Interspersed with popular beach towns like Portofino, this narrow stretch of Mediterranean coastline near Italy’s Ligurian coast is a summer dream and more.
Full of charming seaside towns and villages, brightly colored cave dwellings with turquoise roofs, the Italian Riviera is a culmination of the best that Liguria, France and Italy have to offer, especially if you have long summer weekends to walk and explore.
From Genoa to Boccadasse, we highlight our favorite experiences to help you discover the best of this region.
Coastal culture of the Western Ligurian Riviera in Savona
Get off the boat near Savona and you’ll understand why the Riviera is not just a coastline, but a destination in itself. This large Italian port city is a great introduction to all that lies ahead: hilltop villages, private beaches, chic beachfront Airbnbs designed for luxury, and natural hiking trails.
Although Savona’s fortifications are the only ones that survived the Genoese hordes in the 16th century, you’ll still have no trouble understanding the city through the countless stories that resonate in the popular medieval center. And an espresso and Vino e Farinata in a pan is never a bad idea.
Try the typical Genovese pasta below Genovese
With impressive flavors such as Parmigiano Reggiano (Italian hard parmesan) and Sangiovese (Ligurian wine), Genoa has some of the most beloved pasta dishes in the country. The famous Pasta alla Genovese – a classic Ligurian dish made with al dente pasta, diced potatoes and pesto – is best enjoyed in Sà Pesta. Pair it with a glass of Scimiscià or Prescinsêua (also called quagliata) and you’re in.
Visit the elegant port of Portofino
Swap an hour of your morning sleep for the golden hour to discover Portofino’s harbor life. This former fishing village is one of the most popular holiday destinations, thanks to its uniqueness due to its location on an enclosed peninsula with must-see gourmet hotels that can tempt you for hours.
You’ll need several orders of Focaccia al Formaggio to get you across the harbor and stuff if you’re trying to go to Castello Brown the next morning.
Sail along the Ligurian coast on a traditional sailboat
Escape the crowds on the waterfront and gently cruise the Northwest waters to soak up the Italian sun on a classic tall ship. Enjoy the sparkling views of the Gulf of Genoa while sipping Ligurian wines and explore the must-see grape landscape. If you want to go on an adventure to relax, nearby and nearby islets can serve as snorkeling and scuba diving stops where you can find local marine life, fish culture and all the sights.
Explore Piazza de Ferrari during the aperitif hour
In 1786, the distiller Antonio Benedetto Carpano developed the first variations of vermouth and the new modern aperitif, a pre-meal ritual of white wine fortified with added spices that he claims increase the appetite. Although it is unclear where the word aperitivo comes from, the term can be traced back to the Latin meaning “open”, meaning consumed before dinner. Today, Genoa’s Piazza De Ferrari is an excellent place to follow this tradition, as people gather in the city squares or central area from 5pm to 9pm and enjoy drinks from fino sherry to amontillado.
Spend hours walking around the old port
Porto Antico di Genova, or the old port overlooking the main bay, is well-established in the Mediterranean, named after the port of Trieste as one of Italy’s busiest commercial ports. In recent years, this 22-kilometer-long maritime area has also become a cultural icon in the presentation of tourism and entertainment services. Start your journey on the seafront, full of small cafes, roadside restaurants and shopping streets, and walk to visit monuments such as the Maritime Museum, the Genoa Aquarium, the Biosphere Botanical Garden, just in time to admire the sunset.
Excursion in the Cinque Terre National Park
Located in the province of La Spezia in Liguria, the Cinque Terre National Park is the smallest of its kind in Italy, covering an area of 39 square kilometers of steep terrain and dense nature. With five distinct coastal towns – Corniglia, Vernazza, Riomaggiore, Manarola, and Monterosso al Mare – visitors can take many hiking trails and visit local villages to get a taste of Italian cuisine. While the national park itself is free and open to tourism, Monterosso-Vernazza and Vernazza-Corniglia are two routes that require special permits to access. The most popular way to explore the area is to invest in a Cinque Terre rail pass, which gives you unlimited access to the train lines and access to hiking trails for a fee.
Drive along the coast of the Gulf of Tigullio
The roads along the Gulf of Tigullio are widely regarded as the most beautiful stretch of coast on Italy’s Rivera, with miles of crystal clear sea, a landscape of rocky cliffs and tawny houses near the coast that glisten in the dark. Add to that the cheerful bustle of Punta Manara headland and reward dinner on the beach at Portofino headland, and this road trip offers one of the most serene driving experiences in southern Europe.
Walk from Corso Italia to Boccadasse
The 2.5 km long Corso Italia promenade runs east from the center of Genoa and passes Boccadasse, a famous old fishing village perfect for a stroll, an ice cream and an aperitif before ending the evening. Immediately behind it, the road passes Capo di Santa Chiara, one of the best vantage points to admire the breathtaking view of the pastel-colored villas.
Skip the wine tour for the olive oil tasting
Winery and winery tours and tastings are a recommended part of any trip to Italy, but why not skip the long lines and busy vineyards for equally enriching liquid gold? Hang your hat at a local olive oil factory like the one near Santo Stefano di Magra (Bassa Lunigiana) and lose yourself in a rural experience as you learn to distinguish the wide variety of olive oils produced in and around Italy. If you want to extend your trip, combine your tasting with a guided food tour that showcases the olive oil you just tasted with dishes like pesto, cod, mesciua, and more.