REGISTRATION NOW OPEN FOR OVERNIGHT TOURS. look here.

The Italian Riviera: What, Where & Why

by Bianca @ Italian Fix

by

Read in 6 minutes

italian-riviera

When we think of the Italian Riviera, we imagine pretty pastel towns, panoramic aperitivo views and dipping our toes into turquoise waters.

The Italian Riviera is a stretch of croissant-shaped coastline wedged between the south of France and Tuscany, and it’s the stuff of photographers’ dreams.

Tiny towns tucked into hillsides. Beautiful boats bobbing at glittery harbors. Salty-air strolls in the sunshine, where wide-brimmed hats and sexy shades come out to play.

That’s what the Italian Riviera feels like.

Read on to dive into our insider intel on the region, plus our top picks for which towns you should consider visiting along the Italian Riviera –– and why!

The Italian Riviera: What You Need to Know

Here are the top things you need to consider when planning your trip and getting a lay of the land sand.

What is the Italian Riviera?

The Italian Riviera is in Liguria, in Italy’s northwestern region. The Riviera is divided by Genoa, Liguria’s capital city, and pretty much all the towns along the Ligurian coastline from the Italian-French border to the Tuscan border are considered fair game for what’s “included.”

What are the Italian Riviera towns and cities to visit?

You may be familiar with villages like Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso (otherwise known as the Cinque Terre), Portofino and Portovenere. Other gorgeous towns include Rapallo, Camogli, Genoa, Ventimiglia, Chiavari, Lerici, and Sestri Levante.

Italian Riviera Beachfront and colourful street

What’s the best time of year to visit the Italian Riviera?

The Italian Riviera is where you go to enjoy the sea, so summertime months are your best bet if you want to catch prime weather (and people-watching). Avoid going anytime between December and February for most of the towns –– it’s a seasonal place, and there won’t be much open to enjoy around then.

How do I get around the Italian Riviera?

It’s super-duper easy to travel the Italian Riviera by rail –– if you’re exploring a couple of spots, we would opt for sticking with the train (you can check Trenitalia for times and ticket prices) and taking the ferry for any day trips you might want to do.

Most importantly –– what should I eat?

The food along this coastal strip is so friggin’ fresh and ideally, part of your meal will be straight outta the sea. Ligurian specialties include Genovese pesto, trofie pasta, anything with anchovies, farinata (chickpea pancakes), torte salate (salted pies), focaccia di Recco and sciacchetra, our favorite dessert wine from the slopes of the Cinque Terre.

Italian Riviera fruit and nuts

 

The Italian Riviera Towns We Adore
Cinque Terre

Our sweet spot. The Cinque Terre isn’t one place –– it’s made up of five main villages: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso, all connected by a short train ride. Cinque Terre is the stuff of postcard-pretty-perfect views, with staircases connecting all shades of pink and yellow buildings in its towns. Part of our team lives here too because it was too darn difficult to resist. Cinque Terre is a seasonal place, and you’ll capitalize on its warm waters, hikes and sunset aperitivi if you plan your trip anytime besides from November to about Easter. In the winter many locals take their holidays, so less is open.

Why this spot floats our boat on the Italian Riviera:

Cinque Terre is one of the few spots where it feels like time is bendy and gets real slow –– in the best way. The time between your morning espresso, a dip in the sea and salumi for lunch could feel like endless hours in the sun… with so much more left over. Because the villages are teeny-tiny, you can enjoy every last bit of them without feeling rushed. They are all pedestrian, which means that traffic is heavily limited and you can walk everywhere.

P.S. We’re Cinque Terre experts. Travel to the Cinque Terre (and have more fun) using our city guide.

 

Italian Riviera Cliff Jumping into the ocean

Camogli

If you’re looking for old-school, timeless Italian Riviera: the cinnamon-colored coastal town of Camogli is it. Often overlooked in favor of neighboring Portofino, it’s actually the secret summer spot for locals in Milan and Turin. It’s got all the perks of the popular places along the Riviera (incredible food, hiking trails, and beaches) but none of the crowd factor. Which means plenty of beach umbrellas to snag at little inlets and all the amaretto pudding you can handle.

