10 Best Coastal Cities in Italy

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No need to choose between the thrill of a city and the allure of the sea in Italy.

These 10 great coastal cities are worth a visit for their sweeping views, buzzing beach suburbs, and iconic harbour and canal architecture.

Palermo

View of Mondello beach, Palermo.

Underrated Sicilian capital Palermo has everything you could wish for from an Italian coastal city.

It has one of Europe’s largest old town areas with an abundance of cultural attractions (including a handful of UNESCO-listed Arab Norman churches and palaces), a vibrant food scene, and in Mondello one of the best city beaches in the country.

Regular buses in the city will whisk you out to this charming beach suburb with its fine white sands and art nouveau buildings.

Alghero

Backstreets in Alghero.

Up in the north of Sardinia, Alghero attracts visitors for its historic ramparts ands seafood suppers. But a short walk from the city’s harbour are a series of beaches.

Alghero Lido is the closest beach but keep going to Maria Pia for 1km of soft white sands. It takes an hour to stroll this lido-lined coast.

Fancy? Hop on a bus to the rugged Porto Conte Regional Park which has many beautiful swimming spots.

Venice

Gondola in Venice.

Where else can you feel closer to the sea than Venice? The famously beautiful island city that’s best navigated by boat.

Venice occupies a sheltered position just behind the Adriatic Sea, its islands and canals protected by the lagoon’s long beaches.

These beaches are resort areas in their own right so it’s easy to sample city and beach today. Many visitors choose to stay at the popular Lido di Jesolo.

Syracuse

Ortigia island in Syracuse.

Enchanting Syracuse is one of the highlights of Sicily’s east coast. The city has some incredible UNESCO-listed historic sites – the Rocky Necropolis at Pantelis plus the ancient Greek and Roman ruins – as well as the obligatory Baroque churches.

But the best bit is the atmospheric old quarter nestled away on the island of Ortigia with its colourful food market and promenade.

There are rocky platforms around the island where locals love to grab a drink and have a dip, or you can head south to one of the resort areas for a day at the seaside proper.

Naples

Naples old town.

Naples is located at the foot of Mount Vesuvius and is the gateway to the Bay of Naples with its famous attractions including Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast. So you’re never short of day trip options in Naples.

It’s a sprawling port city with dense layers of history. Don’t miss the Via San Gregorio Armeno which cuts through the old city and is known for its artisan shops and street food.

And when you fancy a day at the sea, the bay is home to some of Italy’s most famous coastal resort areas. It’s easy to hop on a boat to the islands Capri, Ischia and Procida, or around the bay to Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast.

Cagliari

Cagliari waterfront.

Sardinia’s southern capital Cagliari has a rich trading history and its narrow medieval streets are lined with palaces and villas.

The hilltop Castello quarter sits high above the harbour and the rest of the city, affording excellent views.

Cagliari is blessed with one of the best city beaches in Europe. To the east of the old town is the gorgeos Poetto beach, 8km of wide lagoon beach with fine sands.

Genoa

Genoa old quarter.

Genoa is one of Italy’s big port cities is often overlooked due to its location in the middle of the Italian Riviera.

But the city is a beguiling mix of grand and gritty, and free from over-tourism. Behind the port is a large medieval old town with narrow alleys (called caruggi) crammed with the tall colourful buildings emblematic of the region.

The coastal areas of the city offer a taste of the Riviera in charming fishing areas like Boccadasse and Nervi (that could pass for Cinque Terre villages).

Bari

Bari from the air.

Italy’s east coast port city of Bari makes a brilliant base for exploring the Puglia region, especially if want to immerse yourself in local life.

The focal point of the city is its fortified harbour and boardwalk, enclosing a dense tangle of backstreets known as Barivecchia – Bari’s charming old quarter.

West of the harbour the coast is lined with beach clubs, but it’s worth hopping on a train to beautiful nearby coastal towns like Polignano a Mari and Trani.

Rimini

Rimini beach.

The city of Rimini is the heart of the Adriatic Riviera, a resort area popular with Italians and known for its retro vibes, lively nightlife, and sunlounger-packed beaches.

If you’re after proximity to the beach then Rimini can’t be beach – the city is fronted by vast golden sands and there are endless beach hotels to choose from.

Rimini is being rediscovered as a cultural destination too – it has a surprisingly picturesque old town and a new museum dedicated to the city’s most famous son, Federico Fellini.

Trieste

Trieste harbour.

Historic port city Trieste is next to the Slovenianborder and has a unique Central European heritage, elegant Art Nouveau architecture, wide boulevards, ornate castles, and a strong independent streak.

If you enjoy literary locations (James Joyce lived in the city for a while) then you’ll love Trieste. Its calling card is the handsome Canal Grande area with its grand cafes, bridges, and markets.

Trieste’s shores are lined with rocky platforms and swimming clubs where locals love to take a dip. Outside the city you can find pretty harbour villages like Muggia.

Honourable mentions:

  • Brindisi, Puglia
  • Reggio Calabria, Calabria
  • Taranto, Puglia
  • Trapani, Sicily
  • Livorno, Tuscany
  • Gaeta, Tuscany

Read more:

10 Most Beautiful Beaches on Sardinia

10 Prettiest Italian Coastlines

Italian Coast & Islands: Ultimate Beach Resort Guide

10 Colourful Places in Italy

10 Best Sandy Beaches in Italy

10 Most Beautiful Mediterranean Cities

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Image credits:

Bay of Naples: © lapas77 / Adobe Stock

Palermo: © Paulo Resende/ Adobe Stock

Alghero: © Valery Rokhin/ Adobe Stock

Venice: © muratart/ Shutterstock

Syracuse: © Romas_Photo/ Shutterstock

Naples: © Nadezhda Kharitonova

Cagliari: © Roman Babakin/ Shutterstock

Genoa: © The Mediterranean Traveller

Bari: © MZaitsev / Adobe Stock

Rimini: © oneinchpunch / Shutterstock

Trieste: © eunikas / Adobe Stock