ITALY

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Mediterranean & Adriatic Sea

With its endless coast and splendorous sunny and mild Mediterranean climate, Italy is a paradise for pleasure boating. Italy’s archipelagos, coastline and lakes are an attraction not only for isolation from bustling Italian cities and crowded mainland beaches, but they encompass that quintessential glamour unique to Italian heliocentric life.

Surrounded on three sides by water and with two offshore islands larger than some countries, it’s no wonder Italy is famed for its beaches. Whatever your taste in beach resorts, you’re likely to find it somewhere here.

Long stretches of fine golden sand are lapped by the Mediterranean, the Adriatic, and several smaller seas. Beaches in little secluded coves are guarded by rocky headlands that hide them from all but those who know where to look. Europe’s tallest dunes protect white beaches that are nearly empty, even in August. The walls of medieval towns look down on sandy strands, and Art Nouveau resort towns are redolent of Belle Epoch gentility. Take your pick. Join crowds in the boisterous fun of unabashedly overcrowded scenes at Viareggio, Rimini, or Lido in Venice—or take a local boat to your own private pink-sand cove off the fabled Costa Smeralda in Sardinia. Stretch out on a sunbed at the private beach of a luxurious resort hotel or slip into something chic and saunter along Italian Riviera promenades where royalty once strolled. You’ll find all these and more along Italy’s 7,600-kilometer coast.

Plan your time by the sea with our list of the top beach destinations in Italy.

Southwest of Sardinia’s capital of Cagliari, SP 71 winds through spectacular scenery of promontories and islands. Sandy beaches hide in coves between headlands topped by round towers that were built when western Sardinia was under Spanish control. A World Wildlife Fund reserve protects birds, wild boar, and indigenous deer in the mountains behind.

Three miles of beach at Porto Campana has plenty of space, with remote sections, as well as places to rent equipment and take lessons in kiteboarding or paddleboarding, even scuba diving in the crystal waters. Stay at the five-star Faro Capo Spartivento hotel, housed in a former lighthouse, with spectacular sea views.

The coast swings north to the almost deserted white sands of the Costa Verde, where a broad plain separates the sea and mountains. These are some of Sardinia’s longest, least-used, and most beautiful beaches, where even in August, you’ll find long stretches of empty sands. Behind the beaches lie the Dune di Scivu, among Europe’s tallest sand dunes.One of Europe’s top Thalassotherapy centers is at the Forte Village Resort in Pula, using natural seawater for therapy, and the major archeological site of Nora is at the end of a beautiful nearby beach. Built by Phoenicians, Nora is today a huge open-air museum of Sardinian antiquity, with remains of its Roman and Phoenician past. Toppled walls of massive Roman baths tower over the street, and the Roman theater is still used for summer performances. Where else can you find a world-class ancient city at the end of a beautiful white-sand beach?

Puglia forms the heel of Italy’s boot-shaped map, and at the very tip of the heel is the even-less-visited Salento, where the Adriatic and Ionian seas mingle off a sublime and largely pristine coast. Rocky cliffs and headlands separate deep coves and inlets that hide tiny beaches along the eastern shore, protected by the Parco Naturale Regionale Costa Otranto.

While nearly all the beaches on Sardinia’s fabled Costa Smeralda are either private or only accessible by private boat, these same emerald waters lap the equally beautiful beaches around neighboring Capo Testa and the Maddalena Islands. The cape’s fantastically shaped cliffs and rock outcrops are a continuation of the mountain landscapes of Gallura that rise behind them, sculpted by millennia of winds.If you prefer pink instead of white sands as a contrast to the water, hop aboard a ferry to the adjacent Maddalena Islands for more beaches. Once here, if you don’t want to share the sand, local boats will take you to your own private island and pick you up later.Cala Granara, on Isola di Spargi, is the most idyllic, its soft white sands backed by palms and tropical foliage. Bring your own towels, umbrella, and refreshments, as most of these beaches are undeveloped.

For off-beach excursions, visit some of the region’s fascinating prehistoric sites in and around nearby Arzachena. Set in tree-shaded grounds overlooking the turquoise waters between the beaches of Cala Capra and Cala Selvaggia, Hotel Capo D’Orso Thalasso & Spa offers boat rides to secluded cove beaches.

Its palm trees, powdery white sand, and crystal-clear blue water make this long crescent near Trapani look a lot like the Caribbean. Bounded by the soaring rock headland of Monte Monaco, the wide beach of San Vito Lo Capo is adjacent to the Zingaro Nature Reserve, on Sicily’s northwestern coast.

The little resort town—don’t expect a quaint fishing village, as it’s mainly modern—is lively in the summer, but the area is not over-run despite its popularity with Italian families. You can reach San Vito Lo Capo by public bus from both Trapani and Palermo.

