With nearly 8,000km of coastline, Italy’s beachgoers are spoilt for choice.
From the dramatic cliffs of the Amalfi Coast to the vast stretch of golden sand along the Adriatic sea, the country has something for everyone. 3
But concerns are growing over how much of the coastline is being snapped up by private beach clubs, leaving little accessible for free.
If you don’t fancy forking out for a sun lounger and umbrella every day of your vacation, here’s where to find Italy’s best free beaches.
Why are so many of Italy’s beaches private?
Over half of Italy’s coastline is managed by private beach clubs or resorts. The state rents the beaches to these bagni, which set up long rows of sun loungers and umbrellas and offer services like bars, restaurants, showers and bathrooms.
Renting a spot on the beach for a day can often cost up to €30 before any food or drink purchases.
In some areas of Italy, the percentage of privately-run beaches is much higher. For example, in the coastal Tuscan town of Forte dei Marmi, 94% of the beachfront is colonized by private clubs, while in Gatteo a Mare on the Adriatic sea, 100% of the beaches are rented out to bagni.
In recent decades, the privatization of Italy’s coastline has been increasing. Since 2018, private beach concessions have risen by 12.5%.
These private beach resorts normally claim the top spots on Italy’s coastline, with free beaches in far less desirable positions.
Legambiente, Italy’s environmental association, recently conducted a study on the country’s beaches. “In many towns the only areas not privatized are near estuaries, ditches and drains meaning you can go to sunbathe but swimming is prohibited,” the report said.
Where are Italy’s best free beaches?
With so much of Italy’s coastline coming at a price, it’s not easy to find good quality free beaches. Puglia and Sardinia have regulations that require 60% of beaches to be free to access. But many other regions don’t have a specific quota.
However, if you know where to look you can find pristine sand, breathtaking cliffs and crystalline water.
Punta Prosciutto, Puglia
Located in the municipality of Porto Cesareo in the southern tip of Puglia, this beach rivals those of the Caribbean. With fine sand and clear water, it is a picture postcard beach at zero cost.
Cala Sisine, Sardinia
Lying on the coast of Baunei, this beach can be accessed by a trekking path or by hopping aboard one of the boats that shuttle beachgoers from the harbors of Cala Gonone, Arbatax and S. Maria Navarrese. The effort to get there is worth it though, as white sand and crystalline water await.
This pretty beach lies in the Wildlife Reserve of Vendicari, in eastern Sicily, between the popular tourist destinations Noto and Marzamemi. It can be reached by following an easy walking path, about one kilometer long.
Baia del Buon Dormire, Campania
This beach is considered one of the most spectacular on the Cilento coast. It can be reached via a footpath or from the sea and is famous for its golden sand and turquoise waters. The little bay is protected by the steep cliffs of the southern slope of Capo Palinuro.
Spiaggia delle Due Sorelle, Le Marche
Its name means “beach of the two sisters” and comes from the two imposing rock formations that emerge from the sea. It can be reached by boat departing from the port of Numana.
If you are visiting the picturesque Island of Elba, make sure you spend a day at this beach with fine, golden sand. It is sheltered by a wild promontory, the Punta Fetovaia, covered by Mediterranean scrub.