The 15 Best Coastal Towns in Italy
In comparison to Italy’s famous historic cities and Renaissance countryside, the coastal towns in Italy don’t often get much of a mention. However, there are many beautiful Italian coastal towns that boast incredible views, architecture, food and cultural attractions on both mainland Italy and its islands as well.
From the glamour of the Amalfi Coast to the rugged cliffs of Sorrento and the quiet tranquility of Puglia, there are hundreds of different experiences to be had along the Italian coast. With so many towns, cities and villages to choose from, it can be tricky to know where to even start, which is why we’ve put together this round-up of the 15 best coastal towns in Italy.
The island of Ponza is one of Italy’s best-kept secrets and historically was the favoured summer holiday destination of the Ancient Romans. There are plenty of myths and legends surrounding Ponza, which range from claims that it is the remains of the lost island of Tyrrhenia to the belief that the ancient titan sorceress Circe used to live here.
Ponza is the largest of the Pontine Islands archipelago and the town of the same name is a beautifully quiet holiday destination with all the charm of a classic Italian fishing village. It’s a perfect place to come and relax, unwind, and enjoy delicious local food as you take in the stunning surrounding views.
Tropea is often referred to as the ‘Coast of the Gods’ because of its incredible scenery and fascinating past. The town is best known for its historic centre which is perched right at the top of a steep hill on a cliff overlooking the ocean, but is also making a name for itself as an excellent destination for classic Italian seafood dishes and ice cream.
Not only is Tropea one of the most beautiful towns in Italy, but it’s also a top-rated destination for a summer holiday because of its two fantastic beaches. It may only be a small town on the coast but it captures the hearts of every visitor who arrives there with its scenery, culture and unique architecture.
Riomaggiore is the largest of the five villages of Cinque Terre, built into the cliffs looking out over the Gulf of Genoa. It’s made up of the same pastel-coloured houses you’ll find in most of the coastal towns in this area and is the starting point of the ‘Sentiero Azzurro’ walking trail that links together Cinque Terre’s villages.
As you’ll find throughout this part of coastal Italy, the cliffs mean that there are very few sandy beaches to be found around the villages. However, swimming and cliff diving are still very popular activities, and you can still make the most of the spectacular views from along the coastline.
Positano has long been considered one of the best small coastal towns in Italy as well as the country’s most beautiful holiday destination. Found on the stunning Amalfi Coast, this town is built into the cliffs overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea and consists of rows of pastel-coloured houses that make it one of the most photographed parts of the Italian coast.
The Amalfi Coast is known as being a glamorous holiday destination favoured by numerous celebrities, and Positano is its most popular resort town. Whilst this can be an expensive place to stay, you’ll also get to enjoy the best beach in the area, top-rated restaurants, boutique shops and plenty of unforgettable scenery.
Portofino is another of the most beautiful towns in Italy, located on the coast of Liguria and famous for its bright coloured houses that are scattered along the cliffs. It’s been a favoured spot for the rich and glamorous since the 1950s and remains quite a star-studded holiday destination that is perfect for trips with a luxurious touch.
As well as several brilliant beaches, Portofino is also home to a range of shops, galleries and bars that make it a fun cultural destination that is particularly good for younger travellers. There is plenty of delicious local food and wine to be found as well, best enjoyed with views of the distinctive half-moon shaped harbour.
Capri is an island found close to the coast of Sorrento, known as the favoured vacation spot for Ancient Roman emperors and one of the most beautiful towns in Italy. The town of the same name has the biggest population settlement on the island and is a brilliant place to visit either just for the day or for a longer trip, with two picturesque harbours and plenty of lovely beaches.
The biggest attraction for those visiting Capri is the famous Blue Grotto; a cave in the middle of the sea nearby that floods with a unique blue light at different times of the day. Despite the number of tourists that visit every year, Capri still has the feel of an authentic Italian seaside town and is a lovely part of the Italian coast to visit.
Sorrento is one of the most famous coastal towns in Italy and is a very popular part of the country to visit if you’re looking for a classic experience of an Italian seaside town. Found in the province of Naples, the scenery surrounding Sorrento includes the ocean and the mountains, and whilst it doesn’t have much in the way of beaches on offer, it certainly delivers on food, views and culture.
If you’re looking for a prime location to explore the coast of Italy, Sorrento is in the perfect spot to also explore the Amalfi Coast, the island of Capri, and the ancient town of Pompeii. The surrounding cliffs offer dramatic surrounding scenery and there are plenty of interesting attractions to discover throughout your stay, particularly in the Old Town.
