When you think of an Italian summer, what is it that you picture? Is it warm colors, dripping gelato, and hot sun? Maybe it’s not—maybe it’s crystal clear blue waters instead, juxtaposed against a rocky background of sheer cliffs and pebbled beaches.
No matter what you imagine when you visualize Italy in the summertime, inevitably, most come to the same conclusion: It’s hot, it’s beautiful, and it reminds one of melted ice cream. That’s what Italy’s known for, isn’t it, aside from good food, Vespas, and wine? That melted gelato?
Most definitely. And more often than not, when you’re vacationing on a stunning Italian beach, you’re going to find yourself with a cone of liquid deliciousness thawing over your hand. That’s alright, because to soften the blow of all that lost sugar, you’re surrounded by white sands, rock pools, and clear seas.
Now, let’s make that a reality.
Narrowing down the best beaches in Italy is a unforgiving task, but a necessary one. This is serious journalism, and the good news is there are many top beaches to choose from.
The great news is we’ve already outlined the top twelve beaches Italy has to offer below. Read on to learn more!
Looking for a quick answer to your most pressing questions? Check them out below, or visit our FAQ.
- Most Beautiful Beach in Italy: Positano, Campania
- Best Overall Beach in Italy: Cala Mariolu, Sardinia
- Best Beach For Couples: Marina Grand Public Beach, Capri
- Best Beach for Families: Sperlonga, Lazio
- Best Beaches for Watersports: The beaches of Sardinia and Capri
- Best Beaches for Boating: The beaches of Elba Island in Tuscany
- Best Beach for Fishing: Cala Mariolu, Sardinia
- Best Beach for Food: Positano, Campania
- Best Beach for Safety and Solo Travel: Sperlonga, Lazio
Italy is a stunning country, rich with culture, food, wine, and a brilliant sun that promises a beach vacation—and a tan—to remember. Look around, beach lovers! Your trip is waiting!
Our Top Italian Beaches
As a first-generation American, the daughter of Italian parents, I’ve always been incredibly fond of the country—the beaches, especially. I grew up visiting countless local seaside villages over the course of many summer vacations, where I learned how to haggle in Italian, how to dive, and how to politely ask for more gelato, per favore, if nonna wouldn’t mind?
Some of the best things to do on the beaches of Italy find you unexpectedly. Sometimes, it’s buying your very first inflatable raft with spare change and grammatically incorrect Italian.
Sometimes it’s not. The point is, there are so many things to enjoy out under the Tuscan (and Sardinian, and Calabrian, and Roman, I could go on) sun.
To help you start your next vacation, we’ve collected a variety of beachside towns to showcase everything from their tiny white pebbles to the rainbow houses perched on their jagged cliffs. I hope you, my fellow sun worshipers, love these golden sands as much as I do!
1. Sperlonga, Lazio
Sperlonga, a must-see, gorgeous beach along the east coast, is exactly what families are looking for. Not only is it a stunning spot, but you’ll find comfort and entertainment for all. The Mediterranean is home to shallow turquoise waters and, here in particular, powdery sand, perfect for building sandcastles! Grab your toys, and let’s go!
What’s more, not far from Sperlonga is Gaeta, a lesser-known town in Lazio and lesser-known treasure in its own right. It’s quiet and peaceful, and as a bonus, both locales are a short drive from Rome. That means you can get some sightseeing in at the Eternal City, too.
2. Marina Grand Public Beach, Capri, Campania
Marina Grand, the arrival port for the arrival of Capri, sees thousands of passengers disembarking every day—but don’t let the crowds stop you. Marina Grand Public Beach is the largest beach on the island and, for that reason and many others, proves itself to be very family-friendly. Here, you’ll have access to all the tourist information you may need, as well as the funicular station (a cable car!) and buses for easy transport.
If you’re looking for something else to do, Positano is a nearby destination you can reach easily from Capri. A popular Italian seaside town, Positano is positioned just at the tip of the Amalfi Coast. It’s the sun-bleached tourist locale everyone’s seen on magazine covers, but that doesn’t make it any less romantic—just achingly beautiful.
