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.
- Where to Stay: Duchi Vis à Vis is a designer hotel near the main square and harbor of Trieste. In Grado, Residence Hotel Hungaria is well-located just outside the pedestrian zone.
- Trieste Travel Guide
- Grado Travel Guide
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.
- Where to Stay: Hotel Grande Italia is by Chioggia’s main pedestrian street and the ferry stop. Al Ponticello has rooms and apartments overlooking the main canal in Comacchio.
- Chioggia Travel Guide
- Comacchio Travel Guide
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.
- Where to Stay: Albergo Cappello is inside a Renaissance palazzo, very near San Vitale Basilica.
- Ravenna Travel Guide
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.
- Where to Stay: Grand Hotel Cesenatico is by the sea and the main canal and has a private beach and swimming pool. Grand Hotel Rimini is an elegant, historic hotel by the sea that was a setting for Fellini’s movie, Amaracord.
- Cesenatico micro-guide
- Rimini Map and Guide
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.
- Where to Stay: By the sea, Bagni Vittoria has sea-view rooms and a private beach. B&B il Pavone is in the historic center near the cathedral.
- Abruzzo Map and Guide
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.
- Where to Stay: Palace Hotel San Michele is a 4-star hotel by the castle in Monte Sant’Angelo. Park Hotel Villa Americana is in the seaside town of Rodi Garganico. Or for self-catering, stay at Pizzicato Eco B&B in Vico del Gargano.
- Gargano Map and Places to Go
- Gargano 2-day Itinerary
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.
- Where to Stay: In Trani, Hotel San Paolo al Convento is a nice 4-star hotel in a former convent, right on the harbor. In Bari, Bozzi 1910 is a condo hotel near the harbor between the train station and historic center. In Lecce, stay in a medieval fortress at Torre Del Parco 1419, a 5 minute walk from the historic center.
- Puglia Coast by Train
- 5 Places to Go on the Salento Peninsula
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