Italy Travel Guide Beaches

italy travel guide beaches: San Remo stony beach, Italian Riviera.

A typically  stony beach in San Remo (aka Sanremo), an attractive city and the first proper beach resort on the Italian Riviera, albeit small and mainly stony.  Ventimiglia is actually the first city adjacent to the Côte d’Azur in France but it’s not well set up as a beach resort. It runs a terrific market though, much loved by the French!

Italy’s West Coast Beaches

Italy, with plenty of summer sun and 8, 500 km (5, 345 miles) of coastline, is a popular summer beach destination.

However, unlike France, Spain and Portugal, Italian beaches tend to focus on Italians, especially those who spend most of the year in an apartment in Genoa, Milan, Florence, Rome or another packed city and are desperate for views to the horizon and a serious UV hit.

Foreign holidaymakers planning to experience the pleasures of Italy’s beaches would do well to learn a little Italian – the seashore is really not set up for non-Italians – and be prepared to rent a space/lounger/parasol on the sand, whether they’re heading for Sardinia or Versilia or Lido di Venezia.

The Italians don’t offer much free sand in the summertime unlike their French neighbours where even the French Riviera has substantial numbers of free beaches.

The Italian part of the Mediterranean Sea is pretty warm by June and a perfect temperature between July and September with almost certain daily sunshine.

As far as sea nasties are concerned, sharks or other deadly critters are not at play in the Mediterranean, though small jellyfish may multiply considerably if the sea is particularly warm and can cause unpleasantness. Weaver fish with their toxic needles and habit of snuggling into the sand of shallow waters are rare but not unknown.

The Italian Riviera

The northwest coast of Italy stretching from France’s Côte d’Azur down from Liguria to Tuscany sports some of the most popular beaches in the country and is known as the Italian Riviera.

The Riviera, including the Cinque Terre, is partly composed of the expansive and sandy Versilia Coast and partly a series of small town beaches in narrow bays surrounded by tree-clad hills.

Many towns are connected by fast ferries April-October or a very convenient coastal railway, especially useful since access to the towns by road is complex and parking is nigh on impossible in midsummer.

Cinque Terre villages, situated between Levanto and Portovenere, have no road access at all, which is one reason why they are so favoured by hikers.

Monterosso, Cinque Terre

italy travel guide beaches: monterosso beaches, italian riviera.

Monterosso beach resort, the largest village on the Cinque Terre, Liguria, northwest Italy. Monterosso is typically small, stony and crowded Italian Riviera beach, with pay umbrellas, though pleasant nonetheless and an excellent starting point for a classic Cinque Terre walk.

Vernazza, Cinque Terre

italy travel guide beaches: Vernazza village and beach, Cinque Terre

Vernazza is a charming but very touristy village on the Cinque Terre coastal hiking trail with a small sandy beach and clear, calm water thanks to the sea wall. Photo by Chris Schoenbaum.

vernazza village beach, cinque terre, italy

A closer look at Vernazza’s beach. Not very attractive but free and a good way to chill out during a Cinque Terre walk.

It is one of the prettiest of the Cinque Terre villages and about halfway along the popular Cinque Terre hike, Vernazza is 1. 5 hours walk from Monterosso so a perfect place to stop off for a cooling swim. It has limited holiday accommodation but no shortage of ambience, food and cold drinks.

Versilia Coast, a part of the Italian Riviera

Forte dei Marmi beach shades, looking back at the Apuan Alps, Italy

Rather more pricey rental shade than normal  on affluent Forte dei Marmi, Versilia Coast, Tuscany, in August.

The Versilia Coast is Tuscany’s longest beach space, identical soft brown sand and gently shelving waters shared by different communities from Viareggio north to Marina di Carrara. Viareggio – of Carnevale fame – hosts Tuscany’s biggest beach community, neighbouring Camaiore looks after more downmarket beach lovers, while Forte dei Marmi up north has specialised in soaking the rich for over a hundred years.

The Riviera is primarily frequented by Italians so living is not costly and food and drink supplies are good quality, though pay-parasols and loungers hog most of the beaches.

Though beaches are far from peaceful in the summer, they are often quite enchanting in a cultural way – young and old in bikinis packed like sardines into small free beach areas, or cruising up and down the sands nattering to the neighbours like a busy Italian market day.

Forte dei Marmi, Versilia Coast

forte dei marmi coastal market, versilia, italy

Forte dei Marmi (also Forte d. Marmi) is an affluent beach resort area in northwest Tuscany, on the Italian Riviera, an area known as the Versilia Coast.

