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Best Beach Towns in Italy

Updated: Jun 23

I should start by saying that this Florida Panhandle girl has a very high bar for beaches around the world. Being from Destin, with the clear blue waters and the powder white sand means it’s hard to find adequate competition. The waters in the Tyrrhenian, Adriatic and Ionian Sea come pretty close to providing the same blue waters where you can see your toes and all the rocks at the bottom. However, the beaches leave something lacking. European beaches in general are more rock than sand. And somehow the locals are ok with it. Once I adjusted my expectations, the coastline of Italy was easier to judge. Some places are known for boating, like Capri, and others for their cliffside views, like Cinque Terre and Positano. But others provide a small beach for relaxing and wading into the refreshing waters. Here are (IMO) the best beach towns in Italy.


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1. Camogli

Wow this place blew me away! Not because it’s some big tourist destination, but because it isn’t! This hidden gem in the Italian Riviera is just a couple of hours from Cinque Terre and only 30 mins from Genoa. With only 5,000 people, Camogli is a small town in Italy by the sea that is a wonderful reprieve from the throngs of people that flood the country during the month of August. I loved wandering down the small streets lined with cafes and almost endless ocean views. I spent hours tanning on the pebbly beach and swimming in the crisp blue water. I loved my little stay at Stella Marina, a small hotel with budget accommodations only 3 minutes from the beach and 5 mins from the train station. It was the perfect location, with a nice pizzeria next door.


Pro Tip: There are many different focacceria shops in town, but the best one is u Caruggiu. They have a location by the Camogliese Hotel and one on the high street down from the train station. Be sure to try their pesto focaccia with cheese!



2. Polignano a Mare

While this Italian beach is quite small, the views are breathtaking. Take a train from Bari or Lecce to Polignano a Mare and enjoy the cliffs overlooking the crystal-clear water. You can wander down from the bridge to the tight beach below. The little town is filled with fresh seafood and cafes, but I’d encourage you to grab a piadina and a few beers and enjoy lunch on the pebbly beach or rocky lookout nearby. After you are properly sun-kissed, cool off with drinks at one of the lookout points. Watch the sunset before catching a later train back to Bari or stay for a few days in this quaint town to enjoy the slower hours after the day-trippers leave.


Act Like a Pro in Polignano a Mare: Head to Volare Street to find lyrics to the song “In the Light” down the street. Also be on the lookout for poetry written on the doorways, steps or walls all over.


3. Gallipoli

Step off the train from Lecce into a beautiful square with a church. Make your way toward Purity Beach (Spiaggia della Purita), which is a free beach about 10-15 mins walk from the train station. There are usually guys renting a beach chair and umbrella (about 15 euros for the day), but you can also just plop your towel down and enjoy. The beach is one of the few sandy beaches, with a longer coastline than most. You can wander the town on the peninsula, with lots of restaurants and shops when you need a beach break.



4. Rimini

I only decided to stay here on my way to San Marino, and boy was I glad I did. The beach is one of the nicest I have seen in Italy, with a string of restaurants and even a Ferris Wheel. Rimini is unique in that most of the beach is occupied by private resorts, who charge for beach chairs, volleyball courts and food services. However, there are a few free beaches open to the public. I headed to Spiaggia Libera (literally Free Beach) at the base of the pier.


Travel Tip: Watch your stuff. I had just sat down when a mother/daughter from Czech Republic came back to their towels and found all their money and phone gone. There were some local Italians also sunning on the beach near us that went above and beyond to search the nearby garbage cans looking for the wallet (dumped of cash), communicate with the lifeguard on duty and ultimately drive the women back to their accommodations. As a solo traveler, it’s hard to do both, so if I’m planning to swim, I try to put my stuff as close to the water as possible and swim facing my things, so I can always keep an eye on it.




5. Torre dell’Orso

An easy bus ride from Lecce, Torre dell’Orso is on the Eastern side of Puglia, at the bottom of the ‘shoe heel.’ Take the 101 Bus from Viale Gallipoli (Camera di Commercia/Stazione). In the high season, there is usually someone under a tent by the bus station to help tourist and sell tickets. If you read Italian, you can check out the Salento in Bus site for more information.


The beach is a mix of private and public, alternating. You can rent loungers and umbrellas for the day, or find the sections open to the public. There are a few spots for toilets and some of the private sections have cafes for beverages and light snacks. I would recommend bringing water with you though.


Best Eats in Torre del Orso: Stop for lunch at Modo Bar & Kitchen for a scrumptious octopus sandwich or fried calamari. They grow their own Cuban mint, so the drinks are also refreshingly tasty!



6. Salerno

This one flies a little under the radar for most. Usually if you are in the area you are heading to the famed towns on the Amalfi Coast – Positano, Amalfi or Maiori. But Salerno is a cheaper Italian beach town that’s more a working city than a tourist’s hangout. It houses Matthew’s tomb at the Salerno Cathedral and a castle on a hill with sweeping views. I wouldn’t recommend staying more than a few days, but the beach is a long stretch of sand, and the town offers a nice change of pace from the overcrowded spots just north.


I stayed at 14 Leoni right on the beach. It was a cozy little hotel, with budget accommodation, but I loved my little room and the breakfast each morning was wonderful. It’s a little outside of the main town but waking up with the windows open to hear the waves crashing made the 15-minute walk into town worth it.



These are my favorite six beach towns in Italy that are slightly off the beaten track. Everyone has heard of the Amalfi Coast or Cinque Terre, which means the herds of tourists have somewhat crushed the enjoyment factor. Head to one of these lesser-known beach towns on your next trip to Italy!


 

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Guest
Sep 22, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Descriptions make me want to go now! Thanks!!

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Guest
Sep 20, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Loved the personal touches and recommendations from a real travel pro. Thanks

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Sep 20, 2023
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