The Most Beautiful Italian Coastal Towns and Cities

Enjoy the panoramic view of Manarola's 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
Photo of Polly Rider
1 April 2021

Italy boasts a wealth of postcard-perfect coastal towns, each with its own panorama of breathtaking ocean views. With their rows of coloured houses blanketing the dramatic cliff faces, the towns are easy on the eye from the sea, too. We list 10 of the most gorgeous Italian coastal towns and cities that are guaranteed to spark romance in your soul.

Manarola

Architectural Landmark
Map View
Manarola Panorama
© Rory McDonald / Getty Images

Part of the Cinque Terre National Park (comprised of five villages) in Liguria, Manarola is reputed to be the most colourful city in the world. With its vibrant buildings jostling for space, the town that is famed for its Manarolese dialect resembles an artist’s palette. Every year, visitors flock here to hike between the five villages, with numbers soaring in peak season. Don’t miss a visit of the Church of San Lorenzo, beautiful both inside and out with its sweeping views of Manarola and neighbouring towns.

Positano

Architectural Landmark
Map View
© Rickson Liebano / Getty Images

With its rustic charm and wisteria-draped hotels, Positano is widely regarded as the most picturesque and photogenic town in Italy. Being the most sophisticated resort on the central Amalfi Coast, it is also the most expensive. Positano’s 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.

Sorrento

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark
Map View
©  Amaia Arozena and Gotzon Iraola / Getty Images

Located where the mountain meets the sea and where citrus plantations alternate with deep valleys, Sorrento is set in an extraordinary landscape. Set within the province of Naples, the old town is known for its production of lace and ceramics. Sip a glass of Falanghina, and soak up the atmosphere of Piazza Tasso – a people watcher’s paradise. With its prime location, the town easily makes up for its lack of beaches: Amalfi Coast to the north, rolling countryside to the east and stunning Capri just offshore.

Portofino

Architectural Landmark
Map View
© Haidar Harmanani / EyeEm / Getty Images

Portofino and its distinctive half-moon shaped 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, and you’ll now notice plenty of luxurious superyachts adorning the horizon here. Hike up to Castello Brown, Portofino’s 15th-century castle, for spectacular views.

Polignano a Mare

Architectural Landmark
Map View
© Matthias Scholz / Alamy Stock Photo

In the province of Bari, Southern Italy, Polignano a Mare is perched upon limestone cliffs overlooking the azure sea. The historic old town is thought to be one of the most important ancient settlements in Puglia and features a maze of houses and narrow alleyways, as well as many panoramic terraces offering views of the Adriatic Sea. Along with its rich history, Polignano is known for its world-class cliff-diving opportunities and has previously hosted the Red Bull diving competition.

Riomaggiore

Architectural Landmark
Map View
© Frank Chmura / Alamy Stock Photo

Riomaggiore is part of the Cinque Terre and is the largest and most easterly of the five villages. Sitting upon the unspoilt, serene blue waters of the Gulf of Genoa, Riomaggiore is famed for its sweet wine Sciacchetrà, made from Bosco, Vermentino and Albarola grapes. Riomaggiore’s multi-coloured ravine of pastel buildings is where the famous Sentiero Azzurro (Blue Path) begins. From here, you can embark on the first section between Riomaggiore and Manarola, which is also known as Via Dell’Amore (Lovers’ Path).

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  • Amalfi

    Architectural Landmark
    Map View
    © Jon Arnold Images Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

    Amalfi lies at the mouth of a deep ravine at the foot of Monte Cerreto within the province of Salerno. Surrounded by dramatic cliffs and coastal scenery, Amalfi is modestly sized, and visitors can walk from one edge of the town to the other in 20 minutes. The town 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, and admire the beautiful mosaics and magnificent ceiling detail. Book one of the town’s best hotels with us.

    Atrani

    Architectural Landmark
    Map View
    © Tibor Bognar / Alamy Stock Photo

    Located near Amalfi, Atrani became the wealthy residence for Amalfi’s most powerful families. Today, Atrani maintains its distinct atmosphere of a fisherman’s town. Traditional houses climb up the valley from the beach, broken up by lemon terraces and colourful gardens and creating an atmospheric tangle of tightly packed buildings and narrow staircases. As the smallest town in Southern Italy, Atrani’s ancient medieval structure remains incredibly intact.

    Santa Cesarea Terme

    Architectural Landmark
    Map View
    © 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 the typical architecture of the early 20th century, and its coast is punctuated with thermal springs, situated within four natural caves along the cliff. Although not as touristy as other Italian coastal towns, Santa Cesarea Terme’s popularity with Italians themselves makes it all the more authentic. 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.

    Cagliari

    Architectural Landmark
    Map View
    Cagliari
    © gianluigibec77 / Getty Images

    As the capital of the Italian island Sardinia, Cagliari’s Sardinian name “Casteddu” translates into “Castle”. To get the best view of its golden-hued palazzi and domes dominating the horizon, make sure you arrive in Cagliari by sea. Cagliari boasts the best of both worlds: a rich history and a town peppered with Roman ruins, as well as the lively and youthful atmosphere of stylish Poetto beach.There’s also a fantastic range of places to stay here, bookable with Culture Trip.

    For more beautiful places, check out our sister article on the 10 most beautiful towns in Italy.

    These recommendations were updated on April 1, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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