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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.
Over the next few pages we offer large photos and compact information on a some typical beach resorts on the west side of Italy, from small pebble bays to substantial stretches of sand on the Versilia Coast.
Click to see Beach Pictures from Italy's west coast
Italy Map | Northwest Italy Coast Map | Rome beaches map
with plenty of summer sun and 8,500 km (5,345 miles) of coastline, is a popular summer beach destination but unlike France, Spain and Portugul, 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 on the sand, whether they're heading for Sardinia or Versilia or Lido di Venezia.
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 northwest coast of Italy stretching from France's Côte d'Azur down to and partly embracing Tuscany down to Pisa - sports some
of the most popular beaches in the country and is known as the 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
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.
The Versilia Coast (a part of the Riviera) 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.
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.
Lido di Camaiore, Versilia Coast, Italian Riviera, Tuscany. In August.
nearest beach resort, 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, is huge and relatively undeveloped with plenty
of free space, though the tranquil town of that name is 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. But doable.
only beach in Riccione, North Italy:
An unusual though possibly discrimatory (and thus illegal) beach is
open on Italy's Adriatic coast at Riccione, beach 134 also known as
Men and children are forbidden though a male hairdresser
and lifeguard 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.
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
In late summer 2006 much of the Mediterranean - from Spain's Costa
del Sol thru France's south coast and down Italy as far as Sicily
- suffered 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.
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