Unlike its next-door neighbour Camaiore, Forte dei Marmi aims upmarket and was one of the first Italian beach resorts, aimed squarely at the glitterati. Forte hosts a huge number of expensive bathing areas and very little space for travelers seeking a quick, free dip in the Mediterranean.

Beaches quality: This stretch of the Italian Riviera/Versilia Coast and extends from Marina di Carrara through Marinas di Massa and dei Ronchi to Forte d. Marmi, Camaiore and finally Viareggio.
The beaches are very similar: wide, soft and beige, with the sea shelving gradually and rips almost unknown. From June to September the sea will be an acceptably warm temperature, though crowds hoover up free spaces late July-August.

Forte dei Marmi beach an Apua Mountains, Versilia Coast, Italy

Forte dei Marmi  beaches backed by the Apuan Alps, Versilia Coast, Italy. Looking south to Camaiore. Santa Maria beach in Forte dei Marmi was Forbes’ Topless Beach of the year in 2006.

Lido di Camaiore, Versilia Coast

Camaiore free beach, Versilia Coast, Italy

Lido di Camaiore, spiaggia libere (free beach) at the top end near the road.

The more pricey areas of Forte dei Marmi and Viareggio sit on either side of Camaiore but the sand, sun and sea are identical. Camaiore is just off a fast road route to Lucca (20kms), Pisa (20kms) and Florence (70 kms), while it’s neighbouring beaches are about 4 kms away.
Accommodation is not open all year round apart from a few hotels, but in season there are villas to rent as well as B&Bs, Pensions and Hotels.

Camaiore free beach width, Versilia Coast, Italy

The actual width of Camaiore’s free beach can be clearly seen here. Rope to rope it’s about 6m wide, but runs from sea to road, so it’s about 70m long. When there’s a squeeze on bold bathers park themselves just outside the ropes.

Camaiore free beach and sea, Versilia Coast, Italy

Nevertheless, crowded or not, the sun is strong, the sand soft and the water is clean and warm.

Viareggio, Versilia Coast

Viareggio street, versilia coast, italy

Viareggio main street in mid summer. The beach is just to the right.

Viareggio in Tuscany is more famous for its Carnival procession (aka Mardi Gras or Carnevale) – one of Europe’s best – than its beaches but nevertheless shares in the lengthy stretch of soft brown sand that coats this coast of Italy, known by locals as the Versilia coast. Viareggio is the most southerly town of the Italian Riviera. Northwest Italy Coast Map

Viareggio is on a coastal train line from Genoa to Rome. It’s also not far off the A12 autostrada that comes from the France. The nearest airport is Pisa, 15 miles (24kms) away.

viareggio locals street, versilia, italy

Viareggio’s promenade.

The promenade is full of beach shops, cafés, bars and restaurants and is the place to fulfil the grand Italian tradition of an evening passeggiata, a walk to meet, greet, watch and wiggle. This photo was taken before the evening’s passeggiata really started.

viareggio commune pool, italy

A plush and pricey beachside bathing complex with huts, swimming pool and more.

viareggio beach, versilia, italy

Viareggio beach backed by a couple of historic Art Nouveau hotels.

Beach quality, the sea and facilities at Viareggio are more-or-less identical to the neighbours, Camaiore and Forte dei Marmi, though the promenade is an improvement, wider and more relaxed. We’re not sure of the availability of free beach zones (spiaggi libere) here.

The bugcrew were very impressed by the style of Viareggio’s coastal buildings and relaxed promenade but disappointed by the town’s interior which was quite shabby and uninteresting, though the Pineta di Ponente pine forest park a couple of blocks off the beach is a great escape from the merciless Tuscan sun and Piazza Shelley town square honours the famous British poet Percey Shelley who drowned offshore here in 1822.

Free sand: Tourists can always walk along the tide line of any beach and every Tuscan beach town is supposed to have at least one free sand strip, however small (5 metres wide stretching from road to sea is not unusual). Plonk your towel outside this area and an attendant will soon be having a quiet word with you. Watersports are generally limited to pedalos, snorkelling, kayaking and windsurfing. i. e. Jet skiers had better look elsewhere.

moneglia town beach, italian riviera,italy

Moneglia resort town, part of the Italian Riviera and about an hour’s drive or train journey from Genoa.