Why this spot floats our boat on the Italian Riviera:

You won’t find designer storefronts or yachts dominating the harbor here. Camogli isn’t about serving up glam, and that’s what we love about it. It shows us what the Italian Riviera really was before celebrities made it their home base for catching some sun. That doesn’t mean it isn’t lively (the seaside wine bars are hardly empty), but it’s all under-the-radar in a refreshing way. If you’re looking for Riviera towns less traveled, Camogli is one of our top picks.

Portofino

If you are looking to see what all the fuss is about, you need to see Portofino. In addition to being just about the most gorgeous village on the Italian Riviera, it’s also home base for the likes of Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana. And Madonna! From the marina all the way up to the castello, to the buildings stacked far up in the hills alongside va-va-voom villas, Portofino was made to stare at. Plan to visit during the summer months (and avoid going between December-February), when the town really comes to life.

Why this spot floats our boat on the Italian Riviera:

Two of our fave things to do in Portofino: people-watch and boat around this crescent-shaped village. And shopping, when we can muster up some energy post pesto-laden dishes. Portofino is our excuse to bust out our cute clothes from the wardrobe. Here’s more intel on what to do in Portofino.

Italian Riviera Harbour and Food by the beach

 

Genoa

The capital of Liguria, groovy Genoa is another pretty port city we think more eyes should land on. It’s the perfect jumping-off point to explore the Italian Riviera because it’s smack-dab in the middle of the Ligurian coastline. If the fact that the Genovese invented pesto isn’t a good enough reason to go, their caruggi (old alleys) and gritty grandeur will do the trick. Once a maritime-empire city, Genoa is a mashup of little squares, lush courtyards, and medieval-meets-baroque neighborhoods to transport you back in time. It has an aquarium, oh, and an Eataly.

Why this spot floats our boat on the Italian Riviera:

Like Camogli, Genoa is often passed up in favor of shinier towns like Portofino. If you’re a foodie, that alone is enough of a reason to make Genoa a non-negotiable on your itinerary! We’re talkin’ fried anchovies, violet gelato, oven-roasted snails and classic trofie pasta. With All The Pesto. Seriously! More info on what to eat and why you should visit Genoa here (with recos from locals).

Portovenere

This pretty town is a comfy and quiet base –– many call it the Cinque Terre’s “sixth” village. Portovenere is just one ferry ride away from the Cinque Terre and makes for the perfect day trip if you’re not planning to hunker down here for a couple of days like Byron used to back in the day. Cute cafés, swims in groovy grottos and hiking gorgeous parks are the norm around here.

Why this spot floats our boat on the Italian Riviera:

Portovenere is where we imagine creatives and writers sinking into work on their next big piece. It’s for people who want to be by the sea in a tiny-but-slightly-difficult-to-reach town so that they aren’t overwhelmed by teeming crowds. A spot to find real calm and peace and a lotta aperitivo. Plus: if island-hopping is your thing, Portovenere is next to spots like pretty Palmaria to check out as well.

Italian Riviera Courtyard lights and local menu

 

Ventimiglia

Ventimiglia is the last stop on the Italian Riviera before crossing over into France and is home to layered history and ancient sites. Divided by the Roia River, Ventimiglia is literally split between the walled old town and the new parts of the city, where boardwalk shopping for handmade leather goods and sprinkles of colorful houses are a total dream.

Why this spot floats our boat on the Italian Riviera:

Its 12th century castle inspired Monet for a reason: this town straddles a duality and depth that’s hard to find. It’s got caves that point to some of the first evidence of humans, and beaches with a cool blue that’s unique to the area. Its botanical gardens house nearly 6,000 plant species from around the world. You’ll find traces of the Romans everywhere, from baths to streets. And their cold butternut squash ravioli wins our tummies over every time.

****

Italian Riviera Wine TastingItalian Riviera Harbour and Boats

 

Want more intel on what’s hot along Italy’s coast? Check out these posts:

Now, over to you –– which town on the Italian Riviera are you itching to visit? Got questions about planning your trip? Pop them in the comments below.

Leave a Reply

avatar
  Subscribe  
Notify of

Previous post:

Next post: