The 10 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
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
Manarola Panorama
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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. This cosy two-bed apartment overlooks the town, ocean and, perhaps most notably, a stunning local vineyard across the road. Thanks to this superhost’s connection to said vineyard, don’t be surprised if you find a bottle of Manarola’s finest vino waiting for you on arrival.

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Positano

Architectural Landmark
© 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. Sleeping up to five, this dome house in Fornillo, the oldest part of the town, provides large, elegantly decorated rooms, a secluded atmosphere and some of the most spectacular terrace views you’ll find anywhere in the city.

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Sorrento

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark
©  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. If you’ve ever dreamt of spending the night in a castle, then this two-bedroom flat just outside Sorrento may be for you. Originally part of Giusso Castle, a 16th-century castle on the Sorrento Coast, it has been renovated with a private garden and swimming pool, an elevator directly to the beach and has sea views fit for a king.

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Portofino

Architectural Landmark
© 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. Overlooking the main square of Portofino is this exclusive three-bedroom flat, which, thanks to its unique rooftop terrace, strikes the perfect balance between glamour and convenience.

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Polignano a Mare

Architectural Landmark
© 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. Watch the sun rise over the Adriatic Sea from this traditional Apulian holiday home. Its cosy decor and authentic architecture make it the perfect home for a couple looking to immerse themselves in local life.

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Riomaggiore

Architectural Landmark
© 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). Originally dug into the mountain in 1939, this former-cellar-turned-studio apartment is as rustic as it gets. With exposed brick walls, vaulted ceilings and dreamy lighting, it is perfect for couples looking for a romantic getaway.

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Amalfi

Architectural Landmark
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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. If your sea legs are steady, why not experience how the other half lives by staying on this 14m (47ft) yacht? Groups of up to six can enjoy exclusive access to the whole boat as the local skipper sails to some of the most beautiful spots along the Amalfi Coast.

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Atrani

Architectural Landmark
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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. Embrace this fisherman’s town with a stay at the Fisherman’s Cove. Quirky, stylish and only 30m (98ft) away from the beach, this two-bedroom abode is the perfect location for a true Atrani experience.

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Santa Cesarea Terme

Architectural Landmark
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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. On a clear day, which is most days here, you can see the snow-capped mountain ranges of Albania as well as the Greek island of Fanos from the comfort of this perfectly located villa, which sleeps four people. With sea views aplenty and hiking ranges, bars and restaurants all nearby, you won’t miss a thing.

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Cagliari

Architectural Landmark
Cagliari
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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 the stylish Poetto beach.This romantic apartment is within walking distance of most Cagliari attractions. The one-bedroom flat itself boasts an impressive view over the city and a Jacuzzi to help you unwind after a long day of sightseeing.

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

These recommendations were updated on August 26, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.