In the summer months, Italy can be extremely hot and humid. Very humid! For a couple used to spending 3 – 4 nights a week watching the sunset over the Pacific Ocean, it can be quite difficult being a couple hours form the beach. Our solution? We have spent the last month exploring Italy’s coastline and have compiled a list of 7 Italian coastal towns to go to escape the heat this summer! Not to mention these are some of the most beautiful places we have ever laid eyes on!
We have both openly admitted that Positano is hands down our favorite place on Earth (so far)! This magical town sits on the Amalfi Coast, just a short 1.5 hour drive from Naples. From Florence or Rome, take a train into Naples and then book a shuttle through Positano Shuttle. These guys were awesome and the cost is only 70 EUR/person return! Check them out at PositanoShuttle.com. (Side note – We didn’t get an email confirmation for a few days, so don’t worry if you don’t either.)
If you have some time, spend a couple hours in Naples and explore the Centro Storico. We had the best pizza of our lives at Pizzeria Starita and definitely suggest this as well! This place has been making pizza for over 100 years and has even had the honor of serving pizza to the Pope at the Vatican. Not to mention, they will cook your pizza in about 1 minute and 10 seconds flat. Yeah…that’s a hot oven.
We instantly fell in love with Positano for its beauty, but we were even more in love with it when we saw all that there was to do. Positano is a very water centric town, with many boats anchored just off the coast. We rented a kayak for just 15 EUR/hour and adventured to find some private beaches and coves. This also was a nice little workout for us considering we didn’t have a gym while in Positano. If you’d like, you can also rent paddle boats, paddle boards, etc.
Another thing – the food in Positano is AMAZING! We found a Michelin Star restaurant named Da Vincenzo and were so excited about the food that we came back a second night. From pasta to fresh seafood, to fine wines and craft beers, to dessert and limoncello, this place is nothing less than delicious. The healthy options here (fish, veggies, etc.) were all impeccable and not too pricey either.
To add even more to the magic, apparently the 16th of June is a holiday in Positano. Undenounced to us there was a precession through town and into the church which was followed by live music and fireworks over the water. Magical is an understatement!
Our hotel, Al Barilotto dal Nonno was a warm and family oriented 4 star bed and breakfast that we absolutely loved. The family is adorable and even sit down in the restaurant to eat both lunch and dinner together every day. Each of the family members seemingly has a job they’re responsible for (from running the front desk, to cooking, and of course cleaning). They really bring you into the family and make you feel right at home. The owner drove us around when we missed our bus and gave us free bus tickets for our return after dinner. Be sure to get room 1 or 2 if you stay here as they are the suites and have larger balconies. Oh – and definitely indulge in the complimentary breakfast and coffee!
Portofino defines the picturesque Ligurian Coastline of Italy. With beautiful bright painted buildings, sail boats, and yachts lining the coast, it is easy to love this place.
If you don’t have a yacht or sail boat, you can rent kayaks, or just swim like we did. The port is not the ideal place to be, but if you make the hike between Portofino and Santa Margherita you’ll find many private beaches and even some nice places to cliff jump. The water is crystal clear at many points and is awesome for snorkeling if you have gear. If not, there is a snorkel and scuba school/shop just before you reach Santa Margherita.
If you want to get a quick sweat on and see the best view of Portofino, hike up to Castello Brown. Bit of advice – if you don’t want to pay to go inside the Castello, just walk around the back and you can still get a pretty amazing view.
For lunch, enjoy some trofie and pesto, a dish which is local to Portofino, and some fresh local seafood.
For those of you who are familiar with Santa Barbara, California, this is similar to the vibe in Santa Margherita. Santa Margherita is a laid-back harbor town with a boardwalk that lines the coast and spans the town. The beaches here offer lots of excitement as many of them have football fields, ping pong tables, volleyball nets, and other games to play right on the water. This was a bit new to us Californians who are used to going to the beach to either surf/swim or just lay on the beach and relax, but it was definitely awesome to see kids having a blast playing football with an amazing view of Santa Margherita.
