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!
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.
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
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.
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.
Nevertheless, crowded or not, the sun is strong, the sand soft and the water is clean and warm.
Viareggio, Versilia Coast
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
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.
A plush and pricey beachside bathing complex with huts, swimming pool and more.
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 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.
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.
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.