Top 10 Mediterranean beach towns
1. Portofino, Italy
Portofino is the golden child of the Italian Riviera, one of the most beautiful locations in the world and the playground for everyone from Brigitte Bardot in the ’60s to Berlusconi. Hotel Splendido, which remains intact and focuses on authentic cuisine, has played host to the likes of Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Elizabeth Taylor, Clark Gable, and Ava Gardner.
2. Taormina, Italy
Located on the east coast of Sicily, Taormina is often described as the epitome of southern Italian beach towns. Home to as many poets and painters as playboys and boulevardiers, Taormina represents the creative cross-section that has made the region famous for the last 60 years. Hotel El Jebel is a classic Mediterranean property that often serves as a meeting place for the many artists, celebrities and politicians that frequent town.
3. Cassis, France
Cassis was once a small fishing village that retained the purity of southern France without the glitz and glamour of neighboring Nice, Cannes and St. Tropez. Cassis is still certainly less travelled by many tourists, but since the early 1950s it has become something of a hideaway for wealthy Europeans. Cassis is also home to some top-notch vineyards. The Michelin-star rated La Villa Madie may only be a few years old, but it is the type of restaurant designed to cater to the wealthy aristocrats and actors that call Cassis home.
4. Port Grimaud, France
Conceived by architect Francois Spoerry in the 1960s as a “Provencal Venice,” Port Grimaud retains the same canals and islands of its Italian inspiration, but with a decidedly more exotic atmosphere. Designed to be the midway point between St. Tropez and Frejus, Port Grimaud is now home to some of the wealthiest yacht enthusiasts in the world.
5. Haifa, Israel
Many don’t think of Israel when they think of Mediterranean beach towns, but Haifa is one of the best. Due to its peninsular locale, Haifa is surrounded by the sea on three sides, and offers a luxuriously European environment with a Middle Eastern twist. Lolka Restaurant is hidden in a low-light alley but offers some of the most storied seaside dining in the region.
6. Naxos, Greece
Naxos is known as the greenest island in the area with high mountains and fertile valleys. The beaches are truly pristine and many of the island’s inhabitants still work on looms each day and live off the land. That said, the beautiful landscape has not gone unnoticed and lately the Aegean jet-set crowd is making its way down Naxos’ shores. The Lucullus taverna is a 100-year-old restaurant famous for the freshest grilled octopus in the region.
7. Positano, Italy
While this Amalfi coast destination may not have the same lush, sandy beaches of other resort towns, it makes up for it with views of rocky seaside cliffs. There is also a bountiful selection of luxurious hotels and restaurants. The Hotel Il San Pietro is built into the side of a seaside cliff, and the lobby lift takes guests directly to a private beach.
8. Murcia, Spain
Like Naxos, Murcia is known for being removed from the party scene, but that makes it popular with the art crowd. Murcia is a Spanish strip of long, desolate beaches. The Hotel Rincon de Pepe sits at the town center of Murcia and its bar, La Muralla, is known for its wide selection of liquor. This is the only area of town where original Arab walls still stand.
9. Abruzzo, Italy
While Abruzzo faces the Adriatic, not the Mediterranean, the town’s attitude is nothing short of quintessentially Med. Abruzzo is only 50 miles east of Rome and is home to 21 ski resorts, which makes the region popular both in the summer and winter. Ernesto is an often-recommended classic Italian restaurant that brings back the heydays of 1950s Rome and the bon vivants who made the short drive east here.
10. Menton, France
Menton has some of the most desirable real estate on the planet, sitting snugly between Monaco and Italy. While not wild and raucous like either of its neighbors, it has proved to be a luxurious and lush playground for those looking to relax, rather than party, while on vacation. The Casino Menton is a grand old establishment offering high-stakes gambling and entertainment. Be warned, casino employees only speak French and Italian.