Venice doesn’t always come to mind when thinking about Italy’s coast because most people get stuck on the series of canals. However, Venice is essentially an archipelago of 117 islands that borders the Adriatic coast of Italy. You definitely won’t be cliff diving, swimming, or sun bathing here, but Venice definitely offers some great boating.
One thing you’ll definitely want to do in Venice is utilize the water bus. NOT the water taxis. Water taxis and gondolas will run you about 100 EUR/hour depending on the time of year while the water bus is 14 EUR/day.
Be ready to spend a pretty penny here, because the food is not cheap. Most of the second course entrees will run you 25 – 35 EUR. Also, don’t expect to eat the best meal of your life in Venice. Compared to the other coastal towns we visited the food here was a bit underwhelming.
Make sure to check out some of the islands surrounding Venice to escape some of the tourist traffic and get some awesome views! San Giorgio and Murano are a couple we highly suggest.
Vernazza is likely the most notable town of Cinque Terre, as it is also in our opinion one of, if not the most, gorgeous of the towns. Vernazza also offers a bit more to do than some of her sister towns, so for people seeking adventure like us, this was a great stop.
Vernazza is a great lunch spot as a majority of the restaurants serve amazing fresh seafood and pasta dishes. Many of the recommendations we received from servers were for seafood pasta.
Vernazza is also a great swimming spot, especially If you hike over from Monterosso or hike the other direction from the Manarola side. The Mediterranean can be a bit chilly, but when it is 90 degrees and you’ve been working up a sweat on a hike for a number of hours, it will be incredibly refreshing. If you’re up for an adventure, be sure to rent a kayak or a stand up paddle here as they rent them right out of the cove.
To make sure you get the best view of Vernazza, make sure you at least start up the hiking trail and climb to the top of the cliff to the vantage point over Vernazza. Be sure to have cash on you (7.50 EUR per person) because they won’t accept card. After about 5 minutes or less of hiking you should come to a fence that has a couple padlocks locked to it. Climb under the fence to the flat area just underneath and you’ll have one of the most epic views in all of Cinque Terre.
Monterosso is a bit more welcoming to the traditional Southern Californian. Different from the rest of Cinque Terre, Monterosso is lined with sand and a boardwalk that spans the whole of the beach. This is where you want to go to relax if you’re in Cinque. The water is calm, the beaches are beautiful, and the food is delicious.
If you want to enjoy what we think is the best antipasto we’ve ever eaten, check out Da Eraldo. Hop off the train, exit the station, and walk left. Proceed through the tunnel and turn left into the next part of the town. Go up and past the church and you’ll find this hole in the wall on the right hand side about half way up the street. Get the full antipasto and definitely wait to order your seconds until after you give the antipasto a go. Your stomach will likely be a lot smaller than your eyes and this thing will likely fill you before you even have a chance to think about an entrée.
Another upside to Monterosso are cheap massages on the beach! You’ll find ladies walking around offering massages. You literally don’t have to go anywhere. Just continue laying on your towel and she will bust out the oils.
If you hop off the Cinque Terre train right at Manarola like we did you’ll quickly find that there isn’t much to do other than gawk at the beauty. Walk along the pathway just past the town and look back for the best view. You’ll find a lovely outdoor restaurant right in the center of town. Grab lunch here and you’ll be treated to a great view and some amazing seafood.
For those of you up for more of an adventure, hike past Manarola (but be careful because the trail is closed in certain areas due to a storm that wiped it out years ago) and you’ll find what appears to be a boat launch. Just near that you will find some cliffs that are perfect for cliff jumping – nothing too crazy, but probably a good 20 feet or so.
For the couples reading this…hike back toward Riomaggiore and check out Lovers Lookout. Bring a padlock and you can do the all too clichéd “lock your love” here. Michael decided to be a bit more original a couple years ago and locked ours at the vantage point over Vernazza!
So for those of you trying to escape the heat in Italy this summer, and for those of you looking to take an amazing vacation to explore Italy’s coast, be sure to check out these breathtaking towns and tell us what you think!
What is your favorite coastal town in Italy?