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Exploring Italy's Beautiful Coastal Towns

Plan the perfect trip to Italy's coast.

Call it unfair, but there's something unbeatable about the dolce vita wattage of this country's legendary playgrounds.


By Alexander Lobrano, Town & Country

Taormina
[post_ads]It can be crowded in this epicenter of tourism in Sicily, and, as Hemingway put it, “so pretty that it hurts to look at it.” Both are, we feel, risks worth taking. “Here the past is so much stronger than the present that one seems remote like the immortals, looking back at the world from their otherworld,” D.H. Lawrence wrote in 1920. That tension between past and present is why Taormina has drawn writers, artists, and aesthetes for centuries. Every evening at dusk, countless starlings add a thin black veil to the melon-colored skies over the third-century BC Greco-Roman theater that sits atop the cliff on which modern Taormina rests. Hundreds of feet below, the Mediterranean turns indigo with the fading light. Mount Etna in the distance adds even more drama.
 
 
Stay
The elegant yet animated Grand Hotel Timeo has a beautiful pool, and there’s a beach at its sister property, the Villa Sant’Andrea. Hotel Villa Ducale attracts a crowd of chic Italian regulars.
Eat
Sicily has some of the best food in the country. Locals recommend Casa GioLi or La Capinera for spaghetti with grouper, mint, lemon, and toasted pine nuts, as well as other inventive dishes.
Shop
Do not miss the trompe l’oeil marzipan fruits, a Sicilian specialty, at La Bottega del Buongustaio.
In the know
Take a tasting tour of vineyards on the slopes of Mount Etna, especially Benanti's and Planeta's.

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Portofino
Why mess with perfection? That sentiment is probably why so little of consequence changes in this almost unbearably pretty port, with colorful houses set on lushly wooded hills overlooking a small blue bay. Think of it as a lively Latin Nantucket, or Camden, Maine, where life revolves around boating (although in Portofino the lobster is usually served atop spaghetti). Grandees have been coming here since the Romans, with their unerring nose for real estate, founded it, from the lords of Genoa and Milan to today’s fashion elite. (Giorgio Armani and Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana own villas here.)


Stay
The peaches-and-cream Hotel Splendido, with wisteria trellises on a hillside overlooking the port, evokes the era of the Grand Tour and still can’t be beat. (Dick proposed to Liz here.) If you plan to arrive by yacht or want to be in the thick of the action, check out its sister hotel, the Splendido Mare—it’s right on the waterfront.
Eat
Though hardly undiscovered, Da Puny sends out very good Ligurian specialties including pappardelle in pesto corto. Taverna del Marinaio has excellent seafood salad and sea bream with green sauce.
Shop
Nearby Chiavari has a wonderful antiques market on the second Sunday of every month.
In the Know
A day out on a luxury charter is de rigueur—the best view of Portofino and of this whole gorgeous coastline is from the sea.
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Capri
If there’s one place to go during shoulder season (May–June and September), Capri is it. Though this shockingly beautiful little limestone shard in the Bay of Naples exceeds all expectations—as it has since the days of Caesar Augustus—and draws a nonstop pageant of bold-faced names, the crowds are of another order. The best sightseeing is done from a sunbed at the Fontelina Beach Club or a table at Capri town’s Gran Caffe.


Stay
J.K. Place Capri, with interiors by Michele Bonan, is perfect for hip couples. Capri Tiberio Palace is within walking distance of everything.
Eat
Dine outdoors in a fragrant lemon grove at Da Paolino—don’t miss the mozzarella grilled between lemon leaves. La Capannina is a tad touristy but makes delicious local specialties like linguine with scorpion fish.
Shop
Il Laboratorio, for the ultimate trousers and Capri pants, which frequent visitor Jackie O, of course, showed the world how to wear (fitted, with a big belt).
In the Know
Take a day trip to the quiet island of Procida to see what Capri was like before it became so famous.

Amalfi Coast
[post_ads]art of what makes this 25-mile lemon blossom–scented stretch of coastline so appealing is the slight, constant frisson of danger. There’s the switchback road, the infinity pools. Plus the eternal question: How do you choose your spot? Our suggestions: Base yourself in Amalfi (with its grand 11th-century cathedral), Conca dei Marini (an overlooked gem), or Ravello (a haven in the sky). Visit Positano as a daytrip—there are too many crowds and tour buses for more than that—and, unless you happen to be energized by white-knuckle drives, use boat service whenever possible to get around.

Stay
In Amalfi, the Hotel Santa Caterina, an Italian Art Nouveau beauty with charming service; in Conca dei Marini, the cliffside 17th-century Monastero Santa Rosa; in Ravello, the serene Hotel Caruso, with its spectacular infinity pool.
Eat
Perhaps the best dining on the whole coast is at Lo Scoglio da Tommaso, a simple restaurant in Marina del Cantone, whose mostly Italian clientele come by boat for sublime dishes like fresh sea urchins and marinated anchovies. Also for seafood lovers, Acqua Pazza, in Cetara.



Shop
Stock up on summer shifts and accessories at Positano's Antonello della Mura, the chicest clothing shop on the coast.
In the Know
The outstanding Ravello Festival of music usually runs from July through September.

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Travel Magazine: Exploring Italy's Beautiful Coastal Towns
Exploring Italy's Beautiful Coastal Towns
Plan the perfect trip to Italy's coast.
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Travel Magazine
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