1. 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!
2. 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.
3. Rimini, Emilia-Romagna
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 by train from Bologna, the capital of the region that gave the world Parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar and so much more, Rimini is a gastronomic paradise.
4. 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?
5. 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 by train from Bari, which is well connected to Italy's major cities by train, and to Albania, Montenegro, and Croatia by ferry.
6. Sorrento, Campania
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.
7. Scilla, Calabria
Laden with beautiful beaches, colourful terracotta towns, stunning landscapes, and a rich culinary heritage, it's hard to understand why Calabria doesn't get as much attention from foreign visitors as its other Italian counterparts. Not that we're complaining. Calabria's sense of being undiscovered is what gives it much of its magic. Nowhere is that more evident than along Calabria's Purple Coast (Costa Viola). And no Purple Coast town encapsulates that magic as completely as Scilla. Scilla's winding streets of sun-baked buildings tumble down towards the Tyrrhenian Sea, where restaurants serve the freshest of fresh seafood and the spiciest of 'nduja, Calabria's famous spicy spreadable sausage. The regional train to Scilla from Tropea (1h 20m), tracing the coast before jutting inland to Rosarno, is a beautiful journey.
8. Cefalù, Sicily
It's hard to decide which of Sicily's many beautiful coastal towns deserves to be included here, because in some ways they all do. But it's just too hard to go past Cefalù. Looking like it's been chiselled straight out of the cliff that looks over it, Cefalù has long been a centre of culture and commerce in Southern Italy, yet it has resisted the urges of modernisation. Besides its beautiful beach and delicious food, Cefalù, 40 minutes from Palermo, is best known for its incredible Norman cathedral. This imposing building with its twin towers was built in the 12th century and is decorated with elaborate Byzantine mosaics. It is one of the nine churches making up the Arab-Norman Palermo UNESCO World Heritage Site.
9. Viareggio, Tuscany
Situated in the north of Tuscany, near the hills where the marble for Michelangelo's "David" was quarried and only 15 minutes by train from Pisa and its leaning tower, the beachside resort town of Viareggio is no stranger to history and culture. Since 1873, Viareggio has hosted one of the biggest and best annual Carnival celebrations in Italy. At just under two miles long, its seaside promenade is lined with Art Nouveau buildings. Other architectural masterpieces in town include the Savoy Cinema, dating to 1925, and the 16th-century Matilda Tower, which harks back to Viareggio's early days as a defensive maritime outpost for the Republic of Lucca.
10. Gaeta, Lazio
It may only be 90 minutes by train from Rome, but the wealth of Roman ruins that the tiny coastal town of Gaeta boasts is impressive. They are mostly encased inside the Monte Orlando Park, a protected area that also houses an 11th-century sanctuary, amazing scuba diving sites, and the famous Turco Grotto ocean caves. The Roman ruins of Gaeta, located on the old Appian Way, include ancient Roman baths and an impressive mausoleum atop Mount Orlando, overlooking Serapo Beach. Handily located halfway between Rome and Naples, Formia train station is well connected to both cities.
With so many to choose from, we know it can be hard to decide which Italian coastal towns to visit. If you need any more information or help on how to book train journeys in Italy, check out our Trains in Italy page.