LivingTravel5 of the best Blue Flag beaches in Northern...

5 of the best Blue Flag beaches in Northern Italy

From Cattolica to Trieste on the Adriatic, and from Ameglia to Ventimiglia on the Ligurian Sea, there are dozens of Blue Flag beaches in northern Italy, a designation awarded to beaches around the world by the Foundation for Environmental Education ( FEE), based on water quality, cleanliness and safety, among other factors. The province of Liguria only claims 27 blue flags.

With more than 400 miles (almost 600 km) of coastline on the Adriatic and Ligurian Seas, northern Italy is rich in beaches and beach resorts, and many have received the Blue Flag award.

On most Italian beaches with any kind of development around you, you can expect crowds in the summer, especially during the first two weeks of August when most Italians go on vacation. Many beaches are dominated by Stabilimenti private establishments that rent umbrellas and deck chairs laid out in row after row. Most stabilimenti have showers, changing rooms, bars, and simple restaurants, and some even offer swimming pools, playgrounds and babysitting services.

Since there is no shortage of great beaches in northern Italy, these beaches proudly wave a Blue Flag, have a resort town behind them, and have their own vibe, from family-friendly to hip to hip.

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Levanto (Liguria)

Behind you are elegant art nouveau villas, flourishing Mediterranean shrubs, and a charming town dating back to the 11th century. Before the waves of the Ligurian Sea meet, interrupted by frequent breakwaters that create quiet bathing areas. A long stretch of golden gray sand offers space for everyone, even in the hectic months of July and August.

At the northern end of the Cinque Terre (the Five Lands), an area known for its stunning coastal walks and colorful seaside villages, Levanto is a popular starting or ending point for a tour of the Cinque Terre .

The area attracts Italian families on their annual holidays to il mare , but still retains a subdued feel. When the winds are favorable (usually when a storm is coming in), surfers test their skills in waves up to 10 feet (3 meters).

The atmosphere: low-key family fun, with a dose of surfer culture

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Santa Margherita Ligure (Liguria)

Santa Margherita Ligure is tucked away between Rapallo and Portofino on the Gulf of Tigullio, yet this resort town has a slightly less pretentious attitude. You’ll still find plenty of luxury offerings like its Liberty-style villas with Trompe-l’œil facades in all shades of yellow, cream and salmon, plus the four Blue Flag beaches.

On the beaches closest to the city, rows of chairs and umbrellas await you in private StAbILI menti and in high season, there is not much room to move. Still, for those seeking quintessential Italian Riviera glamor, this place has it.

For a quieter stay, head 5 miles south to Paraggi, a picturesque little cove with a handful of hotels and restaurants.

The vibe: old money, maybe a little less money than a century ago.

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Finale Ligure (Liguria)

Claiming one of the longest stretches of sand on the Riviera di Ponente (‘the coast of the setting sun’), Finale Ligure and its surrounding shores offer an anomaly along the Ligurian Sea, an affordable and relatively uncrowded beach destination .

Its four Blue Flag beaches are flat and sandy, with calm waters and backed by historic towns (especially in Finalborga), modern apartment buildings, and cliff-top hotels.

Head here if you want photo-worthy scenery without the prices and Riviera attitude. Mountain biking, hiking, and rock climbing are also popular diversions.

The vibe: Italians in the know, outdoor dudes, and middle-class families

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Bordighera (Liguria)

It may not be southern France, but you can see France from at least one of the two blue flag beaches in Bordighera, a small enclave on the westernmost Italian Riviera, from where several daily trains connect to Cannes, Nice and the Principality. from Monaco

Monet painted here; the Queen Mother played with the waves here as a child, and Mussolini and Franco conspired together here. Bordighera retains its exclusive atmosphere, and vacationing here is expensive.

The beaches of Bordighera are pebble and stone, so a sun lounger is a must (and expensive). Still, for a see-and-be-seen vibe, it exudes the atmosphere of Riviera.

The atmosphere: elegant, cultured and rich idle

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Rimini (Emilia-Romagna)

Italian beach vacations are no more Italian than Rimini. This resort town on the Adriatic Sea is favored by families for its 9 miles (15 km) of wide sandy beaches and calm, shallow waters.

It also has every fun in the sun, from theme parks (how about Italy in miniature with over 270 detailed-scale replicas of the country’s major cities and landmarks) to shady marine zoos to concerts and emerging markets. At night, the big open-air discos hit until the wee hours of the morning, and revelers sleep with their hangovers the next morning under their reserved umbrellas.

Budget hotels, B & Bs, and campgrounds abound, making it one of Italy’s cheapest destinations for a beach vacation. Just be prepared for crowds, young families and bus loads of older people during the day, and scantily-clad young Italians at night.

While the beaches in the city of Rimini cannot claim a Blue Flag, the province of Rimini, from Cattolica in the north to Bellaria, has several.

The vibe: Think Atlantic City’s boardwalk, with less gambling.

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