The Most Beautiful Italian Coastal Towns and Cities

Enjoy the panoramic view of Manarolas colourful houses in the Cinque Terre National Park, Italy
Enjoy the panoramic view of Manarola's colourful houses in the Cinque Terre National Park, Italy | © Vladimirs_Gorelovs / Getty Images
Polly Rider

Italy has a wealth of postcard-perfect coastal towns, each with an individual panorama of breathtaking ocean views. With rows of coloured houses blanketing dramatic cliff faces, these spots are easy on the eye from the sea, too. We list 10 of the most gorgeous Italian coastal communes guaranteed to spark romance in your soul.

Keen to visit Italy but not sure where to go? Take your pick from Culture Trip’s specially curated 10-day Northern Italy trip or our action-packed 10-day Sicily adventure.

1. Manarola, for a colourful cliffside village

Architectural Landmark

Boats in the sea next to the colourful buildings of Manarola, perched on the rocky cliffs
© Rory McDonald / Getty Images

Part of the Cinque Terre National Park (comprised of five villages) in Liguria, Manarola has been called the most colourful city in the world. The vibrant buildings are jostling for space, making the town resemble an artist’s palette. Every year, visitors flock here to hike between seaside villages, with numbers soaring in peak season. Don’t miss the Church of San Lorenzo, beautiful both inside and out thanks to some sweeping views of Manarola and neighbouring towns. You can visit Manarola as part of a spectacular guided hike along the Cinque Terra coast on Culture Trip’s 10-day small-group Northern Italy adventure.

2. Positano, for a picture-perfect view

Architectural Landmark

Colourful buildings on the hillside next to the sea in Positano
© Rickson Liebano / Getty Images

Thanks to some rustic charm and wisteria-draped hotels, Positano is widely regarded as the most photogenic town in Italy. As the most sophisticated resort on the central Amalfi Coast, it’s also the most expensive. The enviable location allows visitors to travel by boat to nearby Capri, Ischia and the Grotta dello Smeraldo. You can also choose to spend a day on Fornillo beach, a smaller alternative to the popular Spiaggia Grande.

4. Portofino, for the rich and famous

Architectural Landmark

Boats moored at Cannone Bay in Portofino, surrounded by pretty colourful buildings and hillside
© Haidar Harmanani / EyeEm / Getty Images

Portofino and the distinctive half-moon harbour are located on the coast of Liguria, in the province of Genoa on the Italian Riviera. Having become increasingly upmarket in recent years, it’s popular with the rich and famous – you’ll notice plenty of luxurious superyachts adorning the horizon here. Hike up to Castello Brown, the 15th-century castle, for some spectacular views.

5. Polignano a Mare, for diving in Puglia

Architectural Landmark

People swimming and relaxing at the beach in Polignano a Mare, Puglia, with rocky cliffs and city buildings on either side
© Matthias Scholz / Alamy Stock Photo

In the province of Bari, Polignano a Mare is perched upon limestone cliffs overlooking the azure sea. The historic old town features a maze of houses and narrow alleyways, as well as panoramic terraces offering views of the Adriatic Sea. Along with the rich history, Polignano is known for world-class cliff-diving opportunities, having previously hosted the Red Bull diving competition. Visit Polignano a Mare on our epic 10-day adventure through Southern Italy.

6. Riomaggiore, for hiking in the Cinque Terre

Architectural Landmark

Rocks in the sea with the colourful buildings of Riomaggiore, built into the cliffside, in the back
© Frank Chmura / Alamy Stock Photo

Part of the Cinque Terre, Riomaggiore is the largest and most easterly of the five villages. Sitting upon the unspoilt blue waters of the Gulf of Genoa, the spot is famed for the sweet wine Sciacchetrà, made from Bosco, Vermentino and Albarola grapes. The multi-coloured ravine of pastel buildings here is where the Sentiero Azzurro (Blue Path) begins. You can embark on the first section between Riomaggiore and Manarola, which is also known as Via Dell’Amore (Lovers’ Path). It’s one of the most beautiful places in Northern Italy.

7. Amalfi, for a stunning Duomo

Architectural Landmark

Pastel-coloured buildings, church towers and the sea at Amalfi, in front of a backdrop of rocky cliffs
© Jon Arnold Images Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

Amalfi lies at the mouth of a deep ravine at the foot of Monte Cerreto. Surrounded by dramatic cliffs and coastal scenery, it’s modestly sized: visitors can walk from one edge of town to the other in 20 minutes. Amalfi boasts sun-filled piazzas and small beaches; its many squares are connected by pedestrian streets flanked with souvenir shops, perfect for stocking up on cameo brooches and limoncello. Also, don’t miss a visit to the Duomo di Amalfi, a 9th-century Roman Catholic structure. Ascend the steps, then admire the beautiful mosaics and magnificent ceiling detail. Check into one of the best hotels in town.

8. Atrani, for a small town atmosphere

Architectural Landmark

Rocks and boats in the sea next to Atrani, with buildings built onto the cliffside, in Italy
© Tibor Bognar / Alamy Stock Photo

Just two minutes away from the town, Atrani is the wealthy residence for the most powerful Amalfi families. Traditional houses climb up the valley from the beach, broken up by lemon terraces and colourful gardens. As the smallest town in Southern Italy, the ancient medieval structure remains incredibly intact.

9. Santa Cesarea Terme, for exploring the Salento coast

Architectural Landmark

A stone staircase, rocky cliffs and clear water on the Salento coast in Santa Cesarea Terme
© GoneWithTheWind / Alamy Stock Photo

Santa Cesarea Terme sits atop a rugged plateau overlooking the sea in Puglia, on the ‘heel’ of Southern Italy. The town is characterised by architecture typical of the early 20th century, while the coast is punctuated with thermal springs, situated within four natural caves. A pathway through the woods leads to the higher part of the town, which boasts beautiful views of the Salento coast, all the way up to the headland of Santa Maria di Leuca. Santa Cesarea Terme isn’t as popular with international tourists as it is with with Italians themselves, making it all the more authentic.

10. Cagliari, for a taste of Sardinia

Architectural Landmark

Colourful bunting hanging in a street leading to an impressive historic stone building in Cagliari
© gianluigibec77 / Getty Images

To get the best view of its golden-hued palazzi and domes dominating the horizon, make sure you arrive in Cagliari by sea. This location boasts the best of both worlds: a rich history (the town is peppered with Roman ruins) and a youthful atmosphere, as found on the stylish Poetto beach.There’s also a fantastic range of places to stay.

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