15 beautiful Italian coastal towns to visit


I just adore Italy and, in my opinion, the various Italian coastal towns are without doubt among some of the planet’s most picturesque locations.

Add into the mix the golden sands and pretty ports found at many of these beautiful beach towns in Italy and that might sound like enough of a reason to visit. 

Yet I love that the best coastal towns in Italy have so much more to offer besides. Destinations range from smart, upmarket and more famous beach cities in Italy, such as glittering Portofino, elegant Ravello and citrus-scented Sorrento, to smaller villages with heaps of charm.

I have spent a lot of time travelling around Italy, seeking out the prettiest spots along the Italian coast.

Here I have compiled my own personal experiences with recommendations from fellow travellers to compile the ultimate guide to the best Italian coastal towns.

Author Bio: Jessie Moore

Jessie Moore is a luxury travel expert with years of experience travelling the world to find the best destinations, hotels and adventures.

The post contains affiliate links.

Map of my favourite coastal towns in Italy

Use my map below to see where all the best Italian coastal towns are located. I’d recommend trying to combine a few different seaside towns into one stay, to make the most of your time.

15 of the most beautiful Italian coastal towns

1. Positano

Best for: Postcard-perfect town

Nearest airport: Naples

Where to stay: Il San Pietro di Positano

Top activity to book: From Positano: Sorrento Coast & Capri Full-Day Trip by Boat

While numerous Italian coastal towns vie for the title of the country’s prettiest town, I believe Positano is a serious contender. This picturesque spot can be found at the heart of the Amalfi Coast.

I first visited Positano when I was a teenager and I’ve returned numerous times over the years. Despite the fact that its appearance borders on the rustic in places, Positano is one of the most refined resorts in Italy.

It is also one of the most costly, but offers visitors easy access by boat to Capri, the Grotta dello Smeraldo, and Ischia. 

Positano Beach

Positano has a couple of attractive beaches. Fornillo is smaller and lesser known than Spiaggia Grande. I think both are incredibly pleasant places to spend the day, with the former being busier and the latter more peaceful. 

Insider travel tip: I’d recommend visiting between April and June if you can, for warm weather and lower prices. Plus, witnessing the sight of the colourful cliffside buildings during wisteria season makes for an unforgettable – and extremely photogenic – experience. 

2. Amalfi

Best for: Dramatic scenery

Nearest airport: Naples

Where to stay: Palazzo Avino

Top activity to book: Amalfi Coast: Boat and Snorkeling Tour with a Captain

Appealingly compact in size, Amalfi is situated in a ravine at the base of Monte Cerreto. I love that it’s possible to walk across town in around 20 minutes. Although I’d definitely recommend allowing time for a coffee stop in a sunny square or to laze on one of the little beaches.

The 9th century Duomo di Amalfi is a superb example of a Roman Catholic structure, boasting a breathtaking ceiling and some colourful, intricate mosaics.

I’ve found that browsing Amalfi’s stores can also be rather diverting, as you try to choose between the cameo brooches that the town is famous for.

Limoncello is another of the Amalfi Coast’s most famous products – I love that you often get a free tipple of Limoncello with the bill when eating out.

3. Manarola

Best for: Wine tasting

Nearest airport: Pisa

Where to stay: La Torretta Lodge

Top activity to book: Manarola: Authentic Pesto Making Class in Cinque Terre


Manarola is one of five Ligurian villages that make up the Cinque Terre National Park.

This picturesque village is packed with vibrant, painted buildings, which is why it’s often referred to as the world’s most colourful town. And I can see why!

Manarola’s setting is also particularly stunning, with vineyards that were first established centuries ago dotted across the clifftops.

This makes wine tasting a popular pastime (it would be rude not to!), and the area’s white wines are of particularly high quality.

Another feature of Manarola that I love is the steep, slender lanes that lead down to the sea, known locally as carrugi.

I’d also recommend observing the sunset from this charming village, which makes for a most memorable experience.

Insider travel tip: San Lorenzo church is not to be missed, for the stunning views across the surrounding coastal landscape as well as its beautiful rose window.

4. Riomaggiore

Best for: Beautiful walking routes

Nearest airport: Pisa

Where to stay: The Sunset Line

Top activity to book: Riomaggiore: Cinque Terre Wine & Liqueur Tasting Experience


Riomaggiore is the furthest south of the five villages forming the Cinque Terre National Park. It is also the most easterly, and lies fairly close to the Tuscan border on the Gulf of Genoa. 

Like nearby Manarola, Riomaggiore is famed for its cliffside cluster of colourful buildings. Trust me when I say that this place is a photographer’s dream!

Some of the homes lining the narrow, cobbled lanes are ‘tower houses’, and the village boasts 14th century churches and a medieval castle. 

Vineyards also surround Riomaggiore, and this Cinque Terre village is famed for Sciacchetrà, a sweet white wine made from Vermentino, Bosco and Albarola grapes. 

