Italy is actually a peninsula, peppered with stunning islands, islets and lagoons from the top of its bootstraps down around the heel and back up the other side. You can visit islands in a day, such as Elba, Capri or Ponza, or hop the scattered islets of the Venetian lagoon. Further afield, Lampedusa or Sicily beckons and of course, Sardegna’s emerald coast shines. All told, Italy boasts 7,600 km of coastline (over 4,700 miles) much of it in the form of rocky cliffs. I like to explore those tucked away places far away from the crowded beaches littered with costly lounge chairs and fast food bars. A terrific way to do that is simply by renting a paddle boat and heading to a tidy cove to swim from there, or take a motorboat ride with a skipper to less accessible places.
But if you’re traveling around and want to find a decent beach area boasting all the amenities, clean water, sandy beaches and lifeguards...well, leave that to the Bandiera Blu - Blue Flag. They are an international organization that endeavors to educate the masses on environmental awareness, even if that might mean simply, don’t leave your litter on the beach when you roll up your towels at the end of the day. There are over 200 municipalities across Italy and 416 beaches or boat marinas and landings waving their Bandiera Blu flag.
These are places not only welcoming tourists, but also taking care that waste and water are properly disposed of and the beaches are tidy, too. Commercial fishing ports are ranked by the bandiera blu as are those stabilimenti with rows of beach chairs seemingly lined in pews to worship at Neptune’s trident. The initiative is overseen by the FEE – Foundation for Environmental Education and is focused on environmental sustainability.
Following, is the listing from North to South of the beaches marked with the Bandiera Blu.
You can always check with their website on marinas or other ports in Italy, or worldwide:
- Piedmont – Province of Verbano-Cusio-Ossola: Cannero Riviera. Province of Novara: Gozzano.
- Lombardy – Province of Brescia: Gardone Riviera (Lake Garda area).
- Trentino Alto Adige – Province of Trento: Baselga di Pinè, Bedollo, Bondone, Calceranica al Lago, Caldonazzo, Lavarone, Levico Terme, Pergine Valsugana, Sella Giudicarie, Tenna.
- Friuli Venezia Giulia – Province of Gorizia: Grado. Province of Udine: Lignano Sabbiadoro.
- Veneto – Province of Venice: Venice itself (most likely the Lido area), Caorle, Cavallino Treporti, Chioggia, Eraclea, Jesolo, San Michele al Tagliamento. Province of Rovigo: Porto Tolle, Rosolina.
- Liguria – Province of Imperia: Imperia, Bordighera, Diano Marina, Riva Ligure, San Lorenzo al Mare, Sanremo, Taggia, Santo Stefano al Mare. Province of Savona: Savona, Albisola Marina, Albisola Superiore, Bergeggi, Borghetto Santo Spirito, Ceriale, Celle Ligure, Finale Ligure, Loano, Pietra Ligure, Noli, Spotorno, Varazze. Province of Genoa: Camogli, Chiavari, Lavagna, Moneglia, Santa Margherita Ligure, Sestri Levante. Province of La Spezia: Ameglia, Bonassola, Framura, Lerici, Levanto.
- Emilia Romagna – Province of Ferrara: Comacchio. Province of Ravenna: Ravenna and Cervia. Province of Forlí / Cesena: Cesenatico. Province of Rimini: Bellaria Igea Marina, Cattolica, Misano Adriatico.
- Tuscany – Province of Massa / Carrara: Carrara and Massa. Province of Lucca: Camaiore, Forte dei Marmi, Viareggio. Province of Pisa: Pisa. Province of Livorno: Livorno itself, Bibbona, Cecina, Castagneto Carducci, Marciana Marina, Piombino, Rosignano Marittimo, San Vincenzo. Province of Grosseto: Grosseto, Castiglione della Pescaia, Follonica.
- Marches – Province of Pesaro / Urbino: Pesaro, Fano, Gabicce Mare, Mondolfo. Province of Ancona: Ancona itself, Numana, Senigallia, Sirolo. Province of Macerata: Civitanova Marche, Potenza Picena. Province of Fermo: Fermo, Altidona, Pedaso. Province of Ascoli Piceno: Cupra Marittima, Grottammare, San Benedetto del Tronto.
- Lazio – Province of Rome: Anzio, Trevignano Romano. Province of Latina: Latina itself, Fondi, Gaeta, Minturno, Sabaudia, San Felice Circeo, Sperlonga, Terracina, Ventotene.
- Abruzzo – Province of Teramo: Giulianova, Martinsicuro, Pineto, Tortoreto, Roseto degli Abruzzi, Silvi. Province of Pescara: Pescara. Province of Chieti: Fossacesia, Francavilla al Mare, San Salvo, Vasto. Province of L’Aquila: Scanno, Villalago.
- Molise – Province of Campobasso: Campomarino.
- Campania – Province of Naples: Anacapri, Massa Lubrense, Piano di Sorrento, Sorrento, Vico Equense. Province of Salerno: Agropoli, Ascea, Camerota, Capaccio, Casal Velino, Castellabate, Centola, Montecorice, Pisciotta, Pollica, Positano, San Mauro Cilento, Sapri, Vibonati.
- Basilicata – Province of Potenza: Maratea. Province of Matera: Bernalda, Nova Siri, Pisticci, Policoro.
- Puglia – Province of Foggia: Peschici, Tremiti Islands, Zapponeta. Province of Barletta-Andria-Trani: Bisceglie, Margherita di Savoia. Province of Bari: Monopoli, Polignano a Mare. Province of Brindisi: Carovigno, Fasano, Ostuni. Province of Taranto: Castellaneta, Ginosa, Maruggio. Province of Lecce: Melendugno, Nardò, Otranto, Salve.
- Calabria – Province of Cosenza: Diamante, Praia a Mare, Roseto Capo Spulico, San Nicola Arcella, Santa Maria del Cedro, Tortora, Trebisacce, Villapiana. Province of Crotone: Cirò Marina, Melissa. Province of Catanzaro: Sellia Marina, Soverato. Province of Vibo Valentia: Tropea. Province of Reggio Calabria: Roccella Jonica, Siderno.
- Sardinia – Province of Sassari: Sassari itself, Aglientu, Badesi, Castelsardo, La Maddalena, Palau, Santa Teresa Gallura, Sorso, Trinità d’Agultu, Vignola. Province of Oristano: Oristano. Province of Nuoro: Bari Sardo,Tortolì. Province of Cagliari: Quartu Sant’Elena. Southern Sardinia: Sant’Antioco.
- Sicily – Province of Messina: Alì Terme, Lipari, Roccalumera, Santa Teresa di Riva, Tusa. Province of Agrigento: Menfi. Province of Ragusa: Ragusa itself, Ispica, Modica, Pozzallo.
Places to explore: With young children, it’s great to let them meet other friends, romp on the playgrounds and hang out in the sand. With older kids, you might want to explore more, descend cliffs, or head for the hills on a hot hike, and venture off the beach areas. They can always catch a game of beach volleyball nearby, or sometimes, night soccer pickups, too.
What to bring: I recommend bringing ‘swimming shoes’ for those rocky areas along the shoreline, or, to help you scramble up and over rocks. And some safety precautions: Make sure someone is always on land minding the “stuff” on your beach blanket. Tourists routinely get lulled by the R&R, and live to regret when belongings suddenly disappear. And, whenever anyone - no matter how old - is in the water, practice what you would on a boat: Put down your phones and keep a close watch - at all times. You never know if there’s a rip tide, someone struggling on the rocks, someone too close to a pier or just plain pooped. And that’s a good practice even when a life guard is on hand...
Practical Info: Keep in mind, Spiaggia Libera means you can plunk your beach blanket and even insert an umbrella in a stand – on your own, no cost. While the places with their chairs lined up in rows upon rows are super comfy - with some boasting terrific restaurant fare but coming at a high cost. In return, you get changing rooms, bathrooms / showers and sometimes drink service beachside.
But the most important thing is...to have some fun, do some exploring, boat around, and when you’re ready for a fabulous lunchtime pranzo...head over to a tasty beach retreat before watching the fiery sun sink into the sea below (or into the hillside if you’re on the eastern coast) of Bell’Italia!