Italy’s best-kept secret beaches

by Andrew Hind

Jamaica Beach

Lake Garda, nestled between Brescia and Verona in northern Italy, is the largest lake in Italy.The ancient fortified town of Sirmione, at the south end of the lake, is a particularly popular destination. Many visit for the charm of the historic town, the imposing Scaliger castle or the healing properties of the sulfur springs.Yet those in the know come for Jamaica Beach, a little-known, rugged-stone beach on the tip of the Sirmione peninsula. The waters are emerald green. The views, with the Dolomites towering over the lake, are breathtaking. The crowds—what crowds? But perhaps the biggest attraction is the rock plates jutting out from the water, nature’s own lounge chairs, where you can lie back as water laps around you.

Lampedusa

Lampedusa is the southernmost part of Italy and is largely unknown. That’s understandable considering the small island (measuring just three by 12 kilometres) is actually closer to the northern coast of Africa than it is to Sicily and is only reachable by air or a long ferry ride. It’s worth the trek because, even in winter months, its climate is mild and comforting. The island boasts a number of stunning beaches surrounded by cobalt-blue seas full of dolphins and turtles. Many consider Lampedusa the best destination in Europe for sun-worshippers.

Crowds are thin away from town, and there are many hidden coves and beaches where visitors can find solitude. Which one is best? Many travel publications have named the tiny offshore isle of l’Isolotto dei Conigli (Rabbit Island) one of the most striking beaches in the world. Since it can only be visited on a day tour from Lampedusa, you’ll likely have the blinding, white sandy shores to yourself.

Scala dei Turchi

Sicily is an island that has been stamped by the footprints of the numerous cultures that have come and gone over the millennia—Arabic, Greek, French and Spanish to name a few. Nowhere is this truer than at Scala dei Turchi, the Turkish Steps, on the island’s southern coast. Here, over thousands of years, the elements have carved a natural staircase into the sides of the dramatic cliffs of smooth white rock, a whiteness made even more dazzling by the blueness of the sky above and the sea below. How did the Turkish Steps get their name? It’s said that Ottoman pirates would moor their ships here and use the steps to gain access to the clifftop and raid local villages for goods and slaves. Sunbathe on these chiseled ledges, gaze out onto the expanse of the Mediterranean with Africa somewhere in the invisible distance and ponder the truth behind this colourful story.

Cala Luna

Part of Cala Luna’s appeal is its isolation and privacy. The 500-metre-long beach of pure white sand is only accessible by a four-kilometre hike or boat ride. Steep limestone cliffs act as the backdrop for the crystalline waters of the Mediterranean. The water here is so clear that Cala Luna is widely considered one of the best snorkeling beaches in Italy, and just four kilometres away is the Bue Marino sea cave, a spectacular grotto with stalactites that drip from the ceiling like icicles of stone.

Isole Tremiti

Located in the Adriatic, you would expect Isole Tremiti to have its fair share of spectacular beaches. And, of course, you’d be right. This beautiful archipelago made up of three islands, offshore of Apulia, is a picturesque composition of ragged cliffs, sandy coves and a glittering dark blue sea. Only two islands of the archipelago are inhabited. San Domino is the larger of the two and home to the famous Pagliai Beach, a strip of white sand and crystalline, emerald waters. There is a wide range of other options in the island chain (only accessible by boat) including Punta Secca, one of the top beaches in Italy for scuba divers.

Punta Aderci

No beach bars, no sun beds to rent, no parasols and no crowds. Punta Aderci, along Abruzzo’s Costa dei Trabocchi, is a beach where the pleasures are simpler and more natural.

The beach is comfortably nestled within Punta Aderci nature reserve consisting of 285 hectares of protected dunes, beaches, cliff tops, flora and fauna. With sandy and trendy Punta Penna beach nearby, relatively few make the ef- fort—which includes a short hike—to visit Punta Aderci. Their loss, your gain.

Even at the height of summer there will rarely be more than a handful of people here, so you’ll have this stretch of sand and pebbles largely to yourself. Enjoy the tranquility and the Instagram-worthy Adriatic view, including the fishing huts (trabocco) after which this stretch of coast is named.