An Italian escape to the seaside is the perfect summer getaway; after all, the European hotspot (and its surrounding islands) are known for having some of the most beautiful beaches in the entire world—and with good reason. Breathtakingly azure waters and velvety sand beaches are just some of the stunning sights that can be found on Italy’s top beaches—but, unfortunately, with the amazing views and soft, sandy shores often come hordes of tourists (and locals) looking to beat feet and cool off in the turquoise sea.
But now for the good news: not all of Italy’s beaches are as well-known or as visited as its most popular summer spots; there are some that fly under the radar, many of which are the locals’ best-kept secrets. And for a vacationer looking for a little R&R this summer, the best way is to think like a local—and the following beaches will help to do just that. A parade of scenic spots, each with their own bits of free beach access, these under-the-radar faves will have any beach bum living like an Italian local all summer long.
Sizzling Sicilian Sands At San Vito Lo Capo
This beautiful Sicilian beach of San Vito lo Capo is quintessentially the epitome of busy, bustling sand and surf experiences—bathing-suited crowds, strolling vendors, and beach bars galore. And don’t forget about the scenery that’s all blue surf, velvety soft sand, and stunning scenic views that exude the perfect summertime beachy vibes.
- Where It’s At Trapani, on Sicily’s northwestern coast
- Costs & Fees: Paid umbrellas are available, though the beach is dotted with plenty of free beach areas
- Stay Nearby: Artimede Hotel, Hotel Soffio D’Estate, Hotel Riviera
- What To Love: The nearby beach bars serve up everything from frozen drinks to spectacular Sicilian street food; breathtaking views of Mount Monaco.
A Sprawling Local Sardinian Beach At Cala Liberotto
Sardinia is known for its stunning beaches surrounded by some of the most breathtakingly blue waters around—and the Gulf of Orosei beauty of Cala Liberotto is just one of many fantastic spots to choose from on the island’s east side. However, the appeal of Cala Liberotto lies in its large spaces of soft sand that have plenty of free access, giving sunbathers room to spread out and relax without the jostling crowds.
- Where It’s At: Orosei, in Sardinia
- Costs & Fees: Free admission
- Stay Nearby: Santa Maria Resort, Hotel Baia Marina, Hotel Anticos Palathos
- What To Love: rocky reefs and clear water make this a great place for snorkeling; there’s plenty of parking, snack bars, and restaurants nearby
Off The Beaten Track Torre Guaceto
The Puglia coastline boasts a number of beautiful beaches, many of which belong to the lovely and untamed Guaceto Nature Reserve. An off-the-beaten-track location means that travelers will most likely need to rent a car to get there, then walk a bit to the more secluded beach areas. However, the area’s distinctive beaches, lagoons, and vast sand dunes make it a worthwhile endeavor for those looking for an idyllic beach retreat.
- Where It’s At: Torre Guaceto Nature Reserve in Puglia
- Costs & Fees: Paid parking, no entrance fees
- Stay Nearby: Oasi Degli Ulivi, L’Eremo degli Ulivi B&B, Trullo Alessandro e Villa Raffaela
- What To Love: The perfect retreat for sunbathing and swimming; the shallow waters and rock formations make for great snorkeling; a great escape from the touristy crowds
Locals Love The White Sands Of Capo Vaticano
Despite its white, sandy beaches and dramatic scenery, Capo Vaticano in lovely Calabria remains a local’s delight that has somehow managed to avoid becoming a touristy trap. Perhaps it’s the beach’s secluded location nestled among the rocky, towering cliffs or the absence of concessions and umbrellas coveted by sunbathers—whatever the reason, Capo Vaticano remains one of Cambria’s best-kept beach secrets.
- Where It’s At: Calabria, near the city of Tropia
- Costs & Fees: N/A
- Stay Nearby: Graceland B&B, Midenza Suites & Residence, Villaggio Tramonto
- What To Love: An air of mystery permeates this relatively hidden spot only accessible via a set of steep stone steps, making this quiet beach the perfect retreat; stunning views of the Aeolian Islands archipelago and the Tyrrhenian Sea
A Charming Inlet, A Secluded Village At San Fruttoso
Not all beaches are built for sunbathing—some are simply a series of rocks bordering a small sandy shore; a secluded inlet surrounded by deep blue waters—such as the beach of San Fruttoso, not far from Portofino. However, what makes this decidedly unbeach-like beach so special is its unique surroundings and secluded island feel. Only accessible via boat or on foot via a scenic path suspended over the sea, San Fruttoso’s appeal comes from its picturesque setting, which includes one of Italy’s most beautiful abbeys.
- Where It’s At: Coastal Liguria near the Regional Park of Portofino, Villa Rosmarino
- Costs & Fees: N/A, excluding transportation
- Stay Nearby: Splendido (A Belmond Hotel), Villa Albachiara,
- What To Love: This beautiful inlet and village is an oasis away from Italy’s more heavily trafficked tourist spots, but is still a wonderful place to experience the region’s distinctive history and culture; snorkelers will love an underwater glimpse of the famed Christ of The Abyss statue created by artist Guido Galletti, that has rested at the bottom of the Mediterranean since 1954
A (Tiny) Tuscan Treat At Sant’Andrea Beach
The largest island in the Tuscan archipelago, Isola d’Elba, has its fair share of both named and unnamed beaches—all of which are stunning. However, many of the beaches throughout the island are often jam-packed with tourists and their wall-to-wall umbrellas, so it takes a local to really find a spot that’s beautiful, beachy, and also relatively uncrowded. Enter Sant’Andrea Beach, a rock-ringed, cozy hamlet with a postage-stamp-sized beach that’s just big enough for an idyllic day on the water.
- Where It’s At: Located in the village of Sant’Andrea, almost four miles from Marciana Alta
- Costs & Fees: No entrance fee; and sections of free beach are available near the tide pools.
- Stay Nearby: Boutique Hotel Ilio, Alba Chiara Sant’Andrea, Agriturismo La Turrita
- What To Love: A scenic coastal path leads to the equally pretty Cotoncello Beach, a great place for swimming, snorkeling, and exploring nearby sea caves.
During the summer, it’s practically impossible to find an Italian beach where sunbathers and parasols are not packed like sardines under the sweltering sun—after all, seaside vacations are some of the most popular getaways for both Europeans and tourists alike. However, there is a way to make the most of Italy’s most beautiful beaches; and that’s thinking like a local. This doesn’t mean entirely avoiding the crowds, but it does mean knowing the coolest spots for maxing and relaxing; water sports, scenic views, or a combo of all three—the best (and smartest) way to Viva Italia this summer.