See Related: Best Things to Do in Maiori, Italy
3. Scala dei Turchi, Sicily
Scala dei Turchi, which translates to “Turkish Steps,” is named for its multileveled cliff face that seems to rise, step by step, above the sea. It’s a stunning beach in the south of Sicily, where you’ll find the “sand” is primarily composed of broken shells, quartz, and small stones. This may make it less of a comfortable place for children, but travelers looking for a distinctive, unforgettable view will love it.
There is a saying in Italian: “il sole Siciliano ha cotto il cervello.” This means, “the Sicilian sun has cooked your brain.” Funny, right? Not so much for the brain. The best way to avoid overexposure is to bring coverage. Pack a hat!
4. Spiaggia di Cefalù, Sicily
Spiaggia di Cefalù is considered one of the most popular Sicilian beaches, and for good reason. As you explore the coast of the island, you’ll quickly learn that most beaches in Sicily are pebbled. While these tiny white stones are appealing in their own way, many travelers tend to prefer the sandier options—and Cefalù is the more famous of them.
Keep in mind that while Sicily (and Italy on the whole) is a wonderful place, we recommend keeping your belongings on you. Beachgoers are relatively easy targets for would-be pickpockets, which is why we recommend a zippered beach bag to hold onto your necessities. Considering this is a very busy beach, it can’t hurt to err on the side of caution.
See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Minori, Italy
5. Fontane Bianche, Sicily
Fontane Bianche appeals to many families, largely because its waters are warm, calm, and clear. In fact, its very name comes from the many freshwater springs found along the seabed. The long stretch of white sand is occupied by sun loungers and colorful umbrellas. Plus, nearby, you’ll have access to all the tourist services you could ask for, from beach bars to pharmacies.
Staying on the beach and swimming with the kiddies all day is a tempting prospect, but if you’re looking for more to do in the area, you’ll find a multitude of UNESCO World Heritage sites (Ragusa, for example) and even a beach that doubles as a nature reserve.
- Great for: Families, couples, traveling friends
- Activities: Sunbathing, paddle boating, canoeing, swimming, local tours of UNESCO sites
- Accommodations: Stay at this cute Sicilian villa for an incredibly reasonable price, or, if you’d like a pool (and breakfast included!), visit Hotel Villamare.
- Don’t forget: You can capture some incredible vistas here with a decent camera. Check out more of our favorite cameras here.
6. Cala Mariolu, Sardinia
If Cala Mariolu isn’t the most popular of Sardinian beaches, it’s certainly one of them—and for good reason. Visit this spot for the highlight of your island trip: stunning views, vibrant colors, and limestone scenery like you’ve never seen.
It’s good to keep in mind that floor of Cala Mariolu is composed of sand and stone both, so be careful when you walk—or skip the middle man, and don some beach-friendly hiking shoes.
Why? Well, the beach just north of Cala Mariolu is called Cala Goloritzé, and it’s frequently visited by boat. Explore as you will, on the coast, on translucent water, or strive to reach Cala Goloritzé on foot.
- Great for: Couples, families (possibly with older kids), friends, and everything in between
- Activities: Sunbathing, swimming, hiking, fishing, boat tours
- Accommodations: Hotel Brancamaria offers the whole nine yards, featuring free breakfast and a beautiful pool. If you’re looking for a hotel that still promises a good price but sits closer to the beach, check out Hotel Costa Dorada.
- Don’t forget: Beach-friendly hiking shoes are a must for exploring the surrounding area.
See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Ravello, Italy
7. La Pelosa, Sardinia
La Pelosa is a tropical place known for being just that—colorful and bright, both on and offshore. Its white sand meets the clear sea, where you can scuba dive, snorkel, or just go for a quick, relaxing swim.
Across the water, on another rocky stretch, you’ll see the ancient Saracen “Torre del Falcone,” or “Tower of the Falcon.” Its crumbling stone walls have risen over the waves to say “ciao,” for centuries!
La Pelosa is a popular beach, so we’d recommend checking the beach’s website before you pay it a visit. There’s a possibility that tickets are required for entry, as it’s not only a historical location but is also under regional protection.
- Great for: Couples, families, friends, and everything in between
- Activities: Sunbathing, swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, sightseeing, watersports, private sailing tours
- Accommodations: Hotel Cala Reale, one of my favorite hotels on this list, showcases two beautiful outdoor pools and views for days!
- Don’t forget: A quality camera for capturing gorgeous images, like the one above. Water shoes are handy for the rocks.
