In Italy, we have a problem with beaches: we love bays that look like the Caribbean Islands. But we’re not in the Caribbean, we’re in the Mediterranean and we don’t have the same water and colors, with a few exceptions. I love beaches with golden (not white) sands and those that aren’t too “domesticated,” where you can walk for miles and stretch out on a simple beach towel, without worrying about chairs and mats (essential if there are stones, pebbles or rocks). And even I surrender to the brazen beauty of certain coves, especially those in Sardinia or the Conero (on the Adriatic coast).
Cala Violina is located in the municipality of Scarlino (Grosseto) in front of the Bandite di Scarlino natural reserve. It takes its name from the sound of “violins” that visitors hear when they walk on the sand. Go off season or the sounds of beachgoers will drown out those of the “violin,” which could be the ideal background for a marriage proposal. You can arrive by boat or by taking a 30-minute walk along a trail through the woods. Marina di Castagneto: if you want to walk for miles and only see the beach, sea and Mediterranean scrub, this is the perfect place. Along the coast just south of Livorno, there is a relatively wide strand of beach with soft dunes. The water is crystal clear, as long as there isn’t too much wind or too many waves (at which point people go kite sur ng). You can get to the free beach close by the Paradù Tuscany Ecoresort.
Punta Prosciutto. Here, the sand is pure white and the water is transparent. Located in the municipality of Porto Cesareo in the province of Lecce—in the Salento area—this is one of the preferred destinations for Italians in August (I don’t suggest going then, as it’s too crowded). The beach (with very few resorts) is bordered by the Torre Lapillo on one side and Torre Colimena on the other and is embraced by centuries-old Mediterranean scrub. It is ideal for children too. To get there, take the Provinciale 122 road towards Torre Lapillo, and turn right just passed Torre Colimena.
Cala Mariolu. You get there by boat (service from Cala Gonone, Arbatax, Santa Maria Navarrese) or by hiking from the Golgo plateau (two hours and 45 minutes), but that is only suitable for expert excursionists (I recommend taking a boat back). The scenery is spectacular: tiny white pebbles create a glistening beach, which pushes up against a white limestone cliff on one side and is lapped by turquoise and green waters on the other side. The name Mariolu (thief) comes from the monk seal, which was guilty of stealing the shermen’s catch that they left in the natural grotto of the bay. It is only sunny in the morning and the early afternoon.
Cala Santa Maria, the island of Santa Maria, Maddalena Archipelago. To get to one of the only three inhabited islands of the archipelago, you take a private rented boat. The Santa Maria bay is located on the southern part of the small island and features 656 feet of sandy white beaches with a salt marsh behind them and several different species of birds. From the bay, you can go up to the shepherd’s house (he, his wife and daughter are the only residents on the island in winter), which is attached to a 16th-century convent. From there, you can go up to the small church of Santa Maria, which offers breathtaking views of the entire archipelago.
Mezzavalle, Riviera del Conero. You can get there with public transportation along the Strada Provinciale del Conero, which would bring you to one of the points leading down to the beach by way of a rather steep yet manageable trail. It is free and has only one bar/restaurant in the center. At one end of the bay, there is a thin strip of rocks rising from the surface of the water and continuing for less than a mile. It is called the Trave, and there is a clay well where locals get mud to spread on their bodies and let dry before diving into the water to get smooth, radiant skin. This strand has a mix of sand, gravel and rocks. It is very sunny, but has a few shady corners when the mountain begins to cast its shadow.