Because Italy seems to be so dominated by the Catholic church, you might not automatically think that there would be a ton of nude beaches in Italy. But even though the Catholic homebase is in the country, and even though the vast majority of Italians self-identify as Catholics, they are also Europeans – and Europeans tend to have much more progressive views about sex and nudity than Americans do. So, while there may not be as many famous nude beaches in Italy as there are in other Mediterranean or European countries, there are definitely some.
In fact, there’s an association in Italy for naturists (which is what nudists seem to prefer to be called), and at least a couple of years ago the statistics were that more than 600,000 Italians were naturists. Prior to 2006, however, going nude on the beaches of Italy wasn’t technically legal. Sure, people did it, and they rarely faced any problems, but officials could have theoretically cracked down on it at any time.
It’s worth noting here that going totally naked on the beach is still considered different than just women going topless. Going topless is almost de rigeur on the beaches of Europe, and there isn’t a separate beach for topless sunbathers as there are often separate nude beaches. On most beaches in Italy, women can (and do) go topless, mixed in amongst women who keep both halves of their suits on. If you’re wondering whether going topless is okay, either ask someone or just pay attention to what other people are doing.
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But unlike just taking off a bikini top, going completely naked isn’t necessarily the norm in Italy. It was made legal in 2006, when legislation was passed saying that beaches which were traditionally mostly for naturists could post signs declaring that they’re nude beaches. There are now plenty of designated nude beaches in Italy that you can choose from, most of which are marked at the entrance to let unsuspecting beach-goers know that they’re going to be entering a clothing-optional zone.
Some of the better-known nude beaches in Italy are:
- Bassona Beach, Emilia-Romagna – This beach is Italy’s largest nude beach at 1km long, and is one part of the 3km-long Lido di Dante south of Ravenna. Nudism has been practiced here for ages, and has been legal (at least according to local officials) since 2002. free admission
- Capocotta Beach, Lazio – This beach isn’t far from Rome, and there’s a dedicated nude beach section that’s about 250 meters long. The whole beach is part of an official nature reserve, and nudists have been baring everything on this beach for more than 30 years. It wasn’t until 2000 that local officials set aside the special section for naturists, however. free admission, chairs & umbrellas available, showers, bar/restaurant, public toilets
- Guvano Beach, Liguria – This nude beach is between the Cinque Terre towns of Corniglia and Vernazza, so it’s popular with the backpackers and budget travelers who flock to this little part of Italy. It’s easy to reach from the Corniglia train station, but it’s very small & the path to reach it is fairly steep. drinking water, no toilet, admission fee of about €5
- Lido di Venezia, Veneto – This stretch of beautiful sand sits on an island not far from Venice’s romantic canals. free admission
- Portonovo, Le Marche – One section of the beach in the town of Portonovo is designated as a nude beach. It’s a secluded part that’s hidden behind a 19th-century brick tower. free admission
- Bibbona Beach, Tuscany – The south side of the Marina di Bibbona in Livorno is a dedicated naturist beach, which you’ll find if you just get to the beach and start walking south. free admission
- Aquarilli Beach, Island of Elba (Tuscany) – There aren’t really designated nudist beaches on Elba, but because there are lots of hidden coves you can sometimes find places where it’s very private and so possible to go nude. Most of these hidden spots are accessible only by boat, and are on the southern part of the island. free admission
- Costa Verde Beach, Sardinia – While the beaches of the Costa Verde aren’t technically designated as nude beaches, when they’re not crowded you can probably get away with it. It’s a long sandy beach, so if you do find a few people lying on the beach wearing bathing suits, just keep walking until you’re out of sight. free admission
- Costa dei Barbari, Friuli-Venezia Giulia – This beach near Trieste has had a designated nude beach for years. It’s actually near the towns of Sistiana & Duino, just outside Trieste. free admission (look for Trieste hotels and Trieste hostels nearby)
If you’ve been to any of these beaches, or if I’ve missed a noteworthy one that should be on this list, please let me know by leaving a comment below or sending me a note!
You can learn more about Italy’s nude beaches on the website of the Italian Naturist Federation.