Manarola is one of the five villages that make up the coastal region of Cinque Terre and is largely thought of as the most beautiful. Built into the cliffs of Italy’s coast, the pastel colours of the houses provide a stunning backdrop for a holiday and look particularly amazing when the sun is setting and everything is glowing with golden light.
This isn’t the place to visit if you’re after sandy beaches, but it does have a lovely 14th-century church that is one of the area’s prime sightseeing spots. Manarola is a charming part of this length of the Italian coast that attracts thousands of visitors every year and is the ideal place for a peaceful, picturesque holiday.
Sperlonga is a tiny town found on the coast just an hour away from Rome, making it an ideal spot for locals to come for a weekend escape from the city. This Italian seaside town has several long, pristine beaches along with the crystal clear water that makes it a particularly popular location in the summer months.
The town itself is made up of distinctive whitewashed houses that are clustered along the headland looking out over the sand and the sea. If you grow tired of sunbathing you can pay a visit to the Museo Archeologico di Sperlonga, which was built from the ruins of the ancient Roman emperor Tiberius’ old holiday villa and is full of historical artefacts.
Vernazza is another of Cinque Terre’s most scenic locations, with classic colourful houses lining the waterfront and unbeatable sea views wherever you go. Doria Castle sits just above the village and is a sightseeing highlight of the area, along with the Santa Margherita di Antiochia church and bell tower.
If you’re looking for a beach in Cinque Terre then Vernazza is one of the best places to visit, as there are two small stretches of sand on the seafront that are a great place for swimming and sunbathing. They do tend to get busy incredibly quickly in the summer months however, so you’ll want to get there early in the morning if you’re planning on snagging a spot!
POLIGNANO A MARE, PUGLIA
Polignano a Mare is one of the best-known coastal destinations in the region of Puglia, but still maintains an incredibly authentic atmosphere and hasn’t yet been overrun by tourism. Found on stunning limestone cliffs overlooking the Adriatic Sea, this small coastal town is made up of whitewashed houses and narrow streets that open out onto incredible views of the ocean.
The beaches surrounding Polignano are popular places to spend sunny days enjoying the good weather and taking occasional dips in the warm, blue water. This Italian seaside town is one of the most laid-back parts of the country and is an ideal palace for travellers who want to disconnect from the pace of modern life and really relax amongst beautiful surroundings.
The island of Sicily has many beautiful coastal towns, but the best of these is definitely Cefalù. With both mountains and the ocean nearby, it’s a very scenic part of Italy that is incredibly popular in the summer months despite its tiny size.
In Cefalù, you’ll find a lively nightlife scene and plenty of brilliant restaurants as well as several glorious beaches that are ideal for long, lazy days soaking up the sun. Despite its popularity with tourists, this town still has a rugged and authentic fishing village feel to it that makes it ideal for those who want a bit of a detox from modern life.
Atrani is often referred to as the best-kept secret of the Amalfi Coast, tucked between two cliffs and frequently forgotten on tours of the area as a result. Thanks to this, the village maintains an authentic Italian seaside town atmosphere and is the perfect place to visit if you want to find your way back to a way of life that moves at a much slower pace.
The architecture of Atrani is the same as all the towns along the coast; colourful houses and terraces are built into the cliffs and form a staircase of streets that lead down to the sea. There are plenty of remains of historic architecture to be found around Atrani, and you can easily spend a whole holiday just exploring the nooks and crannies of the village.
Ravello is one of the only towns on the Amalfi Coast that is not located right next to the sea and instead is perched right up on the cliff tops overlooking the Bay of Salerno. However, it’s still one of the best Italian coastal towns thanks to the spectacular views provided by its elevated position and the brilliant cultural attractions on offer to visitors.
Numerous artists, musicians and writers have all visited and been inspired by the beauty of Ravello, and the town now has the nickname ‘the city of music’ thanks to this heritage and the range of musical events that take place throughout the year. There is also the wonderful Villa Rufolo to explore and a well-established winemaking tradition that makes this an ideal location for wine-tasting.
Cagliari is the capital of Sardinia; an island region of Italy located to the west of the country in the Tyrrhenian Sea. This is a brilliant coastal destination that has both historic attractions and a lively, modern element that makes it a fantastic place for both sightseeing and nightlife.
There are plenty of beaches, cafes and bars along the seafront in Cagliari which makes it a very popular destination in the summer when both Italian travellers and tourists from the rest of the world come and stay in Sardinia. For the best views of the city and surrounding ocean, walk up through the cobbled streets and admire the vistas from the historic old town perched at the top of a hill.
To find out more about the locations mentioned in the article and start to plan your perfect tour of the Italian Coast, contact Italy4Real and speak to a member of our expert team.