Stamping its identity indelibly on the central Mediterranean, boot-shaped Italy is famed for its history, worshipped for its food, and loved for its beaches. With dozens of offshore islands and a long and deeply indented coastline, Italy boasts more than 7600km (4722 miles) of shorefront, from sprays of sand backed by towering sea cliffs to sparkling turquoise coves.

The most famous beaches are dotted around the southern islands, but Italy's sands run the gamut from rock-bound bays to accessible-to-all city beaches and Rimini’s boisterous resorts. For beach lovers, the challenge isn’t finding a suitable spot to lay down your towel, it's choosing from the vast selection of bellissimo beaches on offer.

To help you find your own perfect spiaggia (beach), here’s our pick of the best beaches in Italy, from the tucked-away covers in the Cinque Terre to the sands of Sicily and Sardinia.

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Spiaggia Rena Bianca, Sardinia

Best beach for powdery sand

The “just like the Caribbean” comments come thick and fast when it comes to Spiaggia Rena Bianca – a glorious sweep of pale sand lapped by shallow, crystal-clear aquamarine water on the northern tip of the island of Sardinia. From the eastern end of the beach, a trail threads along the coastline past granite boulders and rock formations that fire the imagination with their incredible shapes – it's everything you've been led to expect from Sardinia.

A view of Sabaudia beach, a very long strip of sand running along the coast. In the foreground in the peak of a hill, with the beach, which is backed by greenery, in the distance far below.
Sabaudia's fabulous beach stretches for miles © Valentina Fodale / EyeEm / Getty Images

Spiaggia di Sabaudia, Lazio

Best beach near Rome

Located in the Lazio region, about 80km (50 miles) south of Rome, Sabaudia's fabulous beach stretches for miles. A wide expanse of fine, soft sand flanked by billowing dunes capped by Mediterranean scrub, this idyllic spot is largely free of invasive development, with facilities concentrated at the end nearest town. The sea is clean and perfect for swimming, though it can get choppy when the wind whips in. You'll need your own wheels to get here; note that parking can be a headache during the peak summer months.

A high-angled view of Tropea Beach in Calabria, Italy. A sweep of golden white sand, which is full of sun bathers, is lapped by light clue waters. Behind it are a series of white cliffs.
Tropea Beach is overlooked by the cliff-edge buildings of Tropea village © leonori / Getty Images

Tropea Beach, Calabria

Best beach for sunsets

The village of Tropea, a pleasing puzzle of lanes and piazzas on the west coast of Calabria, is famed for its dramatic cliff-edge location and spectacular sunsets. It sits on the Promontorio di Tropea, a line of dramatic cliffs and icing sugar-soft beaches between Nicotera in the south and Pizzo in the north, all edged by jewel-like waters.

Tropea's picturesque namesake beach sits under a wall of buildings perched atop sheer cliffs, but more beaches spill along the shoreline to the east and west. Unsurprisingly, crowds of Italian holidaymakers descend here in summer. If you hear English being spoken, it is probably from Americans visiting relatives: enormous numbers of Italians from this part of Italy left to forge better lives in America in the early 20th century.

Tourists on the beach Spiaggia dei Conigli on Lampedusa, Sicily
Spiaggia dei Conigli on Lampedusa is perhaps Italy's most legendary beach © Natursports / Shutterstock

Spiaggia dei Conigli, Lampedusa

Best island beach

Few beaches in Europe enjoy such legendary status as this long stretch of pristine white sand on the tiny islet of Lampedusa, Italy's southernmost island, which is geographically closer to Tunisia than the Italian mainland. Lapped by gemstone-blue waters, this stunning beach has managed to retain its beauty thanks to its protected status as the centerpiece of the Riserva Naturale Isola di Lampedusa.

Spiaggia dei Conigli is accessible only by boat, or on foot via a 15-minute trail off the main road (look for the sign of a lounging rabbit). This is one of the few places in Italy where loggerhead sea turtles lay their eggs and the beach is strictly off-limits at night during peak nesting season (typically between May and August). Watch for signs advising of current restrictions.

A rowing boat bobs in the shallow waters just off the coast of Riomaggiore, one of the Cinque Terre villages in Italy. The village has steep slopes and colourful houses, with a scenic harbour at the bottom.
Fossola Beach is immediately southeast of the Cinque Terre village of Riomaggiore © nycshooter / Getty Images

Fossola Beach, Riomaggiore

Best Cinque Terre beach

Although famously crowded, the colorful fishing villages of the Cinque Terre are undeniably picturesque, and this goes double for the beaches. For our money, the best is tiny Fossola, a pebbly charmer immediately southeast of Riomaggiore, the easternmost village of the Cinque Terre. The shore is rugged and delightfully secluded from the village, but this small cove still gets packed in the summer. It's also remarkably photogenic, with the waters framed by the steep hillsides, but swimmers should be wary of currents. Take the short trail that leads past the harbor to get here.

