Perched on the end of its own promontory off the from the unspoilt Gargano Peninsula, this ramshackle eaterie faces the sea on three sides. The real draw is its awesomely fresh fish, some of which is caught from the restaurant’s own trabucco, a Puglian contraption that drops nets into the teeming waters below. Ask the friendly staff for specials off the menu.
Lovely, welcoming bargainous B&B (45-90 euro per night) clinging to the hillside above Taormina. Huge balconies overlooking the bay and Giardini-Naxos. Reward yourself after climbing back up the hill after dinner with a bottle of wine and fireworks; more often than not there is of course Etna or be there on 8 September when man-made fireworks are let off all evening to celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception.
The Zingaro Nature Reserve Sicily is only a short bus journey from the idyllic coastal village Scopello. You have to pay a small fee to enter the reserve, but once you are in, you are free to explore some Italy's most unspoiled beaches.
The beaches are stunning small coves with crystal clear water and stunning views of the surrounding nature reserve. The clear water is fantastic for snorkelling, and diving around the national park is thought to be excellent due to the nature reserve status of the area.
The best time to go is early in the morning. You'll have a cove all to yourself. Paradise! The beaches of Zingaro are the most beautiful I have ever seen. Cars are not allowed within the reserve, but the nearest cove is only fifteen-twenty mins by foot. The park stretches for seven km, so you're spoilt for choice to discover beautiful beaches. If you want to escape the crowds of Sicily's resorts, head to Zingaro!
The reserve stretches between San Vito Lo Capo and Scopello. Palermo is only an hour away by car, but you can rent villas in the vicinity and the beautiful village of Scopello is a short journey away. Scopello has a number of B&Bs and hotels, and some great restaurants. It has a family atmosphere, but the gorgeous location makes for a great romantic trip away, too.
We wanted to hire scooters but realising we didn't have the required driving licence, decided to hire a small motor boat instead. This was an amazingly affordable and relaxing way to explore the beautiful Amalfi coastline. With no prior experience of sailing the hire process was extremely simple and the boat very easy to maneuver. We found a lovely spot to drop our anchor and sat sunbathing with complete privacy, making the occasional dive into the wonderfully clear blue water to cool down. There were several hire companies in the Amalfi harbour, very easy to find and organise. This was the highlight of our three week trip to Italy.
Atrani perches on a viaduct, wide enough to be a small park. From the balustrade at the back of it you can see straight down to the town’s piazza. Around the piazza the houses cram, piled on each other, a dense mass threaded by passages and arches and many flights of steps — but no streets, except one. Walk through the nearby tunnel and you’ll emerge in another town, the larger and more famous, Amalfi!
Google map: bit.ly/Ik7oik
The short walk from the train station to the beach takes you past a variety of shops, restaurants and beautiful architecture. On arriving at the beach you will find at least three miles of golden sand propped up by many hip and trendy bar/restaurants. A day trip to Viareggio complemented our stay at the stunning nearby city of Lucca, which is easily accessed only 40 minutes away by train.
Google map: bit.ly/HKzSNa
The coast of Gargano has lots of beautiful, and often empty, beaches. If you want to visit beaches where the loclas go then Il Gargano is the place to travel to. Vieste, Peschici and Mattinata are some of the more well-known beaches however there are lots of secluded spots along Gargano if you really want to escape the crowd!
An historic path that links five picturesque farming and fishing villages perched on rock outcrops rising out of the sea. Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore are virtually unapproachable by road which makes the walk even more breathtaking. However for the faint of heart access can also be achieved by rail and sea, the latter of which gives wonderful views of the villages and interlinking paths. These steep paths perch above the sea on one side and the land, cultivated with terraces, on the other. A profusion of olive groves, vines, lemon trees, wild herbs and beautiful Mediterranean flowers greet the traveller at every unexpected turn of the path. Try the two hour walk from Monterosso to Vernazza at a gentle pace, lunch at Gianni Franzi with a bottle of the local Cinque Terre white wine and the boat trip back for an unforgettable day out. Best times to visit are Spring and Autumn for the better weather and fewer tourists.
Between Genoa and La Spezia in Liguria. Airport at Genoa and train links to all five villages from there.
