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Italian beach culture is unique. Much of the coastline is populated by private beach clubs. These clubs are called stabilimenti in Italian. You do not have to be a member to enter one, but you will have to pay an entrance fee. Services vary in price and level of luxury but you will almost always find organized rows of colorful umbrellas and sun loungers along the beach, a cafe and restaurant, bathrooms and changing facilities. Also know that some spaces are booked by families for literally generations. Visit one of these 11 best beach resorts in Italy to see how it’s done.
There are no sandy beaches in Capri or on the Amalfi Coast. You will have to climb a few (hundred) stairs or take a boat taxi to reach a great many of the best beaches there.
This beach club located mid-way between Capri town and Anacapri, practically above the legendary Blue Grotto, is one of the island’s most exclusive. Il Riccio’s accompanying restaurant has a Michelin star and an entire room dedicated to just dessert. The white cushioned sun loungers and turquoise blue umbrellas are perfect for a snooze. If you would like to cool off, dive off the rocks into the deep blue sea.
If you are visiting Capri for a short time, the Lo Scoglio de Sirene beach club is a great choice. You can take a quick spin through the Piazzetta and the exclusive shopping street Via Camerelle, and head down to Marina Piccola for a day at the beach. The friendly staff will find you a chair and umbrella and make you a sandwich with fresh mozzarella and tomatoes. You don’t even have to pack a towel, they have those too!
Escape the crowds on Positano’s main beach, the Spiaggia Grande, and take the shady, paved path across to quieter Fornillo. Pupetto is the last of the beach clubs that line this lovely stretch of gray pebbled beach. There is a wooden platform painted the color of the sea and yellow chairs where you can enjoy a morning cappuccino or a lunch plate of traditional caponata, a local specialty of crunchy croutons, mozzarella tuna tomatoes and pickled vegetables. There is a more formal restaurant on a terrace above serving grilled fish and pasta.
Wedged into a tiny triangle on a vertiginous cliff a few coves over from Positano, this shabby chic beach club is one of the Amalfi Coast’s most difficult lunch reservations. Look for the simple wooden boat with a red fish affixed to its mast and send a message a day or two before to secure your rickety sun bed and a place at the table. The food is extraordinary with menu items like grilled mozzarella on lemon leaves and a garlicky stew of mussels and tomatoes that is meant to be sopped up with a basket full of bread. A chipped pitcher of cold white wine filled with sweet peaches is the most fitting accompaniment.
The Adriatic side of Italy near Rimini with its endless miles of sandy beaches and striped umbrellas can feel a little overwhelming and anonymous. Head a few miles up to the sweet town of Bellaria Igea Marina for a slower version of the Italian beach vacation. At the Riccione beach clubs, the golden sand stretches out to gentle shallow water which is perfect for small children. There is a tiny train that connects the strip of hotels to the town, where you will find shops with local handicrafts like hand stamped linens and a collection of low key cafes.
While some of the best places to swim on the Pontine island of Ponza are accessible only by boat, the beach at Frontone is the exception. Take a water taxi from the port to this long stretch of pebbled beach, rent a yellow striped umbrella from one of the friendly attendants and spend your day swimming in the turquoise water, alternating your views between limestone cliffs, sleek yachts and sailboats. There are a few beach bars with bathrooms and simple menus, Il Melograno has freshly made juices and healthy salads. At 5pm, the music starts and the cocktail shakers start to go, making this a popular aperitvo spot.
If the summer crowds and blistering heat in Piazza San Marco get too much for you, do what the Venetians do in summer and go to the beach. Only a few vaporetto stops away is a sandy oasis on the nearby island of Lido. Relax in a private cabana at the very glamorous and historic Hotel Excelsior Venezia and you will soon forget the heat and chaos across the canal.
The Tuscan beach town of Forte dei Marmi is one of Italy’s poshest destinations. You might hear as much Russian as Italian in this town that attracts oligarchs and European aristocracy. Pack your best bikini and your sparkliest beach jewels and book a spot at the beach club at the Augustus Hotel. Curtained cabanas line the golden sand so you can have privacy, and there is a heated saltwater pool if the sea has a chill.
The Posta Vecchia Resort was once the private home to John Paul Getty. Today it is a sprawling resort on the Lazio coast within easy reach of Rome. Built on the foundations of an ancient Roman villa, there are spectacular mosaic floors and Roman era century objects on display in the private museum. Lounge beside the pool above the crashing waves and plan on a meal on the terrace at the Michelin starred The Cesar Restaurant.
The part of the Italian Riviera near the towns of La Spezia and Lerici is known as the Gulf of Poets, and the Eco del Mare resort capitalizes on this romantic notion. The simple beach is set with billowy white curtains attached to your umbrella to shade you from the sun. The turquoise water beckons for a refreshing swim and after you have worked up your appetite, dine of fresh seafood and cold white wine at the club’s restaurant just a few steps away.
In Italy’s deep south, Puglia’s beaches remain some of the least discovered. White pebbles and sand next to clear azure water are the norm here. G Beach somehow makes this natural beauty even better. Located inside the Natural Park of “Punta della Suina” not far from the town of Gallipoli, this beach club has whitewashed wooden terraces that lead down to the water. Have a quick coffee at the beach bar or a long and lazy lunch at the restaurant, and spend the rest of your day swimming in the sea and dozing under an umbrella.