A view of Cala Goloritze beach, Sardinia
Cala Goloritzé is the most striking beach on the Golfo di Orosei in Sardinia © maniscule / iStockphoto / Getty Images

Cala Goloritzè, Golfo di Orosei, Sardinia

Best walk-in beach

On the eastern coast of Sardinia, Cala Goloritzè can stand up and be counted among the world's best beaches. At the southern end of the sand, bizarre limestone formations soar away from the cliffside. Among them is jaw-dropping Monte Caroddi, a 485ft (148m) needle of rock regularly tackled by rock climbers. Boat trips from local hubs such as Cala Gonone can take you to Cala Goloritzè, but this area is protected so boats can't drop visitors on the beach. To spend a day here, hike in from the Altopiano del Golgo on the beautiful, 2.2-mile (3.5km) Cala Goloritzè Trail. Note that the beach is quite petite and can get crowded in summer.

High-angle view of Sansone Beach on Elba Island. The beach has white sand and turquoise waters, and is backed by a large cliff.
Spiaggia di Sansone is arguably the best beach on the beautiful island of Elba, located just off the coast of Tuscany © Balate Dorin / Shutterstock

Spiaggia di Sansone, Elba, Tuscany

Best beach for snorkeling

Around 3 miles (5km) west of Portoferraio on the tiny Tuscan island of Elba, Spiaggia di Sansone (Samson's Beach) is a postcard-perfect swathe of tiny white pebbles and shingle ensnared by cliffs, with crystal-clear, turquoise waters much-loved by snorkeling enthusiasts. This is arguably the finest of lovely Elba's beaches, and a steep footpath links it with similarly appealing Spiaggia di Sorgente. Park by the roadside or – assuming you rose with the larks – in the tiny car park.

A very high-angled view of Poetto Beach, a very large sandy bay with clear blue water. The beach has many people sunbathing on it.
Poetto Beach extends for 4.3 miles (7km) and is a popular spot for water sports © Stefano Garau / Shutterstock

Poetto Beach, Cagliari, Sardinia

Best beach for all-round fun

An easy bus ride from the center of Cagliari, fabulous Poetto Beach extends for 4.3 miles (7km), running east from the Promontorio di Sant'Elia, nicknamed the Sella del Diavola (Devil's Saddle). In summer, many of the city's young people decamp here to sunbathe and party in the restaurants and bars that line this saltmarsh-backed sweep of sand. Water sports are big and you can hire kayaks at the beach clubs. To get to the beach, take bus PF or PQ from Piazza Matteotti in Cagliari.

Fishing boats are marooned on the sands of Cefalu Beach in Italy. Behind them are a number of beach umbrellas where beach goers lie on the sand. In the background, the sea is visible, as are some buildings from a historic-looking port town.
Cefalu's beach is one of the most beautiful (and popular) in Sicily © Fernando Fernández Baliña / Getty Images

Spiaggia di Cefalù, Sicily

Best town beach

Italy's largest island is known for its history and striking coastal scenery, and Cefalù's crescent-shaped beach is one of the most popular in all of Sicily. In summer, the sand gets packed, so be sure to arrive early to get a good spot. Though some sections of the beach require a ticket, the area tucked below the walls of the old town is public and you can hire a beach umbrella and deckchair to relax in.

Beach umbrellas on the sand at Rimini
Rimini is where Italy's party people come to bronze and play © LOOK / Getty Images

Rimini Beaches, Emilia Romagna

Best party beaches

Don't come to Rimini expecting peace and quiet. Located within easy striking distance of San Marino, this is Italy's most glitzy strip of sand. Party people are drawn here like moths to a flame by the segments of ticketed beach known as bagni – some sporty, some chic, some oriented toward locals and some targeting visiting revelers. There's almost always a fee to get to the sand, and top DJs spin night and day at local clubs and bars. Expect sun loungers, beach umbrellas, loud nightlife and lots of beautiful people.

A view looking down on Leranto Beach, a small cove with blue waters that's protected by forested headlands on either side.
Small and sheltered, Baia di Ieranto is perfect for swimming © lucamato / Getty Images

Baia di Ieranto, Sorrento, Campania

Best for a local vibe on the Amalfi Coast

A small, spectacular beach at the tip of the Punta Penna peninsula south of Sorrento, Ieranto is reached via a walking path that starts in the village of Nerano, and it's a fine place to escape the touristy vibe of the Amalfi Coast. The walk takes about 45 minutes one-way and there are several steep downhill sections to negotiate so wear good shoes. The pebbly beach is sheltered by headlands and perfect for swimming, but, as with most beaches in Italy, it can get crowded in summer.

Beach umbrellas crowd the sand at Venice Lido
Venice Lido exudes an evocative sense of faded Italian glamor © Simone Padovani / Shutterstock

Lido de Venezia, Venice

Best for film-star glam

Okay, nobody would claim that the Venice Lido is undiscovered, but what it lacks in serenity, it makes up for in movie-star cachet. From the 1900s onwards, this 11km (6.8-mile) barrier island on the edge of the Venice lagoon became a haunt for the rich and glamorous – a reputation enhanced by the Venice Film Festival, which has been held near the sand since 1932. For non-film fans, the big appeal is the warm, Blue Flag-rated water, the sense of faded history, and the ease of getting here from Venice by vaporetto (public boat).

This article was first published July 2020 and updated May 2021

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