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Italian Riviera/Cinque Terre

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Did You Know … ?

  • Pesto was created on the Italian Riviera.
  • Bordighera supplies the palm fronds to the Vatican for Palm Sunday services.
  • Portovenere’s seaside houses were built like a scrimmage line to protect against outside attackers.
  • Liguria’s 40 marinas have about 25.000 boat berths, a quarter of all berths in Italy.
  • Portofino is said to be the world’s most photographed village.

Where fun seekers gather

The Italian Riviera is the stretch of coastline extending in a 186-mile arc extending east from Italy’s seaside border with France. The region, on the map, is called Liguria.

The Italian Riviera has the attractions any self-respecting pleasure seeker expects of a place in southern Europe that is called Riviera — fine restaurants, charming hotels, hillside villas overlooking blue waters, sandy beaches, fishing villages, brightly painted houses, casinos and lots of sunshine.

Mountains provide a striking backdrop to all these charms. Not surprisingly, the Italian Riviera, as with its French counterpart, attracts its share of artists, aristocrats and assorted wealthy travelers.

Genoa, Italy’s largest port, sits at the middle of the arc and cuts this Riviera into two parts. West of Genoa, the Riviera di Ponente (Setting Sun) is treasured for its beaches and for fashionable resorts such as San Remo, a city famed for its flowers and casino. East of Genoa, the Riviera di Levante (Rising Sun) is known for a rockier terrain and colorful fishing villages.

Some of Italy’s most famous and appealing Riviera destinations are in its eastern Riviera, Running generally northwest to southeast, they include:

  • Camogli, an authentic fishing port with richly colored houses and a beach, a good base for exploring the region.
  • Portofino, one of the most expensive resorts on Italy’s Riviera. But Portofino has everything: clear bays, pastel houses, private villas, shopping, fine dining, mountains, forests and a national park.
  • Santa Margherita Ligure, a resort with the de rigueur palm trees and cafes, plus a marina loved by yachters. Some older buildings are notable for their trompe l’oeil