Italy's East Coast

Top Places to Go Along the Adriatic Sea

Most visitors to Italy make Venice a top place to go but don’t see much else along the Adriatic coast. Italy’s east coast has many beach resort towns but there are plenty of interesting places and hidden gems to visit, too. The major east coast rail line runs between Trieste in the north and Lecce in the south and most of these places can be reached by train. Explore Italy’s Adriatic Coast from north to south, from the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region to Puglia, the heel of the boot:

Trieste and Grado

The city of Trieste and the lagoon island of Grado are top places to go in northeastern Italy. Once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, they still show Austrian and Hungarian influence. Trieste is a magnificent city sporting one of Italy’s largest squares, a castle, and Roman ruins. Grado has walking and biking paths along the sea, canals and harbors, pedestrian streets lined with trees and shops, and beaches. It’s near the ancient Roman town of Aquileia.

trieste main square
Piazza Unita d'Italia in Trieste by James Martin

Little Venices: Chioggia and Comacchio

Both Chioggia and Comacchio, south of Venice, are sometimes called Little Venice because of their canals but they are smaller and easily accessible. At the heart of Chioggia’s historic center is a wide pedestrian street full of bars and restaurants. Chioggia has a lively fish market, sandy beaches, a seaside promenade and direct ferry service to Venice in summer. Comacchio, in the Emilia-Romagna region, is known for its eel fishing and is a great place to take an interesting boat trip into the lagoon.

Chioggia Canal
Canal in Chioggia by James Martin

Ravenna, City of Mosaics

Although not right on the coast, Ravenna is a stop on the main rail line. Ravenna is best known for the spectacular 5th-6th century Byzantine-style mosaics adorning its churches and monuments. Ravenna is still known for its mosaic production. Other sights include Roman sites, several museums, and Piazza del Popolo, the elegant main square that was created in the 15th century when the city’s canals were covered over.

Arian Baptistery dome
Arian Baptistery Dome, Ravenna. Image credit: James Martin

Cesenatico and Rimini

Cesenatico is a charming town known for its maritime museum and the main canal, designed by Leonardo da Vinci. Rimini is one of Italy’s top beach resorts with 15 kilometers of sandy beach. It’s also known as one of the best places for nightlife, especially in summer. Rimini has a good historic center with beautiful piazzas, Roman ruins, and places you may recognize from Fellini films since Federico Fellini was from Rimini.

Canal in Cesenatico by James Martin

Conero, le Marche

Conero National Park, south of Ancona in le Marche region, is a protected area with hiking, biking, and horse-riding paths. The pretty promontory around Monte Conero has several good beaches. One of the top spots is la Spiaggia delle due Sorelle, reached only by boat, with breathtaking views of Monte Conero behind. The little town of Numana is beautiful and the towns of Sirolo and Portonovo are also good to visit. Rosso Conero wine comes from this area.

Vasto, Abruzzo

Vasto is a charming town in the southern part of the Abruzzo region coast. It’s on the part of the coast sometimes called, la Costa dei Trabocchi, wooden fishing machines. The town itself is on a hill with a sandy beach below in the resort town of Marina di Vasto. In the old town there’s a castle, cathedral, palaces, and the oldest church, Santa Maria Maggiore, in existence in the 12th century. Visit the Civic Museum to learn more about the town’s history and be sure to try the Brodetto alla Vastese, Vasto’s special fish soup.

vasto photo
Piazza Rossetti in Vasto.

Vasto image credit: Mike Mazzaschi, A Path to Lunch

Gargano, the Spur of the Boot

Puglia’s Gargano Promontory offers everything from pretty seaside towns and clean beaches to charming inland villages and the mountains of the Gargano National Park. Whether you want to swim in the sea, hike in the forest, or visit historic towns and villages, there’s plenty to do. Rodi Garganico, Peschici, and Vieste are 3 top seaside towns and from Rodi you can take a ferry to the Tremeti Islands. Inland, Vico del Gargano is classified as one of the most beautiful small towns in Italy. From there, head into the Foresta Umbra in the Gargano National Park. On the other side is the picturesque white-washed town of Monte Sant’Angleo, famous for the Cave Sanctuary of Saint Michael.

monte sant angelo view
View of Monte Sant'Angelo by James Martin

Southern Puglia and the Salento Peninsula

Farther south along the coast, Trani has a picturesque Romanesque cathedral and castle by the sea. Bari, Puglia’s largest city, has an interesting historic center with a castle, a seaside promenade and harbor, a big pedestrian-only shopping street, and plenty of good restaurants and nightlife. Polignano a Mare, built on a cliff, is one of the most picturesque towns along the coast and there’s a nice, sandy beach below it. The main train line ends in the Baroque city of Lecce, slightly inland. Beyond Lecce is the Salento Peninsula known for its good beaches and picturesque towns.

trani night photo
Trani, Puglia at Night

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Italy's East Coast originally appeared on , updated: Aug 11, 2023.