Italy is one of the premier luxury beach destinations in Europe, with an outstanding reputation that spans centuries. During the Roman times, the Emperors built impressive villas along the coast or on the surrounding islands as a retreat – one Emperor even made Capri his home! In more recent times, Europe’s elite as well as Hollywood celebrities have made Italy their summer destination of choice, staying at one of many historic villas that have been converted into stunning hotels – not one summer passes without another photo of a celebrity or royal frolicking in the warm waters of the Italian coast. Visitors come to experience the laid-back Italian lifestyle at its best, combining time on the beach with strolls in gorgeous coastal towns, exquisite cuisine and visits to historic and cultural attractions. To get you acquainted, I’ve chosen seven Italy beach destinations and paired each with an accommodation option that is sure to get you itching for some ‘La Dolce Vita’!
The Amalfi coast is a stretch of coastline on the Sorrento Peninsula in southern Italy, near the city of Naples. In 1997, the coast was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Amalfi coast has been one of Italy’s beach hotspots for centuries. With its dramatic coastline, picturesque cliff-hugging villages and crystal-clear coves, the region is a magnet for the well-heeled who come here to enjoy long, lazy meals (and a shot or two of limoncello, a local lemon liquer) and the spectacular views from their luxurious accommodations. Towns such as Positano, Ravello and Amalfi, with their breathtaking scenery, also attract many tourists and day-trippers. In the surrounding region, historic sites and towns such as Pompeii, Mount Vesuvius, Naples and Sorrento provide visitors with a plethora of things to do and see.
The Palazzo Murat is the former palace of the King of Naples, Joachim Murat. Located amidst lush, centuries-old gardens and offering magnificent views of Positano and the sea, the palazzo is one of the most luxurious accommodations on the Amalfi coast. Imagine breakfast every morning on your private terrace with this fabulous view!
The Liguria peninsula is a short drive east of Genoa in northwestern Italy. Liguria, often referred to as the Italian Riviera, is a favourite holiday destination amongst many Milanese and the global jet-set (think royal families, Madonna, Rihanna… and you get the picture!) who come here to stay at one of the stunning villas that dot the coast or moor their flashy yachts in one of the secluded coves. The peninsula is dotted with many gorgeous fishing towns such as Santa Margherita, Camogli and Portofino (the perfect place for celebrity-spotting). A short drive away are the beautiful villages of Cinque Terre, another famous region of Liguria. Cinque Terre is perhaps most famous for the villages that cling precariously to the steep slopes of mountains that seemingly plunge into the sea. A drive along the coastal road is a spectacular experience.
The La Sosta Di Ottone III is a luxurious bed and breakfast housed in a 16th century building. Located in Levanto, in the heart of Cinque Terre, La Sosta is the perfect base for anyone wishing to explore Cinque Terre and the Ligurian peninsula.
This little rocky island just off the Sorrento Peninsula and on the fringe of the Gulf of Naples is a popular day-trip for visitors from Naples and the Amalfi Coast, who come to stroll around the lovely town with its quaint, white-washed streets and enjoy the dramatic coastal views from a boat tour (which also includes the magical Blue Grotto). Despite the day-trippers, there are many secluded spots where one can truly experience the island’s magic. During the Roman era, Emperor Augustus considered the island his private paradise and built villas, temples and aqueducts. In the 1st century AD, Emperor Tiberius lived on Capri in his stately villas (one of them, Villa Jovis is one of the best-preserved Roman villas in Italy) and ran the Empire from his home on the island. Capri has long been another of Italy’s hotspots for the jet-set – this is evident from the celebrity photos which adorn the doors and walls of many shops and restaurants in the town of Capri. On a clear day, the views from the town across the Gulf of Naples to Mount Vesuvius are simply breathtaking.
Hotel Excelsior Parco is a gorgeous hotel located on the higher elevations of Capri, boasting panoramic views of the, the mainland (including Sorrento, Naples and Mount Vesuvius) and the sea. The hotel offers classic rooms with a private patio and deluxe rooms with a jacuzzi and a terrace.
Sardinia is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, after Sicily. Whilst its interior is largely mountainous and forested, its coastline is dotted with stunning sandy beaches and bright, turquoise coves. Most visitors come to Sardinia to swim in its crystal-clear water, hike in the mountains, explore the nuraghi (mysterious ancient rock structures) and visit its many historic towns such as Cagliari, Alghero and Bosa. The most luxurious resorts are located on the northeastern coast along the Costa Smeralda and the southwestern coast.
The Forte Village is situated in Pula, in the southwestern part of Sardinia. The resort offers luxurious bungalows scattered throughout a lush garden, with blue pools and a stunning beach at your doorstep. This resort, also perfect for families, is consistently voted as one of the best in the world.
Ischia is a rocky volcanic island located in the Thyrrhenian Sea near the mouth of the Gulf of Naples. The island is most famous as a spa retreat. With its abundance of hot springs, the island attracts people from around the world who visit the island to bathe in the springs and slap on a thick layer of volcanic mud. Ischia also has many beautiful beaches and historic sites such as the imposing Castello Aragonese and the beautiful gardens of La Mortella and Villa Ravino.
Hotel Margherita is located in the charming village of Sant Angelo d’Ischia atop a ridge and has unforgettable sea views. Breakfast is served on the private terrace with stunning views.
The Adriatic coast is famed for its seemingly endless stretches of sandy beaches and countless ‘bagni’ (beach clubs). Along the Riviera Romagnola in the region of Emilia Romagna, you’ll find popular beach towns like Rimini but head up or down the coast from here and you’ll find other historic towns with adjacent beaches.
North of Rimini, in Cesenatico, you’ll find long beaches as well as a port town that’s been around since Roman times! Its port-canal was designed by Leonardo da Vinci and the town houses an open-air museum with traditional boats of the Adriatic.
Grand Hotel Da Vinci is located right on its own beach in Cesenatico. This grand hotel, with its gleaming marble floors and shimmering chandeliers, offers a large array of facilities, including a stunning pool and a renowned spa.
Another popular beach town is Riccione, about 15 minutes south of Rimini. Also nearby, on the coastal part of Ravenna, you’ll find another glorious stretch of sand. Beach clubs to look out for include Singita Miracle Beach and Charlie Beach. Read about things to do in Ravenna.
Puglia, the region in the ‘heel’ of Italy boasts some of the most beautiful beaches on the Italian mainland. The coast is dotted with historic towns, coves, dramatic cliffs and glorious sun-drenched beaches with crystal-clear water. Some of the best beaches in the south can be found at or near Torre dell’Orso/Sant’Andrea, Otranto, Maldive del Salento and Porto Cesareo. Popular beach towns include Gallipoli and Otranto. Read more about Puglia.
In Gallipoli, I can recommend the beautiful Palazzo Presta located in the town centre and within walking distance of the beaches and historic attractions. In Otranto, the Palazzo Papaleo is a beautiful boutique hotel in the heart of the town with recently refurbished rooms and a rooftop terrace.