There is a set of thermal water pools, icy and clear, and devoid of tourists and roaming public because its off the beaten track. Particularly great when its hot and humid and the beaches are teaming, pick a pool, enjoy the breathtaking ice cold water and live dangerously down small rapids. All ages tend to go there but it could be a bit uneven underfoot for the unsteady.
Follow signposts to Dolce Acqua, from there it's about a 20 minute drive. Park and follow the signs to Pigna, over a rickety stone bridge and and down the side of the water to pick your pool. (Equally accessible from Monaco as it only just over the border.)
Google map: bit.ly/IhEjka
Forget Italy's ancient history and immerse yourself in a little mid twentieth century nostalgia instead. Back in the 50s and 60s numero uno stars like Elizabeth Taylor, Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman left their yachts at anchor in Portofino's dreamy harbour, then took over the Hotel Splendido to indulge in a little of La Dolce Vita. The views from this old fishing village are still groovy, but the Splendido's little sister, the Splendido Mare, probably has the edge over its elder sibling these days. Prices for both are reassuringly stratospheric. Far out, baby.
Camogli is a sun-bathed and laid back fishing village on the Riviera di Levante, just a short boat-trip (or a longer, spectacular hike) from the more famous and touristy Portofino. Stay at the nearby Villa Rosmarino which offers a warm welcome, designer interiors and stunning views of Camogli and the coast to Genoa. In the evening you can stroll down past the pastel painted houses to the numerous harbour side bars and watch the sun set behind the lighthouse before sampling the delicious local pasta.
The Arco Naturale is a natural spectacle on the outskirts of Capri town which is best accessed on foot. Within minutes you will be away from the hoards of tourists in Capri town walking along tiny streets to the coast. The arc itself is a huge curved rock springing out of the water. There is a handy cafe at the top of the steps leading down to the Arc.
Capri Town, Amalfi Coast
Google map: bit.ly/IblpAj
This small island, closer to Africa than Europe, is the southernmost tip of Italy. It has some of the prettiest and remote beaches in the Mediterranean, most of which are empty outside the months of July and August. Snorkel with manta rays, watch dolphins from a boat, or hire a bicycle and cover the island's 20 sq km in a day. Loggerhead turtles lay their eggs on the Isola dei Conigli (Rabbit Island), and the Riserva Naturale Isola di Lampedusa, a wildlife nature reserve, is an undiscovered land of walks and megalithic sites. If you visit, don't forget to pack Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa's literary masterpiece "The Leopard", his grandfather used to own the island.
Unfortunately there is a lack of beaches in the area of Sorrento, along with a vast English crowd that do take up what is available. When travelling there last year I was in desperate need of a good beach after spending a week in the rural dry lands of Puglia and the best way to go about finding something secret is by befriending a local. An old restaurant manager recommended a beach about 30 minutes walk outside the main town of Sorrento, a place he said was so discreet he used to go down there with his wife years ago to make love. I later also found out it was where Queen Giovanna, who it is named after, used to go to sunbathe naked without prying eyes. I arrived first thing in the morning to deserted rocks and rugged plateaus just asking for a towel to be thrown on. It’s really like no beach I had been to before. Dark caves and washed up boulders, blue lagoons and secret rock pools, only reached through wild paths and risky climbs, a true gangster’s paradise of the south.
Follow the road south of Sorrento towards Amalfi, by car if possible as the road isn't made for walkers, until you reach a sign for Regina Giovanna beach on your right hand side. Brace yourselves for the steep trip down, only accessible by bikes or Piaggios and try to keep to the bare minimum with luggage.
Google map: bit.ly/I4xv9Q
This seaside restaurant is the best I have eaten at in 11 years of travelling around Italy. Fresh fish, stunning scenery, it is Sicilian dining at its best. We were taken here by Sicilian friends, a testament to its excellent reputation.
The first thing that hits you is the view. Located overlooking Isola Bella, a lush island nature reserve below the chic resort town of Taormina, Il Gabbiano makes the most of its setting with several beautiful terraces.
Specialising in "frutti di mare" - fruits of the sea - Il Gabbiano serves up anything your seafood-loving stomach desires. We ate king prawns, sardines, squid, and beautiful fresh fish baked over charcoal and filleted at our table, served with fresh lemon, olive oil and herb dressing.
