Hilltop villages, clear water, beautiful beaches, and good food. These are all things you can expect to find in our top 6 Italian coastal towns. You can reach all of them quickly and easily by train from all over Italy – in fact, for some of them, the scenic train journey to get there is half the reason why you should go.
Vernazza, Cinque Terre
Representing the beautiful Cinque Terre on our list, Vernazza packs a lot into one tiny, colourful village – an authentic marina, brightly coloured houses, dramatic rocky coastline, a historic bell tower, even a secluded swimming hole and cliffside restaurants. Doria Castle, clinging to the rugged hillside, is a local highlight. The railway line connecting the Cinque Terre is one of the most spectacular journeys in Italy. And Vernazza is a convenient starting place for hiking to the other Cinque Terre villages. Especially Corniglia and Monterosso, which have the best swimming beaches in the area!
Vietri sul Mare, Amalfi Coast
The Amalfi Coast is the epitome of what beautiful Italian coastal towns can be. While many Amalfi Coast towns have come to rely on tourism, Vietri sul Mare has remained a traditional fishing village. That has helped this quaint but vibrant seaside town retain a high level of authenticity. In cliffside restaurants, you can taste possibly the best tuna and sardines you’ll ever try. Stroll the winding old streets up to the town’s central beacon, the Church of Saint John the Baptist, for incredible ocean views. The only Amalfi Coast town with a train station, Vietri sul Mare is a mere 8 minutes from Salerno and 53 minutes from Naples on Trenitalia trains.
With impressive historical buildings to match its 10 miles of sandy beach, Rimini has long been a favourite among Italian coastal towns. It is Italy’s biggest beach resort – you could spend all day every day in different parts of the beach, and after a month you might still be discovering new spots. It’s not all about swimming and sunbathing here, though, as Rimini’s nightlife scene is almost as famous as its beach. And only an hour away from Bologna on Frecciarossa or Frecciabianca trains, the capital of the region that gave the world Parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar and so much more, Rimini is a gastronomic paradise. On Frecciarossa trains you can enjoy plenty of high-quality services, including free WiFi and onboard entertainment Le Frecce portal, large leather armchairs, at-seat power sockets and a welcome service with complimentary snacks in all classes except for the Standard one.
Polignano a Mare, Puglia
Think turquoise waters and white-pebble beaches, Roman ruins and whitewashed houses. Puglia, wrapping around the heel of Italy’s boot, is loaded with beautiful beach towns. And Polignano a Mare may well be the best of the lot. The town’s iconic abbey and 16th-century tower, overlooking the sparkling Adriatic Sea from the top of a cliff, offers a photo opportunity you won’t want to miss. Polignano a Mare is less than 40 minutes away from Bari on a regional train.
Looking back towards the ancient city and Mount Vesuvius from across the Gulf of Naples, the location of Sorrento is enough in itself to warrant its status as one of the finest Italian coastal towns. So the fact that it throws ridiculous historical beauty and otherworldly rugged landscapes into the mix is just unfair. Given its topography, it’s a tricky place to drive – but it’s easy to walk around. And its central train station, located near Piazza Angelina Lauro in the centre of the city, is well serviced by commuter trains from Naples as well as trains from other towns and cities.
San Remo, Liguria
Compared with its much noisier neighbours over the border on the Côte d’Azur, San Remo feels humble and understated despite its historic grandeur. That’s not to say that there isn’t glitz and glamour here. There is – epitomised by its imposing architecture. But there’s also a lot more to this Italian Riviera gem. San Remo hosts a range of global events year-round, from the International Rally Challenge to the wildly popular Sanremo Music Festival television song contest. Oh, and did we mention that the train journey to San Remo, hugging the coastline between Imperia and Ventimiglia, is one of the most beautiful in Italy?