If you have ever been to Rome in August, you probably realized all the locals are gone. Most Italians in major cities usually head toward the coast every summer and they’re likely in one of these towns.
This list includes many of the well-known beaches, and some under-the-radar gems where you can escape the crowds. From the Italian Riviera to the farthest reaches of Sicily, these seaside towns in Italy will be sure to please travelers in search of pristine beaches, ancient ruins, art, culture, and delicious cuisine.
So go ahead and do as the Romans do—head to the sea.
1. Santa Margherita Ligure
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Santa Margherita Ligure is a beautiful old resort town in the province of Genoa in the Italian region Liguria. It’s favored by well-to-do Italians, and has everything an Italian Riviera playground should have—plenty of palm trees, cafés, glamorous hotels, and a marina packed with yachts.
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Atrani is located on the Amalfi Coast and it’s the smallest town in the south of Italy. This beautiful medieval town is set on a bluff between cliffs overlooking the sea, and when viewed from the sea, the town resembles an arena ready for a royal pageant. It features closely packed, dollhouse-scaled backstreets that are filled with pastel-and-white houses and shops, aromatic gardens, arcaded lanes, and spiraling scalinatelle.
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Positano is one of the most gorgeous and scenic seaside towns in Italy. In fact, it’s one of the most beautiful places on earth and the most photographed fishing village in the world. This small, fabled locale is situated in an enclave in the hills leading down to the Amalfi Coast. It awes visitors with its pastel-colored houses perched on mountains that rise above the sea.
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Located in Sardinia, Italy, the medieval seaside town of Castelsardo features colorful buildings overlooking a magnificent view of the Mediterranean Sea. This walled citadel holds tiny shops crammed with all kinds of souvenirs, such as woven baskets, rugs and wrought iron. The Roccia dell’Elefante (Elephant Rock) on the road into this town is quite unique: part of the rocky complex of Monte Casteddazzu, it broke off and rolled down the valley along the road. The rock formed following a process of erosion. It was later hollowed out by primitive man to be used as a burial chamber.
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Ravello is a cool and serene town situated above the Amalfi Coast that revels in refinement. It’s poised high above the Bay of Salerno on a mountain buttress. Its scenic beauty makes it a popular tourist destination, with forests of chestnut and ash below, and terraced lemon groves and vineyards above. It early on beckoned the affluent with its island-in-the-sky views and secluded defensive positioning. It’s also celebrated for Villa Rufolo and Villa Cimbrone, two romantic gardens offering spectacular views of the water.
6. Monte Isola
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Monte Isola is a town in Lombardy that ranks as the largest lake island in Italy. This little fishing village is perched on the lakeside and it’s a peaceful retreat. Due to driving restrictions, only public services and priests are allowed to drive on the island. It is possible, though to hire bikes and to take them to and from the island on the ferry. There are also some footpaths—one in particular is a scenic tourist route that surrounds the island.
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Capri is an island located on the south side of the Gulf of Naples. Fantastic grottoes, secret swimming coves, soaring conical peaks, caverns great and small, and ruins of Emperor Tiberio’s pleasure palace lure visitors to this small island. The Grotta Azzurra alone, with its unequaled natural beauty, is worth the trip. A hidden opening in the cave allows light to refract, making the water appear a remarkable turquoise blue. Setting off along footpaths in any direction will reward you with this island’s stunning views of sea and sky.
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Vernazza is a town located in Liguria, and it’s one of the five towns that make up the Cinque Terre region. With its narrow streets and small squares, Vernazza is arguably the most charming of the five Cinque Terre towns. It’s also known as one of the truest fishing villages on the Italian Riviera and has a pretty awesome view.
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Manarola is a small town, and one of the five towns that make up the Cinque Terre on the Italian Riviera. It is the second smallest and the most picturesque of the famous Cinque Terre towns frequented by tourists. Its enchanting colorful buildings spill down a steep hill overlooking an impressive turquoise swimming cove and a small marina. The whole town is built on a foundation of black rock. Above the town, ancient terraces still protect the stepped vineyards and olive trees that curve around the hillsides that join the five towns. This village is the heart of wine and olive-oil production in the region, and its streets are lined with shops selling local products.
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Otranto is a town located at the easternmost point in Italy, in Puglia, in a fertile region once famous for its breed of horses. It gives its name to the Straight of Otranto, which connects the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. Otranto has a stunning view of crystal clear waters, and visitors can swim in the pristine turquoise sea and trek up to its mysterious medieval fortress, the Castello Aragonese.
11. Porto Ercole
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Porto Ercole, “Port Hercules”, is the hangout of the rich and famous, with five-star hotels and restaurants perched on the cliffs. This small port town lies about halfway between Firenze (Florence) and Roma (Rome), in Tuscany. It’s true, when most people think about Tuscany, they usually envision rolling hills sprinkled with cypress trees and Medieval cities. But Tuscany has a coastline too, and it’s stunning!
