There’s no need to be torn between a cultural city break and a relaxing bit of beach time. Here are five of our favourite spots to spend your days wandering from sunny sands, to cool, shaded galleries and hot musical nights.
Fano – east coast of Italy
Culture: This peaceful village on Italy’s east coast is playing host, from now until September, to a spectacular collection of renaissance art. Over 70 pieces from private collections, many of which are on show for the first time, have been curated by art historian and critic Vittorio Sgarbi. He is using galleries in Fano and nearby towns Pesaro and Urbino to allow the rarer pieces to complement the wealth of renaissance art for which the region is already famous.
Coast: In peak season (around August) Fano’s beaches are fairly popular with holidaying Italians, but it’s understandable when you can go from town into crystal blue sea just by crossing the road. Some beaches are masses of umbrellas, which you have to rent, but there are free spots and always the option of heading north into the Parco Naturale del Monte San Bartolo.
Owner’s tip: Anna Passi of Villa Giulia – “Visit the prettiest beaches on the whole of the Northern Adriatic shore – Portonovo, Sirolo and Numana.”
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Collioure – south-east France
Culture: Collioure is known as the “city of painters” for good reason. It’s most famous as a meeting place of les Fauves, the loose group of artists including Matisse and Derain who gathered there in the early 20th century, but also has an extensive collection in the Museum of Modern Art and a thriving music scene, thanks largely to the Electrobeach festival held a few minutes up the coast.
Coast: Collioure’s cluster of terracotta roofs almost tumbles into the sea on the curve of the bay, separated from the water only by the thin strip of the Plage de Collioure.
Owner’s tip: Michael & Carol of Le Dépôt d’Anchois – “Get a taste of the region’s Catalan influence in the produce of the Wednesday and Sunday markets.”
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Syracuse – east coast of Sicily
Culture: A UNESCO site and already noted for its rich Greek history, culture, amphitheatres and architecture, Syracuse has a vibrant art scene. There are numerous small galleries as well as the majestic contemporary art museum Galleria Civica d’Arte Contemporanea Montevergini, housed in a 14th century monastery.
Coast: The beaches near Syracuse have something for everyone. From calm waters and shaded cafes, to cave systems, livelier waves and the rugged island of Ortigia.
Owner’s tip: Giuseppe Schermi of Primo Passo Sea Garden – “Hire a kayak for a unique perspective on the coastline and access to endless hidden bays.”
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Falmouth – south coast, central Cornwall
Culture: Falmouth University is one of the country’s leading centres for studies of all sorts of new media, from photography and dance to game creation and journalism. It gives the town a youthful, lively spirit spirit that still blends perfectly with more traditional events like the world-renowned sailing regatta and the Sea Shanty Festival.
Coast: Between its many bays and coves, Falmouth has every type of beach you could hope for, from surf spots to quiet sheltered coves and broad shelves studded with rock pools.
Owner’s tip: Carol of Captain’s House – “Walk out to Pendennis Head and watch the boats coming round into the harbour.”
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Girona – north-east Spain
Culture: Girona’s vibrant cultural scene challenges even nearby Barcelona. As well as the instantly recognisable Dali museum in Figueres, the area hosts two major music festivals – Cap Roig in the summer and Temporada Alta in the last three months of the year, both of which gather the leading lights in the performing arts for weeks of incredible events. There are also, as you’d expect from a university town, more informal gatherings in pubs and bars, with venues like Cafe Libreria Context offering an ever-changing programme of poetry and music.
Coast: Scattered down the coast near Girona are numerous villages like Calella de Palafrugel,
Llafranc, Tamariu, Begur, where whitewashed buildings huddle up on the rocks right next to the pale blue water. The bays are often studded with launches from nearby yachts or the personal transport of locals hopping from bay to bay.
Owners tip: Joan of El nus de Pedra – “See the volcanoes of Santa Margarita, one of which has a hermitage in the middle of the crater”
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