Stunning Insider Beaches For When You Can Travel To Italy Again

Although a range of pandemic travel restrictions and requirements remain in place for Italy (also check the U.S. Embassy in Rome website), and the CDC advises against travel at present, planning for that much anticipated trip back is one way to sate bouts of wanderlust.

Dreaming about a visit to the Italian seaside for “whenever”? In addition to the country’s all-star havens like Positano and Portofino, consider the insider destinations below. While some have long attracted an international clientele, others are relatively unknown beyond Italy’s borders. All are located along stunning bays or gulfs tucked into the country’s alluring coastline.

These often curving stretches of beach present a variety of seaside settings as well as the chance to experience an authentic or rustic take on the dolce vita. Here, travel pros give their insights into a selection of idyllic spots in Puglia, Sicily and Calabria.


Puglia has become a hot destination in recent years, luring travelers with its rich cultural history and traditions, local foods and spectacular coastline. Some areas draw a far-flung roster of visitors; others, like the seaside spots on the Manfredonia gulf, remain favorites of Italian and European sun-seekers.

The beaches: Puglia’s long shoreline offers many striking seascapes, and the Manfredonia gulf contains a number of outstanding ones. Gino Fusco of Pugliapromozione, the region’s official tourism board, suggests heading to the Baia delle Zagare, ”one of the most picturesque Italian beaches,” noted for its stunning limestone cliffs and faraglioni, or sea stacks, reminiscent of Capri. Other stunners that Fusco recommends are Vignanotica, also with a dramatic backdrop, and the Baia dei Gabbiani, “a beautiful bay surrounded by cliffs and grottoes, reachable only by boat.Farther up the coast he cites Baia di Campi, “a wild, pebble beach with caves and an island in front of it.” Easy to reach from the resort town of Vieste is the family-friendly Castello Scialara beach. The long Margherita di Savoia beach on the gulf’s southern coast is also good for children, says Fusco.

You’ll find both private lidos (beach clubs) and public beaches here. Popular ones include the Lido Beach Cristalda and the lido at Pelikano Beach (both in Vieste), and the Baia dei Mergoli in Mattinata, according to Enza Sgaramella of Turisti in Puglia. And there are plenty of seaside resorts to choose from, among them the Pizzomunno Vieste Palace Hotel in Vieste; the Hotel Baia dei Faraglioni, Hotel Baia delle Zagare and the Locanda del Carrubo, all in or near Mattinata, says Sgaramella.

The towns to visit: Gino Fusco describes the town of Vieste, founded by ancient Greece, as among the most beautiful in the area. In addition to the cultural attractions, like the “marvelous Romanesque-Apulian style cathedral,” there are 44 kilometers of beaches, says Fusco. At the other end of the gulf Fusco recommends, Santa Margherita di Savoia, a “favorite for bird watchers” and famous for its salt marshes where pink flamingoes gather. Fusco also says to visit the Monte Sant’Angelo area, with two UNESCO World Heritage Sites—the St. Michael the Archangel Sanctuary and the Gargano National Park.


If you’re hoping to travel to Sicily’s Val di Noto, a series of exquisite Baroque cities and towns (on UNESCO’s World Heritage list) in summer, you’ll probably want to know where to head for a seaside excursion to escape the afternoon heat. “The waterfront is only a 10-minute drive from the town of Noto,” says Giuseppe Lenzo, an independent tour manager for Sicily and Italy. And while these Baroque havens have become popular with international travelers, the gulf’s coastal spots remain “small, off-the-beaten track destinations,”says Lenzo, visited mostly by Italians, who dominate these villages in July and August.

The beaches: Lenzo suggests “Calamosche, San Lorenzo, Fontane Bianche, as well as the Vendicari Reserve,” where, he points out, you can watch flamingoes feeding in the ponds. “Worth a visit, and a swim, is the Isola delle Correnti beach,” says Lenzo. “It’s strip of land between the Ionian and Mediterranean seas, where you can experience their different currents and temperatures—really a discovery!”

The towns to visit: Lenzo recommends Marzamemi and Portopalo di Capo Passero. “Marzamemi has a quaint historical center and they both have beautiful sea promenades and share a centuries-old history of tuna fishing,” says Lenzo. “Portopalo also features an islet with an ancient fort.” Other bonuses include the weather. With a location near the southeastern tip of the island, “the climate is wonderful year-round,” he says, and the food is great too, with “the availability of fresh fish and local Pachino cherry tomatoes.”


Francesco Montillo, founder of Lazy Italian Culinary Adventures, which specializes in food-centric tours in Italy, says when she was growing up in a town near the gulf of Squillace, its beaches were primarily visited by local residents, who were later joined by people from other parts of Calabria and Calabrese returning home from the north for summer holidays. Because of the beaches’ popularity during high season she recommends coming early in the morning, in the late afternoon, or during off-peak months like May, June, September, and even the beginning of October.

The beaches: Montillo says the beaches in Caminia, Copanello and Pietragrande are among the most beautiful along the Squillace gulf. “In Caminia, the coastline is full of caves and archaeological remains,” she explains. “The sea is transparent and very calm. Snorkeling and night diving are popular on this beach, but the caves are what get the attention. They can be reached by swimming or paddle boarding.”   

Montillo likes Copanello for its crystal-like water, which is “great for swimming and snorkeling.” Since the area is a fishing haven, “if you visit in the early morning, you’re likely to find lots of fishermen,” she says. “It’s very common to just sit in the water and have fish come at your feet.”

Pietragrande is probably the most famous of the these seaside spots, says Montillo, and attracts lots of visitors during July and August. “There are only a few paid lidos, the rest is free beach, which makes it harder to find a spot. The water is turquoise and stunning,” she adds. (During peak season Montillo says she also might head to the beaches at Soverato and Squillace in order to beat the crowds.)

The towns to visit: “Copanello and especially Caminia,” says Montillo. “Both have wonderful residential areas, beautiful homes and are [within] exceptionally easy walking distance to the beach. The views are just stunning.” Summer rentals go quickly in these locations, she points out, because of proximity to the water.

What to eat: “Freshly caught swordfish, fritto misto, squid and anchovies are all wonderful options,” says Montillo. “Seafood antipasti are great, but don’t forget the salumi, for which the area is known.” Montillo suggests trying the region’s famous “‘Nduja, a super-spicy pork product, similar to a salami, except it’s spreadable.”

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