(By Christopher Livesay) Rome, May 14 - The number of Italian beaches to be awarded the prestigious Blue Flag award for clean water and pristine sands has risen this year, the international Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) said on Tuesday. Italian seaside resorts awarded a Blue Flag in 2013 were 135, four more than last year, for a total of 248 top beaches. Some 86% of last year's Blue Flag beaches were confirmed this year while nine new entries included resorts in Carrara, Tuscany, Francavilla al Mare in Abruzzo and a lake beach resort in Levico Terme, in the north-eastern Trentino-Alto Adige region. The northwest coastal region of Liguria has the cleanest beaches in Italy, 20, two more than last year, followed by the central Marche region with 18 and Tuscany with 17, one more than last year. Among Italian islands, Sardinia, known worldwide for its crystalline waters and luxury Emerald Coast resorts, received an added Blue Flag for a total of seven while Sicily lost one, for a total of four Blue Flag beaches. Blue Flag looks at sustainable development employing strict criteria on water quality, environmental education and management, safety and services. Blue Flag has worked with the United Nations' Environment Programme and analysed beaches and marinas worldwide since 1987 to monitor quality and cleanliness. Earlier this year, travel website TripAdvisor decided that the world's most beautiful beach is found in Sicily, beating sand-and-sea destinations in the Caribbean and Australia. Spiaggia dei Conigli, or Rabbit Beach, at Lampedusa in Sicily boasts white sand and a crystal-clear sea in an unspoiled setting near a nature reserve where each spring, sea turtles lay their eggs, says TripAdvisor. Ranked below Lampedusa are such beaches as Grace Bay, Providenciales, in the Turks and Caicos islands; Whitehaven Beach in Australia; and Brazil's Baia do Sancho. Italy also ranks in TripAdvisor's European-specific best beach ratings with La Pelosa di Stintino, in Sardegna, ranked as eighth best. When it comes to water purity, a health ministry study last year said the best waters for bathing in Italy are in Veneto, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Emilia-Romagna, Basilicata, Sicily and Sardinia. The worst are in Campania, Abruzzo and Liguria, said the survey. Water quality was evaluated largely on the presence of two bacteria, Enterococchi and Escherichia coli.