It’s fair to say that going to the beach is a national obsession for Italians. And in Italy, beaches are not in short supply (Wikipedia’s partial tally numbers in the hundreds).
While many local families might spend a month or two in a rented seaside flat, tourists seeking a beach holiday in Italy rarely have the luxury of so much time. Here’s a selection of some of the best beaches in Italy that are accessible by train.
In our quest for train-accessible beaches in Italy, we’ll start in the north, on the east side near Venice and move clockwise, first down the coast of the Adriatic to the “heel of the boot”, then up along the west, past Naples, up the Tuscan coast to the Ligurian Sea.
Beaches near Venice
A very popular and well-appointed seaside resort town near Venice, Jesolo hosts several million tourists each year, including many from Germany, Austria and nearby France. Take the train to San Dona di Piave, followed by a 45-minute bus ride to 15 kilometers of prime beachfront.
Heading south, just before San Marino along the Riviera Romagnola you’ll find Millano Marritima, a favourite destination of families and young people. The nearest train station is in the adjacent town of Cervia, also a seaside resort.
A little further, slightly south of San Marino, lies the beach in the town of Gabbice Mare,which is a mere four miles from the Cattolica stop on the Adriatica rail line. LIke many beaches in Italy, it has extensive private areas with hundreds of umbrellas and lounge chairs or “sun beds” available for rent in orderly rows.
Beaches in Southern Italy
Rounding the southern tip of Italy, or the “heel of the boot”, we come to Gallipoli, the “Pearl of Salento”, a 90-minute train ride from the city of Lecce on the Ferrovie Sud-Est line. With a rich historical legacy (it was originally populated by ancient Greek settlers, and its name in greek means “beautiful city”), it remains a popular destination for tourists of all stripes.
Beaches near Naples
As we continue northward up the western edge of the Tyrrhenian Sea, we come to Vietri sul Mare, on the Amalfi coast. Just west of Salerno and about an hour south of Naples, it’s accessible via the Naples-Salerno rail line. Vietri sul Mare is known for its polychrome ceramics as well as its magnificent beaches.
Beaches near Rome
Romans have been heading to the coast to beat the heat since, well, Roman times. Once you’ve felt the sweltering summer in Rome, beaches will be at the top of your list as well. We’ve highlighted three of the many options accessible by rail
Santa Marinella is about an hour from Rome. There are at least 2 trains leaving each hour from Rome’s Termini Station, and a five-minute stroll gets you to one of the best beaches near Rome. There are well-maintained private areas with sun beds for rent, and many shops, bars and seafood restaurants in town.
Perennial favourite Ostia Lido is the closest to the city, with a modern light rail connection that leaves every 15 minutes on average. It has several public areas as well, so you can just lay out your towel and avoid paying the parasol/sunbed fee that is the norm at most private beach areas.
Sperlonga is a bit further than the other two, as it takes about an hour and a half to get to the beach. Take the train to Fondi station on the Rome-Naples line, then hop on a convenient connecting bus. As one of Italy’s blue flag beaches, it meets stringent standards for sand and water cleanliness and environmental protection. The town itself is delightfully charming, having been a seaside destination for two thousand years. You can still visit the villa owned by Emperor Tiberius just south of town!
Beaches in Tuscany
North again to Viareggio, a Tuscan town on the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea. It’s also known for its Carnival in the winter season, and is reachable by train from the towns of Lucca and Massa.
Beaches on the Italian Riviera
Finally, on the Ligurian coast we find Sestri Levante, where rail travel in Italy truly pays off, as its northern beach is conveniently quite close to to the train station. While nearby Cinque Terre and Portofino remain better-known destinations on the Italian Riviera, Sestri Levante is slowly establishing a growing reputation as a tourist destination, especially among Italians.
While the “heavyweights” of Italian tourism like Rome, Venice, Milan, and Florence will always have their admirers, the accessibility of train travel in Italy allow the adventurous tourist to discover countless lesser-known gems, each with their own unique charms. Take a chance, explore, and let yourself be surprised.