Located along the top of Italy’s boot, stretching from France to Tuscany, Liguria is a boomerang-shaped ribbon of land renowned for its beautiful beaches, colorful towns and fabulous cuisine. The area’s mostly rocky coastline (also referred to as the Italian Riviera) rises to meet the steep mountainous terrain of the Maritime Alps. Mild climate is the result of this geography, making Liguria one of Europe’s favorite year-round holiday destinations. Brightly colored homes perch precariously among the steep cliffs, seemingly ready to spill into the deep sea below.
Liguria is a land of contrasts. The coastline runs 315 km long, containing many beaches, from pebble-strewn to sandy ribbons to rocky coves. The width of Liguria ranges from seven to 35 km, consisting mostly of hillside towns and villages. The most convenient airports are Genoa, Pisa and Nice, and there is frequent train service between the coastal towns. Busses run regularly to the hillside villages.
The area produces world-renowned olive oil that some argue is more delicate than that of Tuscany. High-quality wines, flowers and pesto are also specialty exports. Despite its dense population, forest covers half of Liguria.
Sanremo is the western-most town close to the border of France. Take a motorboat tour from old harbor Sanremo to view the gut-wrenchingly beautiful coastline from the water. Visit the colorful morning market in the tower square. Spend the afternoon shopping the downtown streets of Sanremo with shops ranging from souvenir, artisan, fashion boutiques to specialty food shops.
A bit to the northeast of Sanremo, Bussana Vecchia was destroyed in the late 1800’s by a violent earthquake. The village remained uninhabited for nearly sixty years until a group of hippie artists moved in (illegally) and it is now known as the International Artists Village.
Liguria’s major city is Genoa, a bustling port city said to be the Europe’s largest medieval quarter. The historic center offers the visitor an array of museums, palaces and churches. The city also boasts Europe’s second-largest aquarium. Visit one (or all) three monasteries—better yet, stay at one for a unique experience.
Terraced hillsides contain some of Italy’s famous Cliffside villages, including (but not limited to) Portofino and Cinque Terre.
South of Genoa lays Portofino, one of Liguria’s prettiest harbor towns. The colorfully painted buildings and cobbled, narrow streets lend Portofino an air of tranquility that begs the visitor to sip a beverage at a local café while watching the boats go in and out of the lively harbor.
Further south lays the towns of Santa Margherita Ligure and Rapallo before reaching the famed rugged beauty of Cinque Terre-which translates to five lands for its five small villages that cling to the jagged coastline. This area is increasingly popular with the hiking and backpacking tourists. Two sets of trails connect the Cinque Terre towns; route 1 goes above the towns and route 2 goes between the towns closer to the sea. It is possible to hike the entire route 2 in five-six hours. Note that it is required to purchase a trail pass to hike the trails. If you plan to take the train between towns, buy the Cinque Terre Card, it gives you access to both trains and trails for an entire day. The coastline of the Cinque Terre is National Park and has initiated a sustainable level of tourism, maintaining the region’s local character and beauty.
No matter where you travel in Italy’s Ligurian Coast, you will be rewarded with some of Europe’s most beautiful seascapes.