
Santa Margherita di Pula has a superb sandy beach and is close to bustling capital Cagliari, while the beaches of Nora are backed by a magnificent Roman villa, amphitheatre and forum.
The Italian Riviera: Tuscany
The Tuscan countryside is rightly famed for its gentle vine-covered rolling hills, hilltop villages and medieval towns – which means the sheer beauty of its coastline can be overlooked. Centered around the town of Viareggio, this is the start of the Italian Riviera, which stretches to the south of France – and Italian and Gallic flair go hand in hand here.
Viareggio is steeped in grandeur, its streets lined with neoclassical buildings and its beach backed by a wide promenade. There are more 20km of honey coloured sands either side of the town, punctuated by chic resorts such as Forte dei Marmi known for its designer boutiques, and all backed by the imposing Alpi Apuane mountains.
It’s easy to add a dash of culture to a summer holiday here too: Pisa with its iconic leaning tower and Florence, home of The Renaissance, are a short drive away.
The wild coast: Puglia
A visit to Italy’s southern Adriatic coast can feel like a step back in time: hidden coves, sun-scorched landscapes, small villages reflecting the sun in dazzling white backed by wooded mountains… It is a region begging to be explored thanks to its rare wild beauty and comes alive in summer through a number of authentic resorts.
Monopoli is a lively port where you can bathe on the city beach of Cala Porta Vecchia or take to the water in the shadow of St Stephen’s Abbey; Torre Canne is a former fishing village with a beach of soft, golden sand and an excellent spa and Savelletri Di Fasano combines golden beaches with incredible, freshly caught seafood at the restaurants surrounding its small harbour.