Moneglia (pron. Mon-ay-lia) is a small, affluent and very Italian beach resort with an attractive palm lined road and excellent, moderately priced restaurants and bars. Some beaches are sandy, some pebbly and much of the space is taken by pay-parasols, but there’s always space somewhere for a beach towel and a hot body.

Moneglia’s seafront is protected by a breakwater (not visible in the photo) which makes it a shallow and safe place for kids to play in, though as the summer heats up the limited flow of water can lead to a build up of algae which at the least degrades water visibility and at worst can lead to health issues.

Rome’s nearest beaches

Ostia, Lido di Roma beach cafe. Photo Arnaud-25

Ostia, Lido di Roma beach cafe. Photo by Arnaud 25

Ostia, is notoriously tacky and unpleasant but about 1. 5 hours southwest of Rome and halfway to Naples are a couple of good size strips of sand: one, Terracina (see below), is huge and relatively undeveloped with plenty of free space, though the tranquil main town  may be quite a walk away, so transport is useful.
The other, Sperlonga, is a classic beach resort with long promenade, packed parasol pay areas and limited free sand squatting.

Sperlonga

Sperlonga beach and town, italy. Ursula iris

The long and sandy beach resort of Sperlonga, 128 kms south of Rome and halfway to Naples. Photo by Ursula Iris.

Sperlonga is lively and popular but pricey  with rental chairs and parasols often arranged in conversation-inducing semi-circles instead of straight lines.

Sperlonga old town and its narrow streets and whitewashed houses is just a short walk from the beach and widely pedestrianised while down around the beach headland is a nature reserve and the remains of a villa once owned by Emperor Tiberius.

Getting to Sperlonga from Rome

Trains on the main Rome – Naples line stop at Sperlonga and in season there should be a beach bus connection. By train or car the journey should take about 2 hours.

Terracina

Terracina pano of town and beaches, italy. Photo tittimi

Terracina beach, massively sandy and  mostly free, it’s 112 kms southwest of Rome, en route for Naples. Photo by tittimi.

One of the best beaches near-ish Rome, Terracina’s is long, fairly wide and offers plenty of space that is pay-parasol free, yet is within easy reach of cold drinks or simple meals from beach cafés. The new town is quiet and pleasant but the old part, Centro Storico, offers some grand Roman remains and winding medieval streets, but is not immediately adjacent to the sea so a short taxi ride or a 20 minute walk on a tree-lined boulevard will be necessary to get wet.

Getting to Terracina from Rome

– Direct trains are infrequent and unreliable. BUT, a good option is to combine train and bus. Take a slow, stopping train on the Rome-Naples line to Monte S. Bagio station. The Cotral bus to Terracina stops on the other side of the road and takes 15 minutes. You can buy a ticket in the news kiosk beside the station.
– Buses, specifically Cotral Bus Services, run from Rome EUR Fermi station and take two hours.

Women only beach in Riccione, Northeast Italy

An unusual though possibly discrimatory (and thus illegal) beach is open on Italy’s Adriatic coast at Riccione, beach 134 also known as Pink Beach.
Men and children are forbidden though male hairdressers and lifeguards are permitted, as are dogs! The beach is not a lesbian stamping ground, more of a opportunity for oppressed Italian females to escape from male-dominated society for a while. Services on offer include beauty tips, keep-fit classes, cookery classes and manicures.

Adriatic and Mediterranean Islands

Some of the most beautiful of Italy’s beaches can be found around the Adriatic and Amalfi coasts on Italy’s east side or on the west side islands such as Sicily, which has large sandy beaches on the southern coast, while arguably the best are in Sardinia, many of which are still unspoilt. See Sardinia Beach Pictures

Jellyfish

From time to time some of the Mediterranean – from Spain’s Costa del Sol thru France’s south coast and down Italy as far as Sicily – suffers from a jellyfish invasion, specifically the mauve stinger or Pelagia noctiluca (so called because they glow at night). The stings are painful and unpleasant but not life-threatening, unless a swimmer has a weak heart, a sever allergic reaction or panics on encountering a shoal of blobbies and drowns.

The cause of the stinger explosion is the usual suspect – global warming boosting water temperatures by a couple of degrees as well as increased pollution-derived nutrients and reduced cool freshwater entering from rivers. However, overfishing of anchovies (which compete with jellies for plankton salad), turtles and tuna fish (which eat jellies for dessert) has also aided the mauve climate avenger’s expansionist tendencies.