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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
2 September 2021
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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.

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 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.

Positano

Architectural Landmark
Map View
© 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.

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 producing lace and ceramics. Sip a glass of Falanghina, and soak up the atmosphere of Piazza Tasso – a people-watcher’s paradise. Beach options are limited: Amalfi Coast to the north, rolling countryside to the east and stunning Capri just offshore. But, luckily, the prime location of the town easily makes up for that.

Portofino

Architectural Landmark
Map View
© 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.

Polignano a Mare

Architectural Landmark
Map View
Aerial view of beach of Polignano a Mare, Puglia, Italy
© 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.

Riomaggiore

Architectural Landmark
Map View
© 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).

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. 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. Book one of the best hotels in town with us.

Atrani

Architectural Landmark
Map View
© Tibor Bognar / Alamy Stock Photo

Just two minutes away from the town, Atrani us 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.

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 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.

Cagliari

Architectural Landmark
Map View
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 here, bookable with Culture Trip.

These recommendations were updated on September 2, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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