12. Polignano a Mare
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Polignano a Mare is a town in southern Italy with a well-preserved, whitewashed old town perched on limestone cliffs overlooking the Adriatic Sea. It makes an atmospheric base for exploring the surrounding area and has a popular beach. There’s also a hotel there called Grotta Palazzese which has a cavernous restaurant that’s highly recommended.
13. Venice Lido
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Venice Lido is one of a series of islands scattered in the Venetian lagoon like gems, each protecting Venice from the waters of the Adriatic. The Lido is a seven-mile strip of beach that’s home to a series of bathing establishments, both public and private. The Venice Film Festival takes place here every September.
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Malcesine, one of the most enchanting comunes along the eastern shore of Lake Garda, is located about 75 miles northwest of Venice. It’s mainly known as a summer resort, with sailing and windsurfing schools. The picturesque scenery and lake views means it tends to be crowded during the summer season. The charming footpaths from the town toward the mountains make it a town worth visiting.
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Portofino, an Italian fishing village located in the Italian Riviera, is famous for its picturesque harbor. This town is one of the most photographed villages along the coast, with a decidedly romantic and affluent aura. It has long been a popular destination for the rich and famous, and it still has an association with celebrity visitors—Madonna, Rihanna, Beyoncé & Jay Z, and Sienna Miller have all vacationed here in recent years.
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Bosa is a majestic little town that’s situated about two-thirds of the way up the west coast of Sardinia, on a small hill. It’s lined with brightly colored buildings and palm trees, with most of its economy being fueled by agriculture and fishing.
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Sperlonga is a coastal town in Lazio, located about halfway between Rome and Naples. This charming town was once home to the Emperor Tiberius. Nowadays, long stretches of pristine beaches draw Romans to the village.
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The picturesque island of Ponza is home to a large, sheltered fishing and boating port flanked by restaurants, boutiques, bakeries, and cafes. This pretty town is another popular summer destination for Romans escaping the city. Legend has it the island was named after Pontius Pilate, whose family owned a grotto there. Though the town bustles with activity, Ponza still manages to remain somewhat free of crowds and foreign visitors (most come from Rome, which is about two hours away).
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Lampedusa is the southernmost part of Italy and the largest island of the Italian Pelagie Islands in the Mediterranean Sea. Though it belongs to Italy, this Sicilian island is actually closer to Africa, just 70 miles from Tunisia. On the south coast, a nature reserve where visitors can swim with dolphins and tropical fish in crystal clear water is located at Rabbit Beach.
20. Aeolian Islands
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The Aeolian Islands, a volcanic archipelago in the Tyrrhenian Sea, are made up of eight islands located north of Sicily. These islands feature thermal springs and mud baths in the west, and quarries for pumice and obsidian, a black volcanic rock glass, in the northernmost point of the islands.
21. Aegadian Islands
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This archipelago of small mountainous islands in the Mediterranean Sea, off the northwest coast of Sicily, offers the traveler who sets his sights on the Aegadian Islands a spectacular view of white houses perched on a coastline overlooking turquoise waters. One of the islands, Favignana, features several coves where visitors can enjoy a relaxing dip in the azure waters. Also in the Aegadian Islands, Marettimo boasts an amazing variety of indigenous plant and animal life, and Roman houses and ancient churches for those looking for a bit of culture with their relaxation. This small island is also home to some truly spectacular stretches of coastline.
22. Santa Cesarea Terme
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Santa Cesarea Terme is an idyllic village on the Adriatic Sea that boasts pristine beaches with crystal clear water and a laid-back lifestyle of its inhabitants. A relatively new town, its development on a rocky coastline riddled with underground caverns and fissured rock strata, is responsible for the presence of hot natural springs celebrated for their healing properties.
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Cagliari, the capital of the island of Sardinia, has it all: gorgeous beaches, steep streets, plenty of shops, cafés and restaurants, impressive Italianate architecture, and wildlife. Flamingos roam in the marshy areas of the Poetto Beach, and people picnic there under umbrellas. Enjoy a climb up to the old hilltop citadel, Castello, for a walk through the typically narrow cobblestone streets, or visit the imposing Bastion of Saint Remy, and stroll over to Piazza Indipendenza for an impressive panoramic view of the city and the sea. The Mercato di San Benedetto, one of the best fish markets in Italy, is also a must.
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White-sandy beaches and translucent waters characterize the beaches of Stintino, a coastal comune in the Province of Sassari on the northwestern coast of Sardinia. La Pelosa beach is especially beautiful and a favorite of Romans, who flock to this region in the summer.
25. La Maddalena
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La Maddalena, the largest comune in the Maddalena archipelago, is renowned for its dazzling white and pink sand beaches, crystal clear waters, and a landscape made up of aromatic shrubs, ravines, and granite rocks. These seven granite rocks are composed of rocky outcroppings, sculpted by the rebellious winds blowing over waters where dolphins and big fish swim freely. The granite islands and coves make for a seductive, stunning, bewitching and inviting town – one recognized as one of Sardinia’s rare natural beauties and one that’s protected by a national park so that all may enjoy it.
*** So, which of these seaside towns would you visit? What other seaside towns in Italy would you add to this list? Which would you leave out? Let us know in the comments.
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