10 Italian Coastal Cities We Love to Love (and How to Get There)

by Bianca @ Italian Fix

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Planning to travel along the Italian coast this summer, or have it bookmarked as a trip for One Day?

Italian coastal cities with their paint-me-pastel pinks, freshly caught seafood, and boating with the best vino in hand are the stuff Mediterranean-getaway dreams are made of.

Time feels slower.

Ocean dips are ritual.

And if you visit them after spending time in (gorgeous! but) landlocked cities like Rome or Florence, they’ll feel like a much-needed breath of lemon-scented, salty air.

Ready to see our fave spots and find out how to fit ‘em into your schedule, with some travel tips to boot? We have it all and more, below.

10 Italian Coastal Cities We Love to Love (and How to Get There)

1. Cinque Terre

We’re biased — the Cinque Terre is our fave stomping grounds, and we can’t pick a favorite village. Not possible.

Cinque Terre is made up of five villages: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso. They’re all connected by a short train ride, and they’re super-duper close to each other.

Hot things to do in Cinque Terre:
Drink home-brewed vino out of plastic cups at the marina. Snorkel in clear, warm water. Hike between the villages (and stop at Nessun Dorma for a snack that includes a jaw-dropping view along the way). Sunset aperitivo, always. Get lost between winding stone staircases. Join us on a day tour — Italian Fix style! Get more fab ideas here.

How to get to the Cinque Terre:
Take the train! There’s no driving inside the villages anyway. You can’t fly into the Cinque Terre, but train rides are speedy and scenic from nearby airport hubs like Pisa, Genova, Milan and even Rome.

2. Portofino

This celeb hot spot sees everyone from Giorgio Armani to Madonna rolling through on their super-yachts, or shacking up in the gorgeous surrounding villas. Bust out the oversized shades!

It’s the prettiest village on the Italian Riviera and it’s teeny-tiny, which makes it all the easier to soak up and really feel like you know it. Portofino is for movie-star vibes, dressing to the nines and eating lots of pesto. Visit anytime except December-February, and you’re golden.

Hot things to do in Portofino:
People-watch in the marina, boutique shopping, pesto-laden focaccia. Bike along lush, winding paths to hidden beach coves. Trek up to the lighthouse. Here’s more info on what to do in Portofino.

How to get to Portofino:
Staying on the Ligurian coast? Take the ferry. It’s also a short train ride from Genoa, and a couple hours on the train from Rome or Florence.

Visiting Rome, Florence, Venice & Cinque Terre on your trip? Make planning and doing easier when you grab our City Guides Bundle.

3. Sorrento

Sorrento’s rocky, rugged coastline is drama, drama, drama. Perched above the Golfo di Napoli and clinging to plunging cliffs, it overlooks the ocean and Mount Vesuvius. Back in the 19th-century, it was an essential stop for literary greats like Dickens, Byrons, Goethe and Tolstoy on their Grand Tours. In fact, Byron is one of the writers that helped put Sorrento on the international must-visit map.

What Sorrento doesn’t have in beaches, it makes up for in its slow, relaxed pace — not to mention its fab climate. It stays warmer here for more of the year than it does in most other coastal towns. As the official “gateway” to the Amalfi Coast, it’s a great spot for exploring something new before hopping on over to Amalfi, Pompeii or Capri — all easily reachable from Sorrento.

Hot things to do in Sorrento:
Sip on drinks with oranges squeezed from the garden. Chow down on gnocchi alla sorrentina (fresh gnocchi with tomato sauce and melted mozza) in one of the seaside tavernas. Stroll through Piazza Tasso on a quiet Sunday. Iced limoncello on jasmine-scented nights.

How to get to Sorrento:
From Pompeii, take the train. From Naples or Capri, you can hop on a fast-ferry connection. You can also take a bus or hydrofoil from Positano, Amalfi or Capri. If you’re flying in, Naples Capodichino airport is about 30 miles out from Sorrento.

4. Capri

Capri sun, indeed. We always spend a day on the island of Capri when we take our clients there during our Southern Italy tour. If you want to stop over for a day trip or a few nights, sun-soaking should be your primary activity.

Capri is another go-to Italian spot that celebrities love to dock their yachts at. Since the 1950s, it’s definitely a place to see and be seen, so bring your fiercest Elizabeth Taylor vibes.

Hot things to do in Capri:
Sip espresso in a chic café wearing your most stylish outfit (bought at one of Capri’s swanky boutiques, of course). Ride the chairlift in Anacapri to the top of Monte Solara to capture some classic Capri photos for your memory bank. Grab your bikini and head to our favorite mermaid watering holes, Marina Piccola or La Fontelina. Hike through forest grottos. Pop into a nightclub (you might just see a famous musician hop on stage for a quick set) — Capri is an after-hours kinda town.

How to get to Capri:
Since it’s an island, well, you gotta hop on a boat. You can take ferries from Naples and Sorrento year-round. In the summer, there are also routes available from Positano, Amalfi, Salerno and Ischia. For most of the year, no cars are allowed on the island. Not that you need a car though — there’s only a single road and public transport here.

5. Aeolian Islands

Our founder Bianca has a soft spot for the Aeolian Islands on the Italian coast, and she even invited a bunch of friends to enjoy Salina Island on her birthday. It’s too pretty not to share! That’s why we take clients here as part of our Sicily tour, too.

The Aeolian Islands are a string of islands north of Sicily, but they’re still off the radar for most visitors to Italy. They’ve got mega Greek vibes (no surprise — the islands were named for Aeolus, god of the winds, by Greek settlers), no crowds, and trigger mental downtime immediately.

