If you're traveling in Italy during summer, you may want to spend a day (or more) at a beach. Going to the seaside is very popular with Italians, especially on Sundays, and Italian beaches can be very crowded in summer. If you're planning on staying near the coast in August, you should book your hotel in advance.
What to Expect at an Italian Beach
Most of the beaches are not free but are divided into private beach areas called stabilimenti that can be used for a day fee. Your fee usually gets you a clean beach, dressing room where you can leave your things, outdoor shower for rinsing off, a good swimming area, toilets, and a bar and sometimes restaurant. In the stabilimetni you can rent a lounge chair and beach umbrella too - you'll be assigned a place along the beach with your own chairs and umbrella. Locals buy seasonal passes and thus have the prime positions. If you're planning to use the beach for a longer period, there is sometimes a weekly or monthly pass that you can buy. Lifeguards are usually on duty in the private beach areas. Stabilimenti usually close before sunset.
Free beaches are often found at the end of the private beach areas but may not be as nice and usually won't have restrooms (or a place to change) or lifeguards (although if there's a lifeguard at a nearby private area, he/she will respond to emergencies).
Topless sun-bathing for women used to be common and some women still choose to bath topless, especially in more secluded areas. You will rarely see women in one-piece bathing suits, even older women usually wear a bikini or 2-piece suit.
Beaches are not always sandy but are sometimes pebbly or rocky. Lake beaches are not naturally sandy so they are rocky unless sand is brought in, as has been done in some popular lake areas. Sometimes there is little space for a beach so concrete platforms or terraces are made by the sea and used like beaches, such as this one on the island of Capri.
Where to Go to the Beach in Italy
A few of the most popular Italian mainland seaside destinations are:
- The Amalfi Coast has some of Italy's most stunning coastline with good beaches along the seaside below the cliffs.
- The Italian Riviera, on the northwest coast, especially around the Cinque Terre and Portofino. Here you'll find beautiful scenery as well as nice beaches.
- Rimini is one of the top seaside resorts on the Adriatic Sea with 15 kilometers of sandy beaches.
- Tuscany's Versilia Coast is a long stretch of beaches. Forte dei Marmi is one of the top Tuscany beach resort towns.
- Calabria, the toe of the boot, has over 500 miles of coastline with many pristine beaches. See Where to Go to the Beach in Calabria.
- Puglia, the heel of the boot, has many good beaches, especially on the Salento Peninsula, whose mild climate makes it possible to swim from late spring into early autumn.
- Italian Island Beaches: Italian islands are known for their clear water and good beaches. Here are Five Good Beaches on Sicily and Five Top Beaches on Sardinia. The island of Ischia is known for its thermal pools, often by a beach.
- Going to the Beach from Rome: If you're in Rome and want a day at the beach, try these Rome Beach Day Trips.
- Going to the Beach from Venice: Although there's a lot of water in Venice, there are no beaches or places for swimming. If you're in Venice and want to swim, try the beaches on the Lido, reached by water bus from Saint Mark's Square, or also accessible by car or bus from outside Venice.
Blue Flag Beaches in Italy
The blue flag is awarded to beaches based on stringent criteria including water quality, the beach's code of conduct, environmental education and management (including cleanliness of beach and availability of toilets), and safety services (including adequate lifeguards and wheelchair accessibility).
In 2013, Italy has 246 blue flag beaches. See Blue Flag Beaches in Italy - click on a region in the box on the right to find the blue flag beaches for that region.