Rome and Milan are beautiful cities, but nothing sparks romance in the soul like a picture perfect town by the sea. Mediterranean views, delicious food, charming architecture – these are all things you can expect from the most beautiful coastal towns in Italy. Don’t be too wowed by the country’s main cities that you forget about her seaside villages! Here are the seven most beautiful coastal towns in Italy that are well-worth a trip on your next visit.
Positano has long been touted as Italy’s most photogenic town. Is it any wonder that it will make this list? American author John Steinbeck poetically described this small town on the Amalfi coast as “a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone.” Really captures the imagination doesn’t it? Positano’s pastel architecture and rustic charm have awed visitors over the last few decades, and we’re sure it will only continue on. Although it is an expensive destination and is very touristy, it’s unlikely that Positano will go out of style anytime soon.
2. Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre is a string of five seaside towns: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. The colorful villages have been here for a thousand years or so, and along with their vineyards and olive groves make for quite a view. As UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Cinque Terre is treasured for its unique beauty, history and culture. The best way to take it all is to spend three to four days here. You can explore the towns via trains, or do a couple of half-day hikes. Just don’t do it in flip flops – you can get yourself a fine of up to €2500!
About halfway between Rome and Naples, Sperlonga used to be the former hideaway of many Roman emperors. Today, it is mostly a tourist town thanks to its beaches. A long beach on its west side goes all the way to Terracina, and a series of short beaches and rocky cliffs on its east side towards Gaeta. For a piece of history, Sperlonga’s main attraction is the museum in the grounds of the former Villa of Tiberius. It houses the famous Sperlonga sculptures, which celebrate the deeds of Odysseus. For the best views in town, head on to Torre Truglia.
Calabria is a sun-drenched region of rugged mountains, old-fashioned villages and dramatic coastline, with many popular beaches. Why the region doesn’t get more attention is hard to understand, but not that we’re complaining. And nowhere is that sense of authentic Italy more evident than in the town of Scilla. Other than being the site of the sea monster Scylla of Greek mythology, Scilla’s winding streets house the freshest seafood and the spiciest ‘Nduja, Calabria’s famous spicy spreadable sausage. Find yourself falling in love with the deep south of Italy? Calabria will pay you $33,000 to move in to its villages. With some terms and conditions, of course!
5. Santa Cesarea Terme
Sitting atop a rugged plateau over the sea in Puglia is Santa Cesarea Terme. The town is characterised by architecture typical of the early 20th century, and its coast has thermal springs within four natural caves. The use of these waters dates back to the 16th century, and the town’s economy is based on the baths, which offer various facilities. Santa Cesarea Terme isn’t as popular with international tourists as it is with local Italians (yet), making the experience all the more authentic.
Sicily is famous for its beautiful beaches, but Acireale is truly unique. Formed from Mount Etna’s volcanic rock, the beaches here are made of stone, not sand. Although this isn’t ideal for sunbathing, it makes for quite a sight to behold. Ladders also descend from the rocks which allows people to climb down into the sea, as if it were a giant swimming pool. Make sure to also check out its elegant historic center and buzzing local life. If you can, time your visit for its annual Carnevale di Acireale, a huge party that includes parades, floats, concerts, and plenty of food and wine.
7. Punta Ala
This tiny town in the heart of Maremma is easy to miss. But if you want to feel closer to nature, it’s the perfect place to go. Much of the coastline in this area has remained undeveloped, so you’ll find lush forests just beyond the beaches. Punta Ala is also a tourist destination of the elite in every season, thanks to its luxury residences, second homes and boats moored at the port. There’s a marina, beach clubs, restaurants, and golf courses to keep you entertained on your laidback holiday. On a clear day, you can also see all the way to Elba, the island where Napoleon was exiled.