Are There Sharks in Italy?

Updated On November 7, 2023

With Italy being a peninsula, it is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea, Tyrrhenian Sea, and other bodies of water.

Sharks are found in many types of water, especially since there are over 400 species around the globe.

Knowing if they are in any water in Italy can help you to use caution any time you go swimming.


So… Are There Sharks in Italy?

With all of the different bodies of water found throughout Italy, there are bound to be sharks somewhere within the country.

There are approximately 47 shark species found in the Mediterranean, so you’ll be more like to spot sharks in such areas as Amalfi, Genoa, and Palermo.

The further off the coast you go, the more likely you are to encounter sharks.

In the last 30 years, there have only been approximately 10 sightings of sharks off the coast of Italy – but they are there.

The majority of the sharks that are in Italian waters are deep-sea species.

This means that you are likely not to encounter them unless you’re a commercial fisherman or an oceanographer.

Sharks aren’t just in the Mediterranean, however.

Another common place they can be found includes the rivers of Venice.

Most of the canals are about two meters deep, so you will likely see them in the water.

It is also why it is highly encouraged that you do NOT go into the water.

Other places where you may encounter sharks include the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Gulf of Naples.

It’s important to note that there are both saltwater and freshwater sharks in the world.

However, there are no freshwater sharks in Europe. What this means is that you are more likely to encounter a shark when you’re in saltwater.

If you find a freshwater body of water in Italy, such as any of the lakes, there won’t be sharks in them.

Instead, the biggest fish you’re likely to encounter is a pike – and they are harmless.

Shark Species in Italy

Out of the 400 species of sharks in the world, approximately 10% of them can be found in and around Italy – with the most predominant one being the Great White Shark.

The Great White is considered to be the most dangerous because of their size as well as their level of aggression.

An adult male can weigh as much as 1700 pounds while an adult female can weigh up to 5,000 pounds.

They can also be as long as 16 feet, which means that they are absolute beasts in the water.

Blue sharks have been found in some of the shallow waters around Italy, though these types of sharks rarely attack humans. In fact, only 9 attacks on humans have been recorded in history.

Another shark species that have been spotted periodically is the tiger shark.

Other shark species that you may encounter include:

  • Shortfin mako
  • Basking
  • Hammerhead
  • Bigeye Thresher
  • Bigeye sixgill
  • Catshark
  • Dogfish
  • Angelshark
  • Angular rough shark

In the canals of Venice, you are more likely to encounter a tiger shark, great white, bull shark, or maco.

The bull shark is particularly common in many bodies of water because they have adapted to conserving mineral salt in its blood.

They can live easily in salt and freshwater, so they’ll be found in oceans, rivers, and seas.

With so many sharks in Italy, it’s hard to know which ones are dangerous and which ones aren’t – and that’s why it’s best to use caution any time you’re going into the water and hear that sharks have been sighted.

Of the sharks found in Italy, there are a few that aren’t considered dangerous because they won’t bite, including the basking shark and thresher shark.

Is It Safe to Swim in Italy

It depends on where you want to swim.

Many of the beaches in the Mediterranean are perfectly safe for swimming – and are very popular.

Lido Beach in Venice is not a great place to swim.

In addition to being a place where there are frequent shark sightings, it is also high in algae.

All of Venice has been listed as having an algae issue, so swimming in the water can lead to strong smells and various health problems.

Currents and undertows can be a problem, so you’ll want to be sure you’re a strong swimmer.

Even then, it’s best to wear a life vest if you’re going to go into some of the deeper water.

When you want to swim in Italy, consider choosing some of the top beaches.

These are known to be safe for residents and tourists alike.

And where there are crowds, there are less likely to be a lot of sharks that want to attack.

Top beaches to swim at include:

  • Isola Bella (Sicily)
  • Cala Goloritze (Sardinia)
  • Camogli Beach (Liguria)
  • Cavoli Beach (Elba)
  • Spiaggia del Fornillo (Positano)

It’s always a good idea to pay attention to the notices that are posted around the body of water as well as on the government website.

This will tell you if there are any concerns about sharks, undertows, or even bacteria.

Most of the time, if there is a safety issue, a park or beach will be closed until the issue is properly addressed.


Interesting Shark Facts in Italy

You’ll find that there are a lot of interesting facts about sharks in Italy – including how Italy has the most recorded shark attacks of any country in Europe.