Popular walking routes begin in Riomaggiore: the first part of the Lovers’ Path (Via Dell’Amore) between Riomaggiore and Manarola is also known as the Blue Path (Sentiero Azzurro).

Insider travel tip: I’d recommend climbing the village’s steep, rocky staircase for magnificent views over the coastline. 

5. Portofino

Best for: Luxury

Nearest airport: Genoa

Where to stay: Splendido, A Belmond Hotel

Top activity to book: 1-Hour Snorkeling Tour in Paraggi Bay, Portofino

Well-heeled Portofino can be found within the Genoa province on the Ligurian coast. It’s known for its singular semi-circular harbour, as well as its popularity with the uber rich. 

Portofino is famed as a hangout for the wealthy, who are drawn to this smart town by its undeniable beauty.

Awash with gleaming white yachts and stylish designer shops, I think this is the Italian Riviera’s most fashionable spot.

While the local museum, Castello Brown, has a rather ordinary moniker, this 15th century castle is an absorbing place to visit.

Not least for the spectacular views over Portofino’s famous harbour from the elevated site. I’d also recommend Museo del Parco – the sculpture park – for the artsy types among you.

If you enjoy luxury, romance, beauty and sheer indulgence, I really don’t think you can miss Portofino off your Italian itinerary.

6. Sorrento

Best for: Lively town

Nearest airport: Naples

Where to stay: Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria

Top activity to book: Sorrento: Exclusive Capri Boat Tour and Optional Blue Grotto

The province of Naples is home to Sorrento, another of Italy’s best located towns, set among a surrounding landscape rich in lush valleys and fragrant citrus groves.

The beautiful and locally produced ceramics and lace have also firmly placed Sorrento on the map. I think this Neapolitan town is a fabulous place to spend time, sipping coffee or a glass of wine in Piazza Tasso.

All while admiring the glamour and soaking up the atmosphere – as well as the sun!

Sorrento Sunset

Positioned where the coastline meets the peaks, Sorrento’s location can barely be bettered. I don’t find the town itself to be as authentic as others on this list, but it’s such a wonderful base for exploring the area.

Insider travel tip: Those seeking beach life would be best off heading to the neighbouring island of Capri, or north towards the other towns of the Amalfi Coast. 

7. Cagliari

Best for: Quintessential Italian charm

Nearest airport: Cagliari

Where to stay: Casa Clat

Top activity to book: Cagliari: Boat Tour with 4 Swim Stops at Devil’s Saddle

As the capital of the island of Sardinia, Cagliari has lots to offer visitors. I’d recommend approaching by boat if you can, so you see the best of the town’s beaches and golden domes before even setting foot on Sardinian soil – or sand.

Smart Poetto beach is a must, where young families enjoy al fresco meals while flamingoes wander round the surrounding marshland.

Roman remains are dotted around the town too, as are plenty of appealing cafes, stores and restaurants. 

The best sights and views in Casteddu (as Cagliari is locally known), however, are accessed by trekking up to the old town.

Once you’ve reached the hilltop, you can wander cobbled alleys, take in the views from Piazza Indipendenza and discover Bastione San Remy, the local landmark with a limestone arch and Italiate pillars. 

Trust me, it’s well worth the walk!

8. Sperlonga 

Best for: A day trip from Rome or Naples

Nearest airport: Rome

Where to stay: Hotel Grotta Di Tiberio

Top activity to book: Sperlonga: Boat Tour to Gaeta with Pizza and Drinks

Sperlonga makes a great day trip from Rome or Naples, as it is positioned around midway between the two Italian cities.

It also has a pretty, pristine beach and a history centering on Emperor Tiberius, its most famous former resident. 

Tiberus’s villa now houses a range of sculptures that were found in the grounds, detailing the accomplishments of Odysseus – aka Ulysses, the fabled Greek icon. Dating from Roman times, these were uncovered in the 1950s.

Discover more of the best beaches near Rome in my guide.

9. Portoferraio 

Best for: Breathtaking views

Nearest airport: Elba Island

Where to stay: Hotel Hermitage

Top activity to book: Elba Island: Portoferraio Walking Tour

Located off the western coast of Italy is the island of Elba, and Portoferraio can be found at the centre of the harbour. 

As it’s surrounded by the sea on three sides, I adore the sublime views from the hills of the town. From the Italian mainland, Elba can be reached by ferry, and the approach makes a memorable vista. 

The name Portoferraio literally translates to ‘Iron Port’, and the old iron mills caused rapid growth here during the Napoleonic era.

At the Civic Archaeological Museum, visitors can also delve deeper into island history.

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10. Cefalù

Best for: Historic charm

Nearest airport: Palermo

Where to stay: Le Calette N.5

Top activity to book: Cefalù: Agrigento Temples and Scala dei Turchi Day Tour

Cefalu Aerial Shot

On Sicliy’s Tyrrhenian coast is Cefalù, a coastal spot known for its 12th century Norman cathedral. This pretty, historic town is one of the island’s most popular resorts and I can see why.