The jagged coastline of Elba, an island off the coast of Tuscany, is dotted by more than 150 beaches, from long sandy stretches to tiny shingle beaches hidden in coves. While the main beaches can be very crowded in summer, you’ll find more space at Sant’Andrea without losing any of the amenities, including parasols, lounge chairs, and places to eat.For water sports, you can rent windsurfers and boats here; the protected waters are fairly shallow. The beach at Sansone is a mix of sand and smooth pebbles that slopes gently into the sea, a good choice for families with small children.The beach at Forno is in a cove surrounded by lush greenery. Biodola and the other big beaches are less crowded during spring and fall, from late May through early June, and in September. Ferries to Elba leave from the port of Piombino, on the Tuscan coast south of Livorno. The island has a good local bus service.

At the heart of the fabled Italian Riviera is Sanremo, made famous as a watering hole for royalty, nobility, the wealthy, and wannabes who gathered here in the early 20th century. Empress “Sisi” of Austria and Emperor Nicholas II of Russia enjoyed its year-round balmy climate and added to its glamorous allure.

Wealthy visitors built Art Nouveau villas and gardens that still line its streets. Its old town, where houses date from medieval times, is a warren of winding alleys and passageways that were designed to foil marauding pirates.

Today’s boat traffic is more in the line of wealthy yacht owners. Grand hotels from the Belle Epoch, such as the luxury Royal Hotel Sanremo line the palm-shaded esplanade and hillside above its in-town beach.The climate has also led to Sanremo becoming one of Europe’s major flower-growing centers, and the fragrance of blossoms hangs in the air, adding to its aura of old-world gentility. Some of the best beaches of the Ligurian coast are between Sanremo and San Lorenzo to the east. Most are free and much less crowded than the Riviera beaches closer to Genoa, and they are connected by a 25-kilometer bicycle path created from the former seaside rail line. Many hotels provide guests with bicycles

Ancient Greeks and Romans frequented the volcanic island of Ischia, in the Bay of Naples, to bathe in its hot springs amid its luxuriant flora. The best known of Ischia’s fabled beaches is Spiaggia dei Maronti, in the south near the postcard village of Sant’Angelo. Along with good swimming, its three kilometers of sand give access to open-air pools of a thermal spring.Also popular is the Spiaggia Citara, where the elegant gardens of a high-end thermal spa overlook the beach. There are a number of others along its 37-kilometer coast, but the large ones are crowded in the summer (Ischia is particularly popular with German tourists) and much of the sand is covered with rows of umbrellas and sun lounges for rent. In high season, it’s worth taking a water taxi to one of the many secluded coves with smaller uncrowded beaches. The little island of Procida is even more picturesque, and easy to reach by boat. You can get to Ischia from Naples harbor by ferry.

There’s a feeling of stepping back into another era in Santa Margherita Ligure. The town recalls a time when ladies and gentlemen spent seaside holidays in the genteel surroundings of candy-colored grand hotels, sipping lemonade on the verandahs or under sedate rows of palm trees, dressing for dinner, and taking an evening stroll along the esplanade above the beach.

The town is worth exploring. Its Baroque church, Santuario di Nostra Signora della Rosa, is lavishly decorated with frescoes and gilded carving. Climb the narrow streets to the little Castello and to the terraced gardens of 17th-century Villa Durazzo, now a public park with fountains and statues set among the greenery. Admire the classy yachts in the harbor and watch the fishing boats unload in the morning, or take one of the frequent ferries to pretty Portofino.

Set below a dramatic rock on Sicily’s northern coast, Cefalù neatly combines two of Sicily’s most appealing features: a beautiful beach and a historic town to explore. A Norman cathedral stands out above the winding stone streets and colorful fishing harbor, all within sight of the long white sands that stretch from right below the old town.The city began in Phoenician times, and the cathedral dates from the 12th century, one of Sicily’s best medieval buildings, with beautifully preserved mosaics. What makes Cefalù such a popular holiday resort—both with Sicilians and mainland Italians—is the long beach that curves below the old town.There’s a free public beach and a part with lidos where you can rent lounge chairs and umbrellas. Behind part of it is a promenade, the Lungomare Giuseppe Giardina, where locals mix with vacationers in the early evening for a stroll or to just sit on a bench and watch the sea.

Directly beneath the lofty town of Tropea, overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea on a stretch known as “La Costa degli Dei—the Coast of the Gods—Marasusa Beach has everything: soft white sand, calm and clear waters, scenic cliffs rising above, and—except in August—few crowds.The entire coast is marked by dramatic cliffs and rock formations bordered by intensely turquoise waters. There are lots of ways to play in the sea here: you can rent paddleboats, canoes, and rubber boats, and there’s a diving center for snorkeling and scuba diving.Calabria, at the southern tip of Italy, is only beginning to see foreign tourists, so you may be the only visitors to attractions such as Tropea’s Norman cathedral. The town is a four- or five-hour train ride from Naples.