Since 1900, there have been 50 recorded shark attacks with 11 of them being fatal.

While you can swim in many of the bodies of water in Italy, it’s actually illegal to swim in the canals of Venice.

The main reason is that it would put you in danger of encountering a shark.

That tells you just how many there really are.

There are far fewer great white sharks in the water than there used to be.

They are on the endangered list because fishermen have been catching them for sport and for trophies.

Additionally, their populations have dwindled as a result of water pollution.

Sharks in Freshwater vs. Saltwater

Most of the sharks in the world live in saltwater.

Their blood depends on a certain salt concentration, and it also helps with their buoyancy.

It means they’ll be found in the oceans, seas, and other saltwater bodies of water.

Sharks of almost every species like warm water.

They tend to be found in tropical waters where they can grow large, become predatory, and find plenty of food.

When they stray from bountiful food areas to lesser-stocked bodies of water, they become more likely to attack anything – including humans.

Freshwater sharks are not very common – and they do not exist in Europe.

Freshwater shark has evolved so that they don’t have to live in saltwater.

However, since the water doesn’t have salt, they have to retain salt inside of their bodies.

Without the salt, their cells can rupture, leading them to bloat and die.

Speartooth sharks have the ability to live in saltwater and freshwater.

They can be found in Northern Australia as well as Papua New Guinea.

Ganges sharks are critically endangered, but they are found in some of the rivers of India.

Bull sharks are freshwater and saltwater sharks.

These are found in Italy – and are one of the more common species that will attack humans.

The bull shark only has a 50% salt concentration in its body, making it easy for it to go into virtually any type of water.

You have to be particularly careful with this type of shark as they hide where you least expect them.

Bull sharks tend to have “generic” shark features, making them hard to identify.

They have the ability to swim thousands of miles upriver, so even when a lake or river says that they have no bull sharks, one can always appear – and it’s why using caution is so important.

3 Safety Tips for Swimming in Shark-Infested Waters

Shark-infested waters are dangerous, so if you know that they’re infested, it’s best not to go in.

However, if you do go into the water, there are a few tips to follow.

1. Don’t Enter the Water if You’re Bleeding

Blood of any kind is bad news.

Sharks can smell blood in the water from about three miles away.

Whether a woman is menstruating, or anyone has a cut on themselves, it’s best to stay out of the water.

2. Stay Away from Fishermen

Where there are fishermen, there is bait in the water.

Fish will be swimming toward the bait – and sharks will be looking to make a meal of the fish.

You don’t want to accidentally be seen as a fish to a hungry shark.

3. Don’t Provoke the Sharks

This should go without saying, but most shark attacks are because people felt the need to provoke sharks in the water.

Avoid splashing, causing vibrations in the water, or throwing something at them.


Sharks are found in Italy, so it’s important to do your research about what sharks may be in a particular body of water before you go swimming.

Considering that many of the sharks around the country have been known to attack humans, it’s best not to be anywhere near where the sharks are.

While most lakes are completely safe, coastal areas of the Mediterranean and the canals of Venice are where you’re more likely to encounter sharks.

Italy Safety Overview

READ THE FULL REPORT: Italy Safety Review

Safety Index:

Frequently Asked Questions

How many shark attacks occur every year?

Approximately 75 shark attacks occur around the world every year.

About 4 people will die from these attacks.

What clothing should not be worn in the water?

It’s best not to wear anything brightly colored or metallic.

This can attract a shark and even make it believe that you are a fish as metallic clothing often looks like fish scales underwater.

Why do sharks usually only take one bite during an attack?

Most shark attacks involve a single bite.

We don’t taste good to sharks, so they swim away in disgust.

They also have slow metabolisms, so they couldn’t process all of the bones that we have.

Is it possible to survive a shark attack?

Yes, but you have to be willing to fight.

Often, it’s about getting to land so that you can make sure that your wounds are taken care of.

If you’re being actively attacked, try to gouge its gills or eyes so that you can stun it enough to swim away.

3 Comments on Are There Sharks in Italy?

  1. S
    Shockedone says:

    I’ve literally been swimming in both Lido Beach and the Amalfi

  2. G
    Goldfish says:

    You have been lucky!!!

  3. Italy is a beautiful country with stunning coastlines, but rest assured, there are no sharks to worry about while enjoying the beaches.

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