For those who fly across oceans to visit Italy and make the Cinque Terre one of their many stops on a grueling two-week European vacation, hitting the beach is not usually on top of their list of priorities.
For those who have more time to spend in Italy, coming to the Cinque Terre also means catching some rays against one of the most spectacular backdrops possible.
And so in honor of all sun-worshipers, here is a guide to the beaches in the Cinque Terre and beyond:
1. Vernazza. After the floods last October, how could I not start with Vernazza. In the frantic efforts to clear the town of mud, much of the dirt ended up in its quaint harbor, perhaps the most beautiful of all the Cinque Terre. What had been a small, twenty-foot wide beach surrounded by docked sailboats had become a 50-yard pile of muck, debris, and smashed cars. But raise your glasses to the tireless workers in Vernazza. As of last week, the beach was miraculously back to normal. And though it may not be the best beach of the Cinque Terre (it’s too small to be that), you will no doubt think about dipping your toes in it when you are there.
2. Guvano. Making up for the fact that Corniglia has no beaches, the Guvano beach located between it and Vernazza is one of the best in Italy. Gorgeous scenery and perfect for sunbathing. The only trick is getting there: the trails are unkempt and so the only certain access route is by the sea, so check around in both Manarola and Vernazza for boat tours that can drop you off there. Bring food, water, and sunscreen, because there is nothing there except natural beauty. (Not for the faint-of-heart: it is popular with nudists.)
3. Monterosso. The only of the 5 towns that has proper beaches for sunbathing, Monterosso is well equipped for your true beach lovers: you can rent umbrellas and beach chairs and there are loads of cafés and ice-cream shops along the water’s edge. My personal preference is for the longer beach in the new part of town (away from the harbor) with its beautiful blue waters.
4. Levanto. OK, not technically in the Cinque Terre, but Levanto is a great town with all of the comforts and amenities that are often missing from the Cinque Terre. Oh, and it’s got a great long beach that runs the length of the bay. There are parts that are better for kids, better for adults, better for surfers, better for rich tourists, and better for backpackers. And you can walk along the paved walking track toward Bonassola and find gorgeous secluded beaches along the way.
5. Hidden Beaches. This is the category for those of you with private yachts, catamarans, sailboats, dinghies, dhows, dories, gozzi, rowboats, canoes, and kayaks. All along the coastline from Portovenere up to Bonassola there are gorgeous little beaches that are unknown and only accessible from the sea. Exploring the coast carefully can pay off. Nothing feels more hedonistic than being on a beach all by yourself. If you want to find the best spots but have neither the boat or the time to explore it on your own, contact Marco Scaramuccia in Levanto for a magical tour of these spots.