What you see at Rimini is what you get—kilometers of white sand washed by mild Adriatic waters and covered with row on row of rented beach umbrellas and lounge chairs. It’s Italian beach resort at its most typical, and that’s just the way the Italians love their Riviera del Sole.

While you’re here, stop to see the surprising town of Rimini just inland, a busy Roman colony and port with a number of Roman sites. Children will love taking a trip through the wonders of Italy, all shrunk to their size at the popular attraction, Italia in Miniatura.

Genoa is a magnificent city located on the southern coast of Northern Italy on the Ligurian Sea. As the 6th largest city in the country, and as a major port, Genoa has major significance for the economy of the country and has always played a prominent role in the history of Italy. The city walls of Genoa were once expansive and the Porta Soprana is one of the remaining gates from this once impenetrable fortress. In the city centre you can admire some fine architecture in public spaces such as the Piazza Ferrari and the Piazza Matteotti. Moreover the Aquarium and Maritime Museum are fantastic for those who want to learn about marine life and the history of Genoas port. Don’t forget to walk around the immense port and see the hectic hustle and bustle of commercial shipping activitiy!

Cinque Terre’s colourful cliffside villages may be one of the first images that come to mind when you picture a private cruise or luxury yacht charter in Italy. However, concerns that overcrowding is damaging the UNESCO World Heritage Site in recent years is enough to encourage visitors to opt for alternative destinations.

Thankfully Italy’s exquisite coastline has many other beauty spots and these six have been singled out by experienced superyacht owners who never tire of visiting them time after time. This iconic island has been a favourite since ancient times. When the Romans were building their villas here 2,000 years ago, they discovered the ruins of even older civilisations. Today, you can still visit the remains of Tiberius’s palaces. The Marina Grande on the north coast offers berths up to 60 metres, but the more attractive option is the anchorage at Marina Piccola on the south coast.

This broad bay is guarded by three tall stack rocks and curving cliffs, with the small village clinging to the rocks. From here you are just a short drive on switchback roads to the diversions of Anacapri or Capri town. And make sure to dine at one of the many restaurants perched vertiginously on the rock face.

There is no place more famous for chic living than the island escapes of Capri, Ischia, and Procida. This trio of islands is easily accessible from the Gulf of Naples. The island of Capri has been a retreat for an assortment of famous figures for more than 2,000 years, from Emperor Tiberius to poet-diplomat Pablo Neruda. It is most notable for its sea grottoes and exotic architecture that form a backdrop for the jet-set. Ischia is the largest island of the archipelago and is also referred to as “green island” for it’s fertile blossoming landscape. Ischia is also renowned for its mineral springs and thermal baths that gush on the water’s edge. Known as Europe’s capital of thermal bath culture Ischia has dozens of basins and hundreds of springs and geysers operating to meet the various therapeutic needs of visitors. Procida is the smallest island and as an unspoiled fisherman village it is ideal for visitors seeking to escape the tourist bustle.

Colorful houses on cliffs and lemon trees form the backdrop for sailing along the Amalfi Coast. The coastline is easily accessible from the larger ports of Naples and Salerno, and marina facilities are available at some of the small towns along the coast such as Sorrento. Sailing in this area is a gateway to the bustling summer towns that dangle over the sea. While in the area, try not to miss the Ravello Festival, one of Italy’s most renowned historic summer music and arts festivals. In Positano, where boats can idle in good weather, make sure to have a fresh seafood meal at Da Adolfo, accessible only by boat from Positano’s beach.

After working hard to take in all the sites and centuries of Rome, the Pontine Islands are the perfect place to relax. This archipelago of 6 islands is easily accessible from the port of Anzio, only 60 km from Rome. The largest island, Ponza, has a similar jet-set vibe to that of the island of Capri. It is famous for its natural swimming pools created from wind and sea erosion. While in Ponza be sure to take in a sunset at La Caletta and be seen at Frontone Village, one of the island’s most popular beach bars which is only accessible by boat. While the other islands in the area are uninhabited, around the island of Palmarola you will find seaside restaurants where boats can land to get to a handful of beaches and witness the island’s nature reserve.

While sailing around the Maddalena archipelago between Corsica and Sardinia it is hard to remember you are not in the Caribbean. Comprising 7 main islands and numerous additional small islands, it has great wind for sailing while simultaneously offering scores of coves and secluded bays to find shelter from the wind and dive into the crystal clear tepid water. With hundreds of long white sandy beaches around more than 60 islands, the area is a refreshing deviation from the crowded beaches of Italy’s mainland coast. For a change from the white on blue perfection omnipresent in the archipelago, visit Cala Spalmatore famous for its red granite rock formations.

