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Cefalù, Sicily
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The 15 best beaches in Italy

From the coast of Tuscany to the white-pebbled beaches of Puglia, the best beaches in Italy are the stuff of dreams

Nardia Plumridge
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Nardia Plumridge
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If you close your eyes tight and imagine a travel paradise, the best beaches in Italy might just be the image that comes to mind. Europe has plenty of fabulous beaches, but there is something about sitting by the sea in Italy that hits differently. In truth, there is something about Italy as a whole that hits differently, from its world-beating cuisine to its unbelievable range of attractions, landmarks, museums and galleries. There is nowhere quite like it.

But we don’t need to worry about all that for now because we’re sipping wine on the beach. Italy’s best beaches are what tranquil dreams are made of, from popular resorts to quaint caves and coves. Do keep in mind that not all these beaches are free to enter, but all are worth the price to secure that sun-drenched seat.

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At Time Out, all of our travel guides are written by local writers who know their cities inside out. For more about how we curate, see our editorial guidelines.

Best beaches in Italy

Polignano a Mare, Puglia
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1. Polignano a Mare, Puglia

White pebble beaches and white-washed houses sum up this part of the Bari coastline with Cala Porto (also known as Lama Monachile), a popular slither of beach tucked between jagged cliffs in the village of Polignano a Mare. Named after the Roman bridge that borders the watery enclave, you can watch brave folks cliff dive at Grotta Piana right into the Adriatic Sea.

Capri, Campania
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2. Capri, Campania

Capri is an island that doesn’t even need an introduction. The famous Grotta Azzurra is on plenty of travel bucket lists, as is strolling the island’s bougainvillaea-lined streets. Beachside Marina Grande offers the most spacious sunspots and is peppered with eateries serving breathtaking sea views for a tasty lunch break. Smaller Marina Piccola (to the island’s south) has a few small strips of beach that are free to access, where visitors can perch on the pebbles with the locals. 

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Porto Cesareo, Puglia
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3. Porto Cesareo, Puglia

On the west of Italy’s “heel” is Puglia, spectacular around the limestone town of Gallipoli. To its north, the beaches at Porto Cesareo in the Gulf of Taranto rival the ones in the Caribbean, turquoise and clear with warm weather that lasts into late September. One of the largest protected marine areas in Italy, old torri (stone towers) used as lookouts to ward off pirate ships remain intact, enchanting the sea vista from your sandy location.

 

Scala dei Turchi, Sicily
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4. Scala dei Turchi, Sicily

Southern Sicily is famed for its Greek temples in Agrigento and the nearby white cliffs of Scala dei Turchi (Stair of the Turks), which offer jaw-dropping views and pristine beaches near Porto Empedocle. Although two sandy beaches can be accessed by foot, the main event is the limestone rock weathered into the shape of a staircase, which can be climbed to secure the best spot for tanning between sea swims. 

 

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Forte dei Marmi, Tuscany
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5. Forte dei Marmi, Tuscany

Arguably the most stylish of Tuscan beach towns, Forte dei Marmi is where Florentines descend during the height of summer. Wedged between the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Apuan Alps, its long sandy beach is lined with summer clubs offering private cabanas and seaside swimming pools. Come nighttime, the town becomes even livelier with music clubs and seafood restaurants overlooking its moonlit waters. You can spend all summer here.

Baratti, Tuscany
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6. Baratti, Tuscany

The region is known for its historic cities – Florence and Siena – yet its coast is equally worth swooning over. Baratti’s crystal blue water and remote location make it a destination spot, and since it’s on the periphery of the Bolgheri region, you’ll discover incredible wines and memorable swimming spots. During the summer, nearby wineries like Petra host music events, and glamping within the vines at Tenuta Poggio Rosso makes for a fruity stay-over experience.

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Positano, Campania
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7. Positano, Campania

Film set and ‘gram-worthy, bubble gum-coloured houses sit atop one another on a steep incline overlooking the waters of this cliffside village. Its narrow streets (and steps) take you to a pebbled beachfront popular with travellers. This is iconic Italian beach living at its finest and worth the stair descent to frolic in the waters after walking the famed Sentiero degli Dei (Path of the Gods) hiking trail linking Positano to Bomerano. 

Lido di Orrì, Sardegna
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8. Lido di Orrì, Sardegna

With Olbia to the north and Cagliari to the south, it would be expected of you to stay by the main towns, but doing so will make you miss your chance to visit the most beautiful beaches on Italy’s second-largest island. So head east for crystal clear waters and hidden coves within a 9-kilometre stretch of coastline near the town of Tortolì. Spiaggia Grande (literally “big beach”) was awarded the region’s most Bandiera Blu (blue flags) and is spread over 3.5 kilometres of fine white sand along panoramic Highway 125.

 

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Atrani, Campania
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9. Atrani, Campania

Down the coast from Amalfi on the road to Ravello, Atrani is one of the region’s best-kept secrets. A tiny fishing village (population: 832), it’s home to a small beach on the Tyrrhenian Sea with loungers positioned under the shadows of its hilltop houses. Post-sun lounging, enjoy a Spritz with the locals in Piazza Umberto I, the town’s main square, amidst the crumbling yet charming exterior decor.

Santa Severa, Lazio
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10. Santa Severa, Lazio

Rome boasts beach options only 30 minutes from the city centre, and if you venture a little further, you’ll be rewarded with clear waters and castle views. Just north of the Eternal City, Santa Severa has been a popular destination for centuries that has played host to Popes (including Gregory XIII, Sixtus V and Urban VIII) and was used by the Germans during World War II, given its strategic position. Today, its 14th-century castle doubles as a museum dedicated to the region’s heritage.

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