There’s plenty to recommend Italy already: The rolling hills of Tuscany, the canals of Venice, the charm of Cinque Terre, the wine and food of…well, everywhere. After all, there’s a reason it’s consistently ranked among the most-visited countries in the world, with tourism revenue well into the twelve figures. But add the incredible number and variety of beaches to the equation, and suddenly the country becomes a mandatory item on every traveler’s to-do list.
Ready to traverse the boot? Read on to start plotting the perfect itinerary. And if beach-hopping across Italy isn’t in your future, this list is still worth a look: these places are beautiful enough to cure even the most severe cases of Monday blues, mean reds, or winter doldrums. And after a few glimpses, you may find yourself tallying up your vacation days, scoping out your savings, and planning your next Italian excursion.
1) Acquafredda di Maratea Beach, Basilicata
Six miles outside of the hamlet of Maratea, this rugged stretch of shoreline has the same blue water and dark gray sand of the Amalfi Coast, but it’s further north with none of the accompanying throngs of tourists. It’s a prime place for beachgoers in search of rustic beauty: In spite of neatly arranged sun loungers and beach umbrellas placed by local hotels, the rocky shoreline and cliffs jutting up on either side of the cove preserve the untamed feel of the area
2) Marina Grande Beach, Positano
As if the views of deep greenish-blue seas weren’t enough, the stacks of pastel houses hugging the cliffs make Positano’s main beach feel like something plucked from a midcentury postcard. With over 300 yards of dark sand—large swathes of it dedicated to tidily arranged rows of beach umbrellas and lounge chairs in Technicolor shades of orange and blue—this spot always feels open and roomy in spite of summer crowds. Start in town with a leisurely outdoor lunch overlooking the Mediterranean, then sleep off the limoncello buzz with a snooze on the sand.
3) Camogli Beach, Liguria
Northwest Italy’s coastal towns tend to live in the shadow of the neighboring French Riviera, but that means beaches like Camogli’s have all the Mediterranean beauty with a fraction of the crowds you’ll find in Nice or St. Tropez.
The beach in this little fishing village is pebbly but picturesque—the ancient Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta is perched on a promontory at the harbor’s northern end, with mountains rising up behind it. This spot has something for every traveler: swimming lessons to keep the kids busy, beachside drink service for the laid-back crowd, and rowboats, canoe rentals, and diving lessons for the adventure-seekers.
4) Scalo Maestro, Marettimo
Just off the western tip of Sicily, the island of Marettimo (population: 700) has the kind of wild beauty that gives every moment here a dreamlike quality. The tiny beach of Scalo Maestro is one of the few you can access from the shore, and its gentle slope and clear, calm waters are particularly swimmer- and snorkeler-friendly. Once you’ve had your fill of beach time, charter a boat for a tour of the island: it’s the only way to access Marettimo’s hidden sea caves. You can’t truly appreciate the magic of the Aegadian Islands until you’ve gone swimming in a sun-dappled Mediterranean grotto.
14) Lago di Braies, South Tyrol
It may not be on the ocean, but this gem nestled in the Dolomites
is guaranteed to satisfy beachgoers in search of beautiful scenery and a refreshing dip. The lake boasts clear, blue-green waters and white sand—a striking visual contrast to the dense pine forest and snow-dusted peaks that surround it. A day hike is the best way to see everything Lago di Braies has to offer: Pack your swimsuit, a towel, and a lunch, then venture out on the beginner-friendly footpath that circles the perimeter, pausing to picnic and swim at the first beach that suits your fancy. Be sure to stop at the Braies bungalow—built on stilts over the lake, it’s a cross between an alpine ski lodge and a Tahitian overwater cabana—for photo ops and rowboat rentals.
15) Scala dei Turchi, Sicily
One of the most visually striking beaches in the world, Sicily’s Turkish Steps are a must-visit for aesthetic reasons alone. The bright white marlstone has been slowly eroded, creating a sloping staircase that leads right into the sea. Go at low tide for the best views, and wear sturdy shoes for the journey—the climb is not for the faint of heart. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, pack a flashlight and stay until the sun sets. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better visual than that of the cliffs awash in gold and silhouetted against a fiery sky.