Summers on the Amalfi Coast are cinematic, magic and often chaotic. With jagged coastlines jutting into the Mediterranean and pastel houses hovering like jewels above dramatic cliffs, it is easy to embrace the dolce far niente spirit of the Amalfi Coast in the height of summer. The Aperol spritzes, the spaghetti and clams, and the beaches.  What makes this coast so stunning - its rugged, rocky topography, gravity defying staircases and secret crystalline coves, also make its beaches difficult to access. Keep in mind that most of the beaches on the Amalfi Coast are rocky.  Just keep in mind that there are a combination of stabilimenti balneare, private beach clubs that require daily payment to access and free beaches, typically adjacent. 

All along the Italian coast these private clubs charge fees to enter their section of beach, rent a lettino (lounge chair), umbrella and use the shower and toilet facilities. The average fee for the Amalfi Coast ranges from 20 euro per person for a bed and an umbrella at clubs in Positano to 10 euro per person in southern towns including Maiori and Vietri sul Mare. Those euros add up if you plan to spend a week on this coast but don't worry because there are indeed options.

Sometimes the romance of the Amalfi Coast rests in a simple panino at the beach and dip in the sea in which case a free beach or spiaggia libera is in order. Below are this author’s selection of the five best free beaches on the Amalfi Coast. So bring your towels and paninos and get ready for a romp down the free beaches of the Costiera Amalfitana.

Marina Cantone, Nerano

An old fishing borgo, Marina Cantone is now a popular beach resort at the limit of the Amalfi Coast just as it merges into the Gulf of Sorrento. The beach is accessible by car with a parking garage directly in front of its entrance.  To access the free section of beach, pass through a series of private stabilimenti to discover a generous cove completely free to the beach goer. The beaches at Marina Cantone are rocky so bring a comfortable pair of water shoes for strolls and dips in the sea.  

[Photo credit: Wikimedia commons: Marcuscalabresus]

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Fornillo Cove, Positano

Positano is nuts in the summer and its main beach, the Spiaggia Grande is a circus.  For a more civilized afternoon on the Tyrrhenian, head to Fornillo Beach.  A scenic pathway connects Positano’s center to Fornillo. Journey past the hotel Covo dei Saraceni up a series of cobbled steps and 10 minutes later you will arrive in the heart of this charming beach neighborhood. To the right of the pathway are three private beach clubs. To the left is a small cove where one can still enjoy free beach access. This cove used to be a nude beach and some bathers still go topless here so be advised. 

Marina di Praia, Praiano

Given the rocky coastline, some beaches on the Amalfi Coast are not so much sandy beaches as they are platforms that hover over the sea. One such beach is at Marina di Praia on the outer limit of the town of Praiano.  This cove is a common departure point for private boat trips to Capri. It also boasts a large public platform with tiered and ladder access for swimming.  There are no waves here and the cove is so protected from outsiders that it is ideal for snorkeling and if you are adventurous, octopus and sea urchin hunting. To this day, old men from the surrounding area come to Marina di Praia in the early morning to hunt for octopi with nothing more than tattered masks and their bare hands.  You can enjoy the fruits of their labor at the nearby restaurant Il Pirata which serves the best sea urchin spaghetti on the Amalfi Coast. 

Duglio, Amalfi

Get ready to take the stairs.  Duglio beach is only accessible by stairs- about 200 of them, but when you arrive you will quickly acknowledge that the walking was more than worth it. Few foreign visitors realize this beach exists, and all the better as Duglio still retains the essential charms of a sparkling Amalfi beach in the middle of August.  Once down the stairs, you will find a series of private clubs and beyond a large, rocky free beach.  This too is a popular snorkeling point as the waters are clear and often undisturbed by large passing ferries making the journey to Capri.  If you feel like indulging, enjoy lunch at Lido degli Artisti, which makes an excellent octopus salad.  

Maiori Beach, Maiori 

If you enjoy ambling down a wide sandy beach, then Maiori is the beach for you.  The town was destroyed by floods in 1954 so much of the architecture here is firmly rooted the 1970s.  The beach and board walk, on the other hand, are timeless.

Unlike most of the rocky beaches and coves of the Amalfi Coast, Maiori, which is the largest beach on the coast, is sandy.  Furthermore, with the cliffs of the region often blocking direct sunlight after 5:30PM, it is often difficult to get a full day of sun on the Amalfi Coast.  Not so in Maiori.  This large beach enjoy longer hours of sunlight until well past  8PM in the summer months.