Hot things to do in the Aeolian Islands:
Boat around the surrounding islands of Stromboli, Panarea and Lipari. Almond milk baths in copper tubs (seriously). Sunset aperitivi in Pollara. And rent scooters to zip around beautiful black beaches.

How to get to the Aeolian Islands:
They aren’t easy to get to, so stay at least 3-4 nights. In a perfect world, stay for a week! The closest airport is Catania, but you can also arrive from Palermo. Once in Milazzo, ditch your car and take the hydrofoil.

6. Cefalù

Cefalù is a teeny-tiny town in Sicily, just about an hour out from Palermo. It’s a cool combo of beachy vibes paired with medieval Arab-Norman architecture. Pretty much every photo you snap here is gorgeous, which is why it’s affectionately dubbed the “jewel” of Sicily’s northern coast.

Squeezed between mountains and the coastline, it’s where Italians often go to soak up the sun. The beaches are beautiful, the strolling scenic, and the pace drips as slow as honey — which happens to also be the chosen hue for its stone buildings.

Hot things to do in Cefalù:
Take in the view — almost any vantage point has a dramatic mountain backdrop. Stroll down narrow, cobbled streets. Dip into azure water and a mosaic-ed cathedral in the same day. Climb up its craggy mountain top, La Rocca. Hike to the Temple of Diana. Spot scenes from the iconic film Cinema Paradiso, which was filmed here.

How to get to Cefalù:
If you don’t have a car, Cefalù is easily reachable by a 50-minute train from Palermo or by bus — but we prefer the train.

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7. Cagliari

Cagliari is the sexy historic capital of the island of Sardinia, and it’s perfect to visit at almost any time of the year. Tunisia is a hop away — it’s that close to North Africa. It’s got the most gorgeous 8-km stretch of beach ever. And its history is layered with royalty and takeovers from Phoenicians, Romans and Byzantines, which totally shows in its lovely architecture.

Expect to see plenty of palazzi, ancient Roman ruins, classic cathedrals and museums with centuries-old bronze artifacts in this Italian coastal city.

Hot things to do in Cagliari:
Flamingo-spot on Poetta Beach (in the marshy area). Climb up to the Castello. Panoramic views of the city and the sea from Piazza Indipendenza. Picnic under umbrellas, with fresh food from its famous fish market. Grab a Vespa, and zip across the city. Check out cool coves on secret islands.

How to get to Cagliari:
Fly in to the Elmas-Mario Mameli International Airport, and take the connecting shuttle to the city center. If you’re coming from Rome, Naples or Sicily, you can take the ferry. Once you’re in Sardinia, you can train all over the island.

8. Positano

Positano is the picture-perfect postcard from the Amalfi Coast. It’s perched on cliffs covered in pastel buildings, with all paths running down to the sea.

This gorgeous little town is built around one stretch of sand, so you have no choice but to just relax like a pro here.

Hot things to do in Positano:
People-watch in cafés. Burn off Positano-lemon gelato on 400-step staircases. Hop on boats to drink in the Amalfi Coast. Tranquil turquoise water. Boutique shop for fab finds. Champagne and oysters at our fave Le Sireneuse. Chill under an orange and green umbrella on Fornello Beach.

How to get to Positano:
Two ways: fly into Naples and arrange a private transfer to Positano, or take the ferry over. And if you want to drive along gorgeous windy roads, it’s easiest to do it from Rome or Naples.

9. Otranto

If Lecce is on your list, try to hop over to Otranto next! It’s an easy train ride away, and it’s worth it. A pretty seaside town away from the hustle and bustle, with easy-breezy vibes.

Originally a Greek village, this town connects the Adriatic and Ionian Seas — you can even see Albania on a clear day. Though its history is dark (ft. a massacre in 1480), the coastal city lives on wearing its battle scars on its sleeve. Left behind are gorgeous relics, like a medieval mosaic floor in their cathedral.

Hot things to do in Otranto:
Tranquil turquoise swims in the sea. Sunsets at the fiery-red bauxite quarry. Snack on sea urchin, their signature dish. Trek up to the Castello Aragonese, its medieval fortress. Gelato at Pasticceria Martinucci. Hire a boat and explore caves along the coast.

How to get to Otranto:
Flying in? The closest airport is Brindisi. Otherwise, take the bus or train directly from Lecce — the ride is scenic, and it’s a great add-on to your trip;

10. Portovenere

Now this is where poets came to party write. Legend has it that Byron swam from its cove to San Terenzo to visit Shelley — that’s why that cove is now renamed Grotta di Byron, in his stealthy swimming honor.

A ferry ride away from the Cinque Terre, Portovenere is a breath of fresh salty air from across the way. It could be considered the “sixth” Cinque Terre village. A great excuse to day trip, or use it as a comfy and quiet base for exploring other villages and islands, like pretty Palmaria.

Hot things to do in Portovenere:
Swim in Grotta Byron, when the sea is calm. Take in the ocean view from inside the San Pietro church. Endless (and sometimes cheap) aperitivo. Write poetry in a cute café, because it seems to have worked for the rest of ‘em.

How to get to Portovenere:
The easiest way is by boat, from one of the villages in Cinque Terre. By train: take one to La Spezia, and then a bus to Portovenere. If you’re driving, be mindful of the fact that you won’t be able to take your car into the historical center, and parking is hard to come by when it’s busy. If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can hike the (challenging) path from Riomaggiore.

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Want more insider intel on travelling the Italian coast? Here are the solutions we provide:

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Got questions about the trip you’re planning? Share with us in the comments below!

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