The Italian Almanac

island of Giglio

Best Beaches

The beaches of Tuscany and Sardinia stole the show when Italy's largest environmentalist group presented its annual guide to the best coastal resorts in the country. The Tuscan island of Giglio was crowned the pearl of Italy in a chart of 54 beaches that received the Guida Blu's prestigious five ''sails'' - the first time in the guide's eight-year history that an entire island has stolen the number one slot - while ten other beaches in the region also made the grade. Sardinia had the most beaches on the list with a total of 14, including three in the top ten.

The guide, produced each year by Legambiente and the Italian Touring Club, takes more than 130 factors into account when handing out its 'sails of approval', ranging from clean blue seas, unpolluted sands and spectacular scenery to art, cuisine and respect for the environment. ''This year's Guida Blu presents a snapshot of what Legambiente believes to be the best on offer in Italy,'' said the association's national president, Vittorio Cogliati Dezza. ''The beaches chosen are not only places of great natural value but are also where local councils have made sustainability and safeguarding of the environment a priority,'' he explained.

Sicily also performed well in this year's guide, with nine beaches claiming five sails overall and the small Aeolian Island of Salina appearing in the top ten. With seven beaches on the list, including Nardo' near Lecce at number five, the southern region of Puglia also put in a respectable appearance. The trash-hit region of Campania was under-represented in this year's list, although the resort of Pollica made the second slot.Last year's number one, Tuscany's Capalbio, dropped to fourth place after the famous Cinque Terre coast in Liguria.

For the second year running, the Guida Blu also included a run-down of Italian lakes, which attract around 24 million people each year. Five sails were awarded to resorts on three Italian lakes: Caldaro (Bolzano, Trentino-Alto Adige), Santa Croce (Belluno, Veneto), and Garda (Verona, Veneto).