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REVEALED: The Italian beaches you might want to avoid this summer

Overcrowded, overhyped, or endangered by overtourism, some of Italy's most famous beaches are best avoided in peak season. Here's our selection of hotspots you may want to skip - and where to go instead.

REVEALED: The Italian beaches you might want to avoid this summer
Italy’s most famous beaches attract the crowds in summer, but luckily there’s no shortage of alternatives. San Vito Lo Capo, northern Sicily. Photo by Ludovic Marin/AFP

Guide lists of the best beaches to visit in Italy and stunning social media shots of Italian coastlines have created hotspots of overcrowding.

Some of these coastal gems are in danger of being destroyed by the hordes of tourists that descend each summer season, while others can simply be a chore to find a patch of sand where you can lay your towel.

MAP: Which parts of Italy will get the most tourism this summer?

Instead of following the top beaches list, which sometimes focus on just the top ten, you can try one of the hundreds of gorgeous and environmentally sound spots throughout Italy.

As the summer season gets underway, here are the beaches best avoided if you want to escape the masses, with alternative suggestions for a more relaxing Italian seaside getaway.

Puglia

The southern Italian region of Puglia has a coastline that could give the Maldives a run for its money, with the waters consistently ranked the cleanest in Italy. As a result, it’s one of the most popular holiday destinations among Italians. It’s also soared in popularity among international tourists in recent years.

Unsurprisingly, this means it’s hard to find a beach in Puglia that could be described as peaceful at the height of summer. But, despite the enormous number of beautiful beaches along Puglia’s particularly long coastline, a handful of names tend to crop up again and again on lists of ‘must-see’ or ‘most beautiful’ beaches in the region – meaning a lot of visitors tend to pack into the same areas, and some beaches are more crowded than others.

READ ALSO: Ferragosto: Why the long August holidays are untouchable for Italians

While all of the below beaches are stunningly beautiful, often featuring breathtaking rock formations surrounded by turquoise waters, most are located in tiny cale, or coves, and space is very limited. In summer you’ll need to get there at dawn in order to enjoy them before the hordes descend.

Baia dei Turchi – Lecce

Torre Lapilo (Porto Cesareo) – Lecce

Torre dell’Orso – Lecce

Punta della Suina – Lecce

Punto Prosciutto – Lecce

Torre Guaceto – Brindisi

Lama Monachile (Polignano a Mare) – Bari

Here are some alternatives that are lesser-known, at least among international tourists: 

Porto Selvaggio – Lecce

Punto Pizzo – Lecce

Torre Vado – Lecce

Spiaggia degli Alimini – Lecce

Spiaggia delle Conchiglie – Lecce

Torre Canne – Brindisi

Baia delle Zagare – Gargano

The beach at Polignano a Mare, Puglia, may be highly instagrammable but it’s not very spacious. Get there early if you want to enjoy it in summer. Photo by Nassim Wahba on Unsplash

Sardinia

Visiting Sardinia can sometimes be a double-edged sword. Yes, it has world-class, astoundingly beautiful white sand beaches and crystal turquoise waters, but because of that, it draws in huge crowds in peak season.

Some beaches and stretches of coastline face severe environmental pressure – and don’t make for an enjoyable day out when you have to get there for 6am to grab a parking spot and a space to pitch your umbrella.

Here are some beaches in Sardinia that are probably best avoided:

La Cinta – San Teodoro

Cala Brandinchi – San Teodoro

La Pelosa – Stintino

Where you can go instead:

Spiaggi Di Li Cossi

Cala Romazzino

Spiaggia Rudargia

Spiaggia di Cala Cipolla

Sardinia’s Spiaggia della Pelosa beach in Stintino is extremely popular. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)

Sicily

The incredible island of Sicily is a favourite destination for both Italian and international holidaymakers for good reason. Plus it has a longer summer season than the rest of the country, so there’s more time to enjoy the beaches outside of August. Still, as in other popular parts of the country, visitors are often directed to the same few spots all summer long.

The island has no shortage of stunning natural beaches, and those who venture off the beaten path will be richly rewarded – even if this means packing a picnic and forgoing sun loungers.

READ ALSO: Why Sicily’s archipelagos are the best part of Italy for island-hopping

While the following famous beaches deserve their top-ten spots on all the ‘most beautiful beaches’ lists, they’re likely to be extremely crowded in July and August:

San Vito lo Capo – Trapani

Scala dei Turchi – Agrigento

Mondello – Palermo

Cefalù – Palermo

Spiaggia dei Conigli (Rabbit Beach) – Lampedusa

Here are a few to try instead – though most have fewer services around, they’re arguably just as beautiful.