The fortress is a magnificent sight, with monolithic twin towers that loom over the town. Impressive Byzantine mosaics can be seen here too.

Cefalu Italy

Perched on a huge crag known as Rocca, the Temple of Diana’s ruins dominate the area.

Cefalù’s Mandralisca Museum is also popular, containing an original Antonello da Messina portrait, plus a range of archaeological artefacts.

11. Polignano a Mare 

Best for: Exceptional sea views

Nearest airport: Bari

Where to stay: Donnamaria – Dimora Vista Mare

Top activity to book: Polignano a Mare: Boat Cruise to Scenic Caves with Aperitif


With a dramatic cliff top location, Polignano a Mare is in the Italian province of Bari.

As well as superlative sea views from the terraces, the town is known worldwide as a superb cliff diving spot, and has played host to competitions in the past. I’m not sure you’ll find me jumping from the cliffs, but it’s an option for the daredevils among you!

Polignano a Mare boasts a charming old town, packed with narrow streets lined with historic homes and buildings.

Here the facades tend to lean towards the honey-hued rather than the pastel-painted, allowing the turquoise waters to take centre stage. 

At the heart of the town is a clean sweep of golden sand, where I’d recommend spending the day sunbathing and swimming.

Or simply take a rest break with a gelato between sightseeing and capturing the appealing scenes on camera. 

12. Atrani

Best for: A hidden gem

Nearest airport: Naples

Where to stay: Hotel La Bussola

Top activity to book: Amalfi & Atrani: 2-Hour Private Walking Tour


Immediately east of the larger settlement of Amalfi on Italy’s southern coast is Atrani, the smallest town in the region.

It was once the chosen residence of the region’s most influential families and I love to imagine all the stories of times gone by!

Atrani is characterised by the traditional homes, lemon groves, medieval buildings and pretty gardens that lead upwards from the sands.

All along the coastline there is a series of curving support arches, a marvellous sight that can be seen by those who pass along the coast by boat.

13. Levanzo

Best for: An authentic Italian town

Nearest airport: Palermo

Where to stay: Dolcevita Egadi Eco Resort by KlabHouse

Top activity to book: From Trapani: Mini Cruise to Favignana and Levanzo


Off Sicily’s western coast are the three Egadi Islands, and Levanzo is the smallest of the trio. Of all the best beach towns in Italy, this one is the most basic but I also adore its authenticity.

The lightly toned stone of the buildings truly stands out against the brilliant blue of the sea here, making this one of the prettiest ports on earth.

It’s a fairly rustic sort of place, with simple dwellings, dry stone walls, and dusty tracks.

Levanzo’s sole attraction is the Grotta del Genovese containing well-preserved examples of prehistoric art. As it’s popular, booking in advance is essential.

Otherwise, the key attractions here are the warm waters and serene landscapes.  

14. Ravello

Best for: Spectacular views

Nearest airport: Naples

Where to stay: Caruso, A Belmond Hotel

Top activity to book: Ravello: 2-Hour Private Walking Tour

Perched above the Bay of Salerno, Ravello was once described as being nearer to the sky than the sea.

In addition to its stately position, the town is famous for the villas of Cimbrone and Rufolo and their lush, colourful gardens.  

Trust me when I say that the views from these outdoor oases of beauty and calm are nothing short of spectacular. It’s why many artists are said to have been inspired by the setting and surroundings of Ravello. 

As for the villas themselves, each is justifiably famous in its own right. Villa Rufolo dates from the 13th-century, and is a superb example of a Moorish style structure.

Regular concerts and events are held both indoors and out throughout the year. This includes the Ravello Festival that takes place in summer. 

Medieval Villa Cimbrone is positioned on a rocky outcrop, and is renowned for its beautiful garden.

15. Castelsardo

Best for: An ancient castle

Nearest airport: Alghero

Where to stay: Bajaloglia Resort

Top activity to book: Castelsardo: Basket-Making Workshop and Museum Guided Tour

On Sardinia’s northern coast, Castelsardo is a pretty town with an ancient castle and an abundance of cafes and souvenir stores. 

Castello dei Doria is Castlesardo’s main draw, and there is also a museum on site devoted to the handicraft of basket weaving, an important tradition in the area. Lots of woven items are displayed around the castle.

Insider travel tip: I’d really recommend exploring the maze of alleyways leading down from the medieval fortress, and you can also explore ancient churches and the rocky shoreline.  

It’s been tough narrowing down the most beautiful coastal towns in Italy, but hopefully you’re suitably inspired for your next Italian getaway. Now, pass me the Limoncello!

Have you got any favourites or recommendations? Do let me know in the comments or get in touch on social media.

Looking for more European travel inspiration? Check out more of my Italy guides:

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Jessie Moore
Jessie Moore

Jessie is a luxury travel expert with years of experience travelling the world to find the best destinations, hotels and adventures.

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