Centred on the port of Genoa, the Italian Riviera is divided into two sections: The first – known as the Riviera di Ponente – stretches from the French Riviera (or Côte d'Azur) at Ventimiglia to Genoa; the second section to the east – the Riviera di Levante – stretches to the border of Tuscany and is best known for pristine coves framed by rocky promontories and soaring pine trees.
From Ventimiglia to Genoa, the Riviera di Ponente offers a string of sand and pebble beaches punctuated mainly by low, rocky headlands and breakwaters. From Genoa to Tuscany, the Riviera di Levante offers a more rugged coastline of soaring cliffs and rugged pine-covered headlands indented with tiny coves and pristine golden-sand beaches. Here you can find great hiking between picturesque villages.
Italy’s beaches are best visited from May to October (although the water may be chilly in May and October). It’s best to avoid the summer crowds between July and August – the peak holiday season period in Europe.
The best beaches along the Italian Riviera, where water sports are mainly limited to snorkelling, kayaking, windsurfing and peddle boats, include the following beaches…
This famous beach resort is fringed by a string of small pebble and sand beaches that are separated by low rocky headlands.
The best of the private beaches offer soft white sand to dig your toes into and facilities such as sun lounges, umbrellas, showers, changing rooms and snack bars.
A short walk away lie palm-fringed promenades and exotic gardens surrounded by a wide choice of hotels, fashion boutiques, bustling cafés, bars and restaurants.
San Remo is located 17km east of Ventimiglia and 140km west of Genoa.
Pick your own spot to sunbathe on this 4km-long golden-sand beach framed by rolling hills. Facilities include sun lounges and umbrellas.
Just behind the beach lies a maze of streets boasting a choice of hotels, restaurants and bars.
Alassio faces the Isola Gallinara island nature reserve, home to one of the largest colonies of herring gulls in the Mediterranean.
Forty minutes away, along mule trails set between olive groves and pine trees, sit the remains of Castello di Andora and the 13th century church of SS Giacomo and Filippo, considered to be one of the most important medieval monuments of the Riviera.
Alassio is located 55km east of San Remo.
Dig your toes into the mainly soft golden sand of this long beach that sits between calm turquoise waters and a palm-fringed promenade lined with restaurants, bars, a seafront fairground and open-air cinema. Facilities include sun lounges and umbrellas.
Inland, the well-preserved medieval walled town of Finalborgo offers several 12th to 17th century buildings and pleasant walks amid deep, lush valleys.
Finale Ligure is popular with Italian families and is located 80km east of San Remo.
This pebble and sand beach sits beneath the Abbazia di San Fruttuoso and gently shelves into a picture-perfect azure bay framed by pine-covered mountains and high cliffs.
Sunbathe on the beach, go swimming in the calm waters and dive or snorkel above the famous ‘Christ of Abysses’, a 2.5m-high statue that sits on the seabed in 17m of water just in front of the monastery. Tour the monastery then unwind with a cold drink and fresh fish at one of the beachside bars and restaurants.
San Fruttuoso Beach is reached by boat (30 minutes from Camogli, 20 minutes from Portofino) or by foot along a cliff-hugging trail from either Camogli or Portofino. Note: If hiking, allow three hours.
Sunbathe on this white-sand beach that nestles in font of a long turquoise bay framed by steep tree-covered headlands.
Behind the beach sits a range of bars and hotels. Facilities include sun lounges and umbrellas.
Paraggi is just a few minutes drive along the coast from the millionaire’s playground of Portofino and the pretty harbour resort of Santa Margherita Ligure (neither of which have beaches).
Unwind on one of two golden-sand beaches sitting on either side of an isthmus that is home to the elegant town of Sestri Levante.
Admire the cream, yellow and orange pastel-shaded buildings of this picturesque town and enjoy a gelato on the grand palazzi overlooking the beach, which shelves into the azure limpid waters of the Baia del Silenzio.
Facilities include sun lounges, umbrellas and rowboats for hire. Sestri Levante is located 50km east of Genoa.
Cool off with a swim at this long, golden-sand beach sitting beneath dramatic mountains, rolling hills and the small pastel-shaded town of Monterosso, the largest of the Cinque Terre towns. Facilities include pay-to-use sun beds and umbrellas.
This golden sand beach sits between the limpid waters of the Golfo dei Poeti and the charming pastel-shaded town of San Terenzo, which is dominated by an impressive hilltop castle.
Beachside facilities include umbrellas and sun beds for hire.
Just around the eastern headland, discover a picturesque golden-sand beach that nestles in a tiny cove surrounded by steep and dramatic tree-covered headlands.
This long crescent of golden sand faces the picturesque Golfo dei Poeti and lies in the shadow of a hilltop castle that offers panoramic views across to Portovénere.
Behind the beach is the pleasant resort town of Lerici, with a selection of beachfront bars, restaurants, shops and hotels. Facilities on the beach include sun beds and umbrellas.
This stunning golden-sand beach gently shelves into the calm turquoise waters of a sheltered cove that is surrounded by cliffs and steep tree-covered headlands.
Come for the day or stay longer at the charming beachfront Eco del Mare hotel, wich offers accommodation options as well as food and beverages.
Eco del Mare is located just a few minutes drive south of Lerici, along a 5km stretch of coastline indented with tiny inlets, quiet coves and secluded pristine beaches that continue until Tellaro – a stunning pastel-coloured medieval town crammed with narrow alleyways that sits perched on rocks overlooking the sea.
This narrow strip of golden sand faces a picturesque cove framed by soaring pine trees and the small pastel-shaded town of Fiascherino. It lies just minutes away from picture-perfect Tellaro.
Latest update: Best Beaches on Italian Riviera: 18 November, 2018
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