Perhaps unfairly over-endowed, Italy also has two Rivieras in Liguria. To the west of Genoa are famous resorts such as Alassio and San Remo, where brightly-coloured parasols and sunbeds are as standard as the obligatory daily passeggiata, when everyone struts to see and be seen. But to the east the more rocky territory harbours very chic Portofino and the five villages clinging spectacularly to the mountainside, the Cinque Terre, perched over beautiful little bays.

Tuscany’s beaches are as varied as the high number of Blue Flags for beach cleanliness that they hold. For those who like their beaches big and sociable Forte dei Marmi and Viareggio are perfect for long, lazy days. South of Pisa, the dramatic outcrop of the Argentario Penisula is the site of cool Porto Santo Stefano and small, but very chic Porto Ercole where little coves beg to be explored.

If steep, craggy coastlines float your boat, then the Amalfi coastline is one of Italy’s most picturesque and dramatic. But the beaches here are small and the largest stretch of greyish sand is at chic Positano. Nearby, Sorrento enjoys spectacular views, sunbed-packed jetties and easy access to legendary, rocky Capri. For an alternative, head to Capri’s big sister island, Ischia, where beaches are long and soft and thermal springs are a delight for wallowing in – even in winter.

Farther south, the lesser-known Basilicata region is rugged, unspoiled and a contender for one of the country’s most beautiful coastal areas around Maratea where dozens of gorgeous, secret beaches await. This spectacular stretch of coast, just 25 km long overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea, refuses to heed to the siren call of mass tourism.

Puglia in the ‘heel’ of Italy has a long, spectacular coastline with, at its ‘spur’, the Gargano Peninsula. Here ancient forest plunges to the sea and picturesque towns such as Peschici and Vieste cling to the coast — indented with grottoes, extraordinary rock formations and long, sandy beaches.

For castaway islands, the tiny Pontine Islands just off Lazio are a celebrity hideaway. Sicily’s necklace of archipelagos includes the volcanic Aeolian Isles, the Egadi and the chic black island of Ustica, Pantelleria. And, for perhaps the most beautiful island coastline in the whole of Italy, Sardiniahas some of the world’s most idyllic beaches where sugar-soft sands dip into waters of dazzling shades of emerald and aquamarine.

2 3 2