The coastal resort town of Tuscany’s Porto Santo Stefano is an entryway to a mariner’s paradise. Made up of 7 main islands and hundreds of islets the Tuscan archipelago offers a fascinating combination of crystal sea and unique geology formed from glaciation dating back to the Triassic period. The largest island of the archipelago, Elba, is notorious for being Napoleon Bonaparte’s place of exile. Elba offers excellent terrain for mountain biking and trekking, as well as beaches on its Ligurian and Tyrrenian shores. Another smaller mountainous island in the archipelago is Giglio, an island ripe with pine forests and vineyards. For some history visit the island of Montecristo, settled by the ancient Etruscans, Romans and Greeks and once part of the French Empire.

Named after the ancient wind god, Aeolus, it is no surprise this archipelago is famous for sailing. These 8 volcanic islands off the coast of Sicily offer the rare opportunity for witnessing steaming fumaroles and basking in the thermal waters. The islands are easily accessible from Palermo, including the island of Stromboli which is just the tip of an active underwater volcano.

The Gargano peninsula in the Puglia region has been voted the cleanest sea water in Italy. A sail charter in the area offers the possibility to explore the area’s unforgettable waters, white sandy beaches, and world famous sea caves. The fisherman village of Vieste, booming with nightlife and restaurants in the summer, is a gateway to the Tremiti islands. The archipelago’s largest island is San Domino with calm waters for swimming and an array of grottoes.

One of the largest sailing regattas in the world takes place on Italy’s Adriatric Coast at the Gulf of Trieste every October. It is a great starting point for sail charters around the Slovenian coastline. The four main harbours along the Slovene Riviera are former Venetian settlements with picturesque old towns. The coastline’s most commercial port is Koper, located just 3 miles from the Italian border. The marina’s main attractions are the Praetorian Palace of Venetian Gothic origin located in the old town.

The Italian Riviera stretches from the French border to the Cinque Terra. Its main port, Genoa, has one of the world’s most prestigious maritime histories and is the birthplace of Christopher Columbus. Genoa is also Italy’s largest seaport and a great starting point for charters to the small elegant fishing villages of Portofino and Camogli. One of the highlights in the area is a sail around the Cinque Terre, a 5 mile long seafront comprising 5 towns made up of terraced homes and gardens. Getting off the boat and hiking the winding path through the towns to find a quaint restaurant to taste pesto linguine is a must!

Ponza has been called one of the most beautiful islands in the Mediterranean, and the owners of Twizzle agree that it is ‘a ridiculously romantic and authentic Italian island that makes you feel that a young Sophia Loren might just walk past at any moment.The Italian elite head here to their private villas in the summer to revel in the clean turquoise water, natural rocky grottos, hidden coves and fishing ports. Chiaia di Luna beach (which used to be the most popular on the island), with its towering chalky cliffs and azure sea, can now only be approached by sea since it was closed following deadly rock falls. Isola di Ponza pulls off the trick of appearing unspoilt, yet the nightlife is lively and there’s plenty going on.Excellent seafood restaurants such as Gennarino a Mare dot the island. You can moor at the restaurant’s own dock and then dine on decking that extends right out over the sea.

Sardinia’s north-eastern emerald coast is still one of the most popular superyacht destinations in the Mediterranean. It’s easy and quick to get to from mainland Europe and yet is off the mass tourism circuit instead, it has been an exclusive enclave for half a century.The entire 55 kilometre coastline was bought by a consortium led by HH the Aga Khan in 1961, and development has been controlled to produce a top-class destination among the fishing villages and coves. Sailors love the Costa Smeralda because of the wind, while everyone loves the beautiful coastline and appreciates the excellent onshore facilities.

This city in the sea has fascinated seafarers for centuries, and in Captain Magic’s opinion, it is the most beautiful city in the Mediterranean. The Venice Yacht Pier offers a limited number of berths in the city (with a maximum draught of 5.5 to 9 metres), just a short walk from St Mark’s Square. Otherwise, there are marinas offering deeper dockage just 10 kilometres away within the lagoon. From here you can explore more than 1,000 years of history among jaw-dropping architecture that attracts 20 million visitors each year. From June to September tourists swelter in the city (the world’s oldest film festival takes place in July/August), and February offers 10 days of Carnival. But the best way of experiencing this aquatic gem is by boat to follow in Marco Polo’s wake and sail into Venice’s lagoon on your own vessel has to be one of the most romantic experiences you could ever have.

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