8. Torre dell’Orso, Puglia
This seaside village sees its fair share of visitors, and it’s no mystery why. A charming summer resort town, Torre dell’Orso is more modernized than you might expect.
When you step into the sea beside the town, though, you’ll come face to face with a famously stunning rock formation: Le Due Sorelle, or “the Two Sisters.” This geological dream sits just offshore, awaiting the dip of the sun to cast a shadow. You can observe its splendor from the white sands or, if you prefer, take a tour of the coastline in a kayak!
- Great for: Couples, families, friends, and everything in between
- Activities: Sunbathing, swimming, kayaking, nature walks, sightseeing
- Accommodations: This beautiful villa, aptly dubbed “Alice,” certainly takes you to wonderland—it sleeps six and boasts two large, furnished gardens. Conversely, Posia Retreat & SPA is a luxury getaway that promises a pool, spa, and free breakfast, too.
- Don’t forget: This is a great beach to spend the day with some food and drinks, so think about a folding beach chair, beach umbrella, or sunshade, and a cooler for all your goodies.
See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Sorrento, Italy
9. Spiaggia di Pescoluse, Puglia
Pescoluse is a classic, idyllic beach for all your sunbathing needs. It’s larger than other famous spots in Puglia, like Lama Monachile, and thus proves itself to be a great location for staying all day, rather than just taking a quick dip in the sea. Kids will love the soft sand and totally splashable blue water, and if you tire of the sun, you can take a break at a nearby bar.
Do bear in mind there is little shade on the beaches of Puglia, so it’s best to come prepared. Given the popularity of the coast (particularly in August, as that’s when Italians celebrate Ferragosto), you’re not guaranteed a beach rental. Bring along a beach umbrella, if you can!
- Great for: Couples, families, friends, and everything in between
- Activities: Sunbathing, swimming, sandcastle-building, beach bars, local cooking classes to get in touch with the culture!
- Accommodations: Antica Masseria Ficazzana offers free breakfast, a short walk to the beach (4,500 feet, only), and as a bonus, is a sustainable travel level three. You can also treat yourself to Volito Hotel & Resort, which comes highly rated and also boasts a pool.
- Don’t forget: If you’ve got kids in tow, bring beach toys. Consider bringing a picnic, in which case you’ll want a beach umbrella or sunshade.
10. Capo Vaticano, Calabria
More of mountain than a rocky outcrop, Capo Vaticano springs up from the sea in a tower of battered white rocks. Its endless piles of granite contain unique geological characteristics, which make it a curiosity and point of intrigue for scientists around the world.
What’s more, this beach is the final strip of land on the coast before it tapers off into the Strait of Messina, which connects the Tyrrhenian Sea with the Ionian Sea. In those waters, the coast is visited by fish of all kinds—including great swordfish, blue sharks, and tuna.
- Great for: Adventurous couples, friends looking for the same
- Activities: Sunbathing, swimming, tours of the beach and Calabria, private boat charters
- Accommodations: This Capo Vaticano Villa has its own garden and stands very close to the beach, while Hotel La Campagnola offers beautiful lodging, a terrace, and a restaurant for your convenience.
- Don’t forget: Bring an underwater camera for the crystal clear waters.
11. Grotticelle Beach
Not far from Capo Vaticano, this lovely beach promises aquamarine water, golden sands, and rocky pools alike. A clear turquoise sea makes for an impossibly beautiful swim, and when you come ashore, beachside rentals offer a reprieve from the sun, if you need it. Travelers of all kinds will enjoy the relative privacy to be found in the curving crescent of this beach. You’ll be sure to spend all day here!
While you’re in the Capo Vaticano region, take some time to explore other Calabrian gems. One such example is the city of Tropea, whose beauty only starts with its fine white sand and salty sea. Look up, and you’ll find a stunning rise of steep cliffs at your back. Why not pay it a visit?
- Great for: Couples, friends, families
- Activities: Sunbathing, swimming, exploring the cliffs and crags
- Accommodations: This Villagio Camping La Scogliera is a family-friendly attraction with its own private beach, while Villetta Capo Vaticano Tropea is very close to Grotticelle and boasts garden views.
- Don’t forget: An underwater camera – the landscape under the waves is otherworldly.
