A trip to Italy without a few nights on the Amalfi Coast? Unthinkable! The 50km stretch of Mediterranean coastline in southern Italy is home to some of the most picturesque beach towns in all of Europe. However, with the extravagant views, world-class seafood, chic shopping streets and luxurious cliff-top retreats, you also get sky-high prices.
There’s a reason the Amalfi Coast is known for being the seaside getaway for the wealthy and a place where you’d bump into A-list celebrities. Everything on the Amalfi Coast is excruciatingly expensive, and in high season the high prices of hotels and restaurants can make the Amalfi Coast the most expensive destination in all of Europe. But nobody said that the Amalfi Coast is that only Location in Italy with a specular view of the beach. Considering that most of Italy is surrounded by the sea, there are several towns that rival the Amalfi Coast in beauty but are far more affordable. As a bonus, you’ll even skip the tourist crowds of Amalfi.
Located in the Abruzzo region, east of Rome, Pescara is the largest city in Abruzzo. If you are looking for more affordable beach resorts and weeks of sunbathing by the sea, Pescara is for you. After the city suffered permanent damage from World War II bombing, much of the city’s culture was replaced with a modern look. With not much else to do, Pescara’s 10 miles of sandy beach is a welcome respite from the crowded beaches of Amalfi, especially in summer.
Besides the Amalfi Coast, there is another region in Italy that attracts the crème de la crème of the world: Lake Como. Celebrities like George Clooney, Richard Branson and Sylvester Stallone are known for owning luxurious villas overlooking Lake Como, and those not lucky enough to own a lavish lakefront property often flock to nearby towns like Bellagio . But there is another town on the shores of Lake Como that offers equally stunning views of the countryside. Flanked on two sides by mountains, the small town of Lecco opens onto Lake Como. With classic architecture, freshly caught lake seafood, easy access to ski slopes and plenty of hiking trails, Lecco is an underrated Italian gem.
The port city of Bari offers everything you would imagine from a holiday in Italy: labyrinthine streets in an old town, ports with pasta bars and cafes, hidden beaches with cliffs and crystal clear water, flea markets and a rich cultural offering with theatres, castles, museums and churches. Bari is also home to an established university, and where there are students, there are affordable restaurants, hotels and, most importantly, a vibrant nightlife. You can eat ice cream for breakfast, sunbathe on the beaches in the afternoon, catch a play in the evening and end the day with a glass of wine in a harbor bar – all without making the dent in your wallet like a day in Amalfi would.
Brindisi is home to one of two major airports in Puglia and most travelers think of Brindisi as a place to arrive or depart. But those willing to explore Brindisi beyond the airport will find a port city that opens to the sea and pulses at its own slow rhythm. With medieval streets, ancient cathedrals, seafront promenades and castles sitting on islets off the port, Brindisi is an affordable seaside town that you’ll never want to leave.
Scilla is the most famous town on La Costa Viola or the Violet Coast, which is a 35km stretch of coastline similar to the Amalfi Coast. The sea monster Scylla from Greek mythology is said to live in the picturesque fishing village. Scilla is divided into two parts: the city center where the municipal offices are located and the beach where hotels, restaurants and also beaches exist. Despite its beauty, few know about Scilla and so the town is usually free of tourists, crowds and ridiculously high prices.
Lecce is also called the Florence of the South because the enchanting 2,000-year-old city is as stunning as you would expect from an Italian city. Lecce is made for leisurely strolls, long lunches and wine-filled evenings. As the town is fairly sparse compared to Amalfi, Lecce is a wonderful town to explore on foot, where every stroll will reveal hidden piazzas and off-street cafes. Plus, Lecce is barely 30 minutes from some of southern Italy’s most beautiful beaches, so it’s a great place to stay if you want to be near a beach but don’t want the expensive room rates that come with it.
Located in the mountainous region of Puglia’s Gargano Peninsula, Vieste is a coastal town that offers a little bit of everything: dense forests for hiking, ancient town architecture and sea caves to explore, the vast sea for diving and sailing, and white rocky sandy beaches to explore Eating, drinking and sunbathing. Vieste is also home to several rock formations, and a short climb up to Pizzomunno in particular will reveal unbeatable views of the town and sea below.
Ponza isn’t exactly a town, but that’s the best part. Located between Naples and Rome, Ponza is a small island with views that rival, if not better, the Amalfi Coast. The island is a summer retreat for locals, and few tourists find their way there. This may be because Ponza has little to offer in terms of sights, but sandy beaches and sea as far as the eye can see. For those who want to experience Amalfi sea activities without the crowds that come with it, Ponza is the ideal place to spend a few days sunbathing, sailing and sea swimming.
Genoa is one of Italy’s largest cities and its port is the busiest in the country. Seen by some as a cheaper and more northerly version of Amalfi’s Positano, Genoa is where Christopher Columbus’ childhood home still stands, the largest aquarium in Europe exists and where pesto is believed to have been invented. Better yet, Genoa is in the heart of the Liguria region and has everything that draws travelers to the Amalfi Coast: winding streets and colorful buildings, all opening onto the Mediterranean Sea.
1 Monte Argentario
Technically, Monte Argentario is more of a municipality than a town, but the peninsula is perhaps Tuscany’s best-kept secret and one of the closest alternatives to the Amalfi Coast. Monte Argentario was once an island and is now connected to Tuscany by two narrow sandbanks. Surrounded by mountains on one end and the sea on the other, Monte Argentario is home to several towns – all opening onto the sea – seaside resorts, beaches and coves. Monte Argentario is quite similar to the Amalfi Coast in that you can plan an entire trip to Italy without ever having to leave Monte Argentario and its seaside towns, except you’ll end up spending a lot less.