Italian beaches sometimes get a bad rap. Known for their rows of sun loungers, each section owned and patrolled by a different beach club or hotel, you would be forgiven for thinking that finding an unspoiled stretch of sand is nigh-on impossible. And while many beaches in Italy are private, if you know where to look you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the wild and beautiful beaches you’ll find – especially in the less touristy region of Puglia, and the islands of Sicily and Sardinia. Here are four of our favorite beaches in Italy.
Cala Goloritze, Sardinia
Look out to sea at Cala Goloritze and you’ll be transported to the Caribbean. The beautiful bright aquamarine hue of the water and powdery white sand has to be seen to be believed. A Unesco Heritage site, there are no loungers and loud beach bars here, instead visitors come to unwind in the peaceful surroundings. On Sardinia’s east coast, the only ways to reach Cala Goloritze are on foot or by boat. The hike in from the parking lot will take you at least an hour, and the return journey even longer (the path is pretty steep), but it’s absolutely worth the effort. To make a day of it, bring a towel, your snorkel gear, plenty of water and a hat – shade is at a minimum here.
Where to stay in Sardinia
Bagni della Regina Giovanna, Sorrento
Though most beaches along the Amalfi coast are packed to the rafters come summertime, there are still a few secluded spots not yet reached by mass tourism. The Bagni della Regina Giovanna (Queen Joan’s baths) is one such place. The beach is encircled by cliffs with just a small arch open to the sea, creating a calm swimming lagoon – local legend has it that Joan, Queen of Naples, used to come here to bathe naked in seclusion.
Accessible on foot, or by boat from Sorrento, the beach here is small, and rocky in places, but the clear, warm water beckons you in. On the path to the beach you’ll pass citrus and olive groves, and the ruins of a former Roman villa – stop for a few minutes to explore the ruins and enjoy the views out to see that haven’t changed in two thousand years.
Where to stay in Sorrento
Torre Guaceto, Puglia
A short drive from the town of Brindisi – a foodie paradise that you should definitely find time for in your vacation plans – you’ll find Torre Guaceto, a beautiful, unspoiled beach named for the stone tower that overlooks the area. Here you’ll find a welcoming stretch of sand framed by the sparkling blue Mediterranean. The area is a protected nature reserve so there’s little here in the way of amenities, but if you’re looking for somewhere to lose yourself in a book then this beach will be right up your street. Start your day shopping for lunch at Brindisi’s fabulous daily produce market, then bring your picnic lunch and a beach umbrella for a blissful afternoon. If you’re a diver or snorkeler you’ll find some interesting coral reefs off shore here too.
Where to stay in Puglia
Cala Marinella, Sicily
Part of the Zingaro nature reserve, some 30 minutes from the town of Trapani, Cala Marinella is Sicily in the raw. The pristine white sands are best reached by boat from nearby San Vito lo Capo, and although the beach is small, it’s truly perfectly formed. The water is warm, welcoming and crystal clear, and the rugged surrounding landscape, filled with the scent of wild herbs, is great for exploring if you need a break from the sun. To make a day of it, charter a boat and stop in at some of the other coves in the reserve (Tonnarella beach is beautiful too) on your way back to San Vito. As elsewhere, ameneties are scarce here so bring plenty of snacks, water and sunscreen.
Where to stay in Sicily