Vulcano has one of the nicest beaches in the Aeolian Islands. Lined with fine black sand, it faces the dramatic Faraglioni (rock stacks jutting straight up out of the sea) and its crystal-clear water is made slightly fizzy by volcanic gases. You can even cake yourself with the volcanic mud found in a nearby pool (not recommended for children or pregnant women). To top off the effect, there's sometimes a plume of smoke emitting from the crater above. Don't worry - it hasn't erupted since 1890. Siremar ferries take about 45 minutes and leave hourly 7am-7pm (Jan-Sept) from Via dei Mille 28, in Milazzo. Click here for our choice of lodgings on Vulcano.
Pineto is one of the prettiest resorts on the Abruzzo coast. Its wide sandy beach is lined with a strip of sand pines, so that you can go to the beach without having to sit in the sun all day. Campsites, hotels, restaurants, and night clubs abound along this 40-mile stretch of coast. Click here for a few hotel choices in Pineto.
Praia a Mare to Scalea, in Calabria. While these two towns are a roiling madhouse in summer, they offer plentiful lodgings and are near one of the most beautiful extended stretches of wide beach in southern Italy. Enjoy the crystal-clean waters and loll on the fine white sand, or arrange for a boat trip to tiny Isola di Dino, just five minutes offshore, as well as to some of the many grottoes carved into the mainland coast. Unlike at Capri and other famous spots, you are allowed to swim in these caves, and it's an unforgettable experience. Just farther down the coast is the loveliest beach of all, Diamante. Click here for hotels in this area.
Cagliari. Say "Sardinia" and most people think of the rockbound Costa Smeralda. But the entire island is ringed with truly first-rate wide sandy beaches lapped by waters that are every bit as calm, transparent and "fishy" as their famous neighbors. And - unlike the renowned Costa Smeralda - most Sardinian beaches offer the shade of a nearby pine forest. If you were intrepid enough to arrange accommodations, you could spend a magnificent two weeks just driving from one spot to another, circumnavigating this most dramatic island. The longest stretch of beaches you would encounter would probably be those around Cagliari, with the nicest in Villasimius. Click here for some lodgings in the historic center of Cagliari, close to the beach.