The service is delightfully attentive, but the atmosphere is completely relaxed. It typifies what I love most about coastal Italy: great food that is simple, plentiful and found in unassuming, roadside restaurants which hide stunning seaside views.
Via Nazionale n. 115, Taormina, Isola Bella, Sicily
+39 (0)942 625128
Google map: bit.ly/ImqaR7
It can be easily reached by car from the motorway, or on foot from Taormina centre via the cable car down to the beach. It is located 100m from the cable car station.
Nearest train station: Taormina-Giardini Naxos (taxi or bus to Isola Bella)
Where better to pass the summer months than from a hand-painted luxury villa overlooking the Gulf of Naples? Start the day under a shady cypress tree in the garden, with a breakfast of olives, cheese, fruit and nuts, washed down with watery wine. Then cross your exquisite mosaic floor and glide down to the pristine beach. Later, refresh yourself in the company of other VIPS at the luxurious marble baths, and maybe take in a performance at the theatre together in the evening. Affluent Romans did just that until Herculaneum was completely submerged under a 16m-thick sea of mud in AD79, deposited there by Vesuvius. Enthusiasts and archaeologists have been excavating the site since 1709, but they still have a long way to go because the people of Ercolano live on top of it. Smaller than Pompeii, Herculaneum can be completed in a morning, with plenty of time for the kids to be back on the beach by the afternoon.
West of Palermo on Sicily’s northern coast, picturesque Scopello is the ideal place to soak up the atmosphere of Sicilian village life. Enjoy the evening sun in the fairy lit walled square, surrounded by olive trees. Visit the beautiful ‘tonnara scopello’ set on the edge of the turquoise sea in an isolated bay covered with fragrant oleanders. The more energetic can walk in the stunning Lo Zingaro nature reserve or explore the rugged coastline by boat.
Just inland from the expensive and ram-packed Amalfi is the town of Agerola, which translates to something along the lines of picnic basket. With stunning sea views, lots of local market shops it was an incredibly peaceful place to stay. There is lots of walking in the area, particularly popular is the 'Path of the Gods.' However, if you need to a bit more relaxation, there are regular buses directly to Amalfi - which is perfect as parking is a nightmare. Although if you prefer a stroll you can always go down the 3,000 steps to the beach at Duoglio. Staying at the 'Beata Soltitudo' offers a lot of different accommodation options for campers, hostellers, or people who just want a private room. Moreover, the host is very friendly and willing to help you out with any activities you might want to plan when staying there.
I've travelled to Italy every year since childhood as my father lives in the mountains of Asti. I couldn't believe we happened on yet another beautiful idyll last year. Varigotti is just west of Savona on the Ligurian Coast. It's one of many coastal towns but has no railway station of its own so has managed to hide it's magical beauty from much of the tourist world. There are holidayers but mostly local. We stayed at San Martino campsite in an incredibly reasonably priced chalet where we cooked pasta and ate outside on moonlit wooden tables. The site was in among the trees behind Varigotti. You could walk from the site down a steep path, well worth it for the breathtaking views and to work off all that sumptious Italian food! There are walks to be had to fairy bridges and the caves of Toirano are something to behold. I found this one of my most inspiring trips of all my travels around the globe, it's inspired writings and illustrated worlds I never would've otherwise created.
Località Le Manie, 17029 Varigotti (SV)
Google map: bit.ly/I3EQZr
A hugely welcoming and pleasant B&B, an old farmhouse in the countryside 1 km from the castle and walled village of Gradara, where the tragic story of Paolo and Francesca (and in Dante's Inferno) took place.
The house, on a hill, is beautifully and simply renovated and decorated, has four very reasonably priced rooms and after an excellent breakfast hosts Giulia and Davide will, if you wish, help you choose between a visit to unmissable Urbino, one of the many restaurants and cafes within the walls of Gradara, easily walkable from the house, a day in one of the civillised beaches on the Adriatic, or a visit to one of the best ceramics museum in Italy in historic Pesaro. As my granddaughter and I had initially chosen Casa della Stella for its proximity to the Commonwealth War Grave, (walking distance), where my father is buried, you can imagine our happiness to find so many delights nearby.
Send your feedback or queries to email@example.com