12. Spiaggia di Capo Bianco, Elba Island, Tuscany
Here at Spiaggia di Capo Bianco, the earth is pebbled with stones, and you can carefully pace the cobbled ground to find a small cave. Explore the rocks and, if you’re up for more adventure, visit the adjacent beach, Spiaggia Padulella. These beaches are actually close to the Scoglietto Marine Reserve for Biology Protection, which means you’ll have the opportunity to see some truly beautiful fish, should you choose to snorkel.
When you find yourself on the Tuscan coast, you simply must visit nearby Cinque Terre. This area has a famous pebbly beach decorated with cascading, colorful houses, but it’s more than just a pretty picture; its impressive cultural and ecological assets led to the town being declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997.
- Great for: Adventurous couples, friends looking for the same, families
- Activities: Sunbathing, swimming, nearby bars, snorkeling, assorted Elba island tours, visiting Cinque Terre National Park.
- Accommodations: Hotel Airone Isola d’Elba, a beach hotel, provides a lovely opportunity to get your tan on, while Residenza il Sasso Scirocco, an apartment, is not only a reasonable price, but sits just ‘a stone’s throw from the sea.’
- Don’t forget: Consider water shoes, snorkeling gear, and perhaps an underwater camera.
See Related: Top Things to Do in Naples, Italy
Important Tips for Italian Beaches
Italian Beach Etiquette
From the jump, the Italian coast knows how to tempt you. They offer paid options that grant you not only a better spot on the beach itself, but a lounge chair, an umbrella, and sometimes outdoor showers and dressing rooms. What else should you know going in?
Italian Beach Packing List
I did my best to include some essentials for each beach so that you might make the most of your trip. Well, here are a few items that you should never forget to bring to ANY beach:
- Beach towels – Soft and absorbent enough to dry off but tough enough to survive sand and pebbles.
- Beach blanket – Get a big one you can sprawl out in the sun, or enjoy a picnic.
- Sunscreen – The summer sun in Italy is no joke!
- Water bottle – Don’t forget to hydrate for the above reason.
- Sun hat – Find something wide-brimmed and chic to look like you belong.
- Beach tote – How else are you gonna carry all this stuff?
More Traveler Tips
Here are a few more pearls of wisdom for when visiting Italian beaches:
- It’s usually safer to leave your belongings on a paid beach, but you should always be cautious and mindful of your things.
- If you choose to pay, your spot is reserved. Thus, taking other people’s chairs is ill-advised.
- While free beaches are available, they may offer fewer perks, such as the lack of a lifeguard.
- Swim at your own risk and keep a close eye on the little ones! As beaches in Italy tend to be rocky and boast many dramatic cliffs, it’s important to stay awake, aware, and alert, if only for your own safety.
- Pet-friendly beaches are becoming more popular, but don’t assume this applies to all. Do a little research beforehand if you plan on bringing your furry friends along.
Do European beaches cost money?
You’ll find there are some beach resorts in Italy that cost money, depending on where you are. However, this isn’t always the case—often, there are secluded beaches right along the coast, open for your perusal, as well as public beaches, like Sperlonga in Lazio.
Some places might split the beach in two. That is, they have a side with available concessions that costs money, and a side that’s totally free. These concessions include beach chair rentals, umbrellas, and sometimes a bar or two for your convenience.
Is solo travel safe along the coast of Italy?
Solo travel in Italy is absolutely safe. That being said, it’s always a good idea to keep a few tips and tricks in mind. For example: Remain aware of your surroundings; keep your belongings in zippered bags, preferably on your person; look out for pickpockets; pick reputable accommodations; check in with family and friends; and finally, trust your intuition.
Can you tell me about the most beautiful beaches and hidden gems for families?
There are plenty of lesser-known towns to be found along the Amalfi Coast (Minori, Maiori, Atrani). Likewise, Palinuro, Campania is a must-see hidden gem. Finally, Sardinia’s San Teodoro is something of a small cove. At a glance, its gorgeous half moon shape sequesters you comfortably, and you can count on calm waters to swim in.
For kids, the best course of action is to seek out silky sand and shallow waters. If that’s what you’re after, you’ll find what you’re searching for in Lazio (Sperlonga, Terracina), Puglia (Pescoluse, Otranto), and Sardinia (San Teodoro, Villasimius), to start. There are more places to see, but so little time, no?