Spiaggia dei Francesi – Palermo

Baia di Santa Margherita – Trapani 

Lascari (next to Cefalù) – Palermo

Punta Bianca – Agrigento

Spiaggia dell’Asinello – Agrigento

Torre Salsa (nature reserve) – Agrigento

Sampieri – Ragusa

Italian families sunbathe on August 17th, 2017 in San Vito Lo Capo, northern Sicily. Photo by ludovic MARIN / AFP

Veneto

Veneto is not exactly the best place to go if you’re looking for crystal-clear waters and picturesque beaches girdled by rocky cliffs. In fact, the region’s beaches are for the most part narrow strips of fine sand with generally shallow seabeds and fairly decent waters.

But Veneto is still an incredibly popular destination for beach-goers. Why? The città d’arte (art cities) located just a few miles away from the coastline, the large number of seaside resorts, and the relative proximity of both Austria and Germany all make Veneto a very appealing haven for holidaymakers.

MAP: Which regions of Italy have the most Blue Flag beaches?

So it isn’t rare for the region’s most famed beaches to be packed during the summer months. Here are a few of the busier places that you might want to avoid:

Lido di Jesolo – Jesolo

Lido di Venezia – Venice

Spiaggia di Sottomarina – Chioggia

Spiaggia di Ponente – Caorle

This is where you might want to go instead:

Spiaggia di Cà Roman – Pellestrina

Spiaggia del Bacan – Venice

Spiaggia di Scano del Gallo – Rovigo

Spiaggia della Brussa – Caorle

Tuscany

With over 500 kilometres of coastline, Tuscany is the Italian region that offers the greatest variety of beaches of all. From narrow strips of white sand encircled by maritime pine groves to remote cale (coves) hidden away between cliffs and headlands, the region has it all.

READ ALSO: What are the rules on wild camping in Italy?

The deep blue of Tuscany’s waters and the bonanza of nightlife venues skirting the coastline, especially in the famed Versilia area, prove irresistible to hundreds of thousands of both Italian and international tourists every summer. As a result, certain beaches in the region tend to get very crowded very quickly in July and August. 

Here are some of the region’s hotspots: 

Cala Violina – Maremma

Marina di Chiarone – Grosseto

Cala del Gesso – Monte Argentario

If you’re looking for somewhere quieter, consider heading to:

Cala Martina – Grosseto

Carbonifera – Piombino

Cala di Forno – Maremma

Buca delle Fate – Populonia

Emilia Romagna

The Romagna riviera is incredibly built up, with beach services offering hundreds of sunbeds and umbrellas that cover swathes of the wide and flat sandy beaches there.

Although not known for its crystal clear waters like other parts of Italy, it’s a popular area with tourists due to the convenience of back-to-back bars, restaurants, children’s playgrounds and lifeguards.

READ ALSO: Ten ways to save money on your trip to Italy this summer

Some beaches get more packed out than others such as Rimini and Riccione, thanks to being popular with families for the former and being known as party central with youngsters for the latter.

Here are the most overcrowded beaches in Emilia Romagna:

Riccione Centro-Sud

Cattolica

Rimini

Cervia-Pinarella-agliata

Milano Marittima

Where you can go instead:

Some of the ‘lidi‘ further north can be quieter, still with beach services in places, but not as packed as the beaches above.

Lido di Volano

Lido delle Nazioni

Casalborsetti

Campania

The Amalfi Coast draws vast numbers of visitors to Campania every year – but while its rocky cliffs make for an impressive backdrop, its tiny, overcrowded beaches aren’t necessarily the best place to set up a sunbed.

Nor is the shore around greater Naples, where the sea is so often polluted that swimming is officially banned – though this doesn’t deter large crowds of bathers from taking a dip every summer.

Due to crowding, pollution, or both, some of the beaches you’ll likely want to steer clear of are:

Baia di Trentova

Spiaggia Calanca

Spiaggia di Minori

Spiaggia Lannio

Instead, consider heading to:

Cala Bianca

Spiaggia libera Lentiscelle

Spiaggia del Lago

Baia di Ieranto

Spiaggia le Saline

Calabria

Though perhaps not quite as popular a beach destination among foreign tourists as the likes of Sicily, Sardinia or Puglia, the Calabrian coastline still holds its own when summer hits, attracting large crowds to its shores.

Some of the most popular beaches to avoid:

Tropea

Le Spiagge di Pizzo Calabro

Spiaggia di Falerna

Le baie di Grotticelle

Beaches to go to instead:

Spiaggia di Copanello di Staletti

Spiaggia Paradiso del sub

Spiaggia Del Tono

Spiaggia Di Michelino

This list is of course not exhaustive. Do you have a top beach tip to share with other members of The Local? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Member comments

  1. You completely left out Abruzzo’s coastline of award winning sandy beaches and crystal clear warm waters?

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TOURISM

Trulli to treehouses: Why Italy’s tourists can’t get enough of ‘back to basics’ travel

Italy's mountain huts, treehouses and even caves are being given luxury makeovers and rented to tourists, often for eyewatering prices - and people are happy to pay. Reporter Silvia Marchetti looks at what's behind the growing trend.

Trulli to treehouses: Why Italy’s tourists can’t get enough of ‘back to basics’ travel

I believe there’s nothing more luxurious than simplicity, especially when it comes down to accommodation and travel. 

And it seems that tourists visiting Italy agree. Several accommodation business owners have recently told me there’s a high demand for chic but simple experiences, both in terms of holiday homes to rent and hotels, as well as restaurants. 

Unexpectedly, these places are more expensive to buy or rent than modern rentals and hotels. 

There’s a sort of ‘expensive poverty’ glamour that lures travelers. That’s why there’s been such a revival of ancient dwellings across Italy, well beyond the famous luxury spa-type hotels set in old cave houses like the ones in Matera, Grottole and other southern areas.

It’s an emerging trend that feeds the primeval nature of man. Travellers want to reconnect with mankind’s ancient heritage – but with money and a few modern comforts.

READ ALSO: Is Italy’s west or east coast the best place for a holiday?

Take the simple treehouses that are springing up recently in Puglia, near Foggia, within lush forests where visitors are surrounded by nature – but at the same time inside a cozy room. The experience may recall our prehistoric roots in some way.

Or reverting to sleeping in sea grottos originally inhabited by primitive men, then turned into cozy white-washed fishermen shelters where entire crews would take shelter during storms.

A renovated fisherman’s hut on Italy’s Ponza island. Photo: Touristcasa

The tiny atoll of Palmarola off Rome’s coast is dotted with fishermen grottos turned into élite summer retreats, rented with private dinghies starting from 500 euros per person per night. One such grotto home has a double entrance that cuts right through the rock, so you have panoramic sea views on both sides – great for solo morning swims. 

On the nearby island of Ponza, where caveman used to go looking for the precious obsidian black stone, clifftop seafront villas cut into hillsides are the most in-demand accommodation.

I once met a young couple who was staying in one of these for two weeks and it was funny how they enjoyed such an isolated place with no easy access (only by boat). At night they would climb down to their little dock along a steep dark path without any lights lined with prickly pear shrubs to get to a little dinghy (that comes with the villa) that would take them each time to the main village to shop, eat and so on. It was like their scooter.

I fell, scratched my legs and nearly broke my neck visiting, and it was daylight. They enjoyed going around with flashlights at night because it was cool, they said. Oh, and their kingsize shower also had a limited water supply, because it used rainwater as a source like in the good old days. 

The view from a fisherman’s hut on Italy’s Ponza island. Photo: Silvia Marchetti

This is all part of a new  trend that’s unique to Italy, given the country’s rich, ancient architectural heritage. 

The cone-shaped trulli of Puglia are an iconic type of accommodation, found not only in Alberobello, the most touristy place of all, but scattered all over the area, where families that own one in their backyard can rent it at high prices – as referenced in the funny Italian movie titled ‘Mi rifaccio il trullo’ (I’ll give my trullo a makeover).

READ ALSO: Why visitors to Italy are ditching hotels – and where they’re staying instead

Last time I visited the Alto Adige region I was surprised at seeing so many old ‘masi’, which are Alpine dairy lodges and farms built by ancient shepherd tribes with thick stone walls and slanted roofs, lavishly restyled and transformed into country houses offering ‘nature stays’. The ‘spa’ at the one I stayed at was the actual freezing stream outside with currents, so I just had to take a dip and have my legs massaged by the running water, and the spring water served at dinner came also from that same stream. 

The owners are a very rich couple who hate cars, so they would travel from their house to the lodge on horseback. Obviously all the teas and herbs I drank came from the maso’s garden.

Part of an Alpine maso in Alto Adige. Photo: Silvia Marchetti

In Sicily I found interesting salt pan mills turned into panoramic bars, while near my house medieval olive oil millis, or frantoi, are now busy pizzerias and B&Bs with stone rooms featuring the original grindstones.

In the region of Abruzzo, the entire coast is dotted with old wooden sea huts dubbed Trabocchi suspended above water with fishnets, abandoned by fishermen families after the second world war and now turned into restaurants with a cute, romantic vibe.

All these ancient dwellings which are being restored for tourist use are in demand because they offer a chapter of history and an ‘immaterial cultural experience’. That is why people are prepared to pay whatever the price. 

It’s a bit like renting a tribal tent in an African luxury resort: you’d be paying more for the ‘emotions’ it triggers than the tent itself.

With savvy travelers always looking for that special, out-of-the-ordinary experience, this ‘luxury poverty’ accommodation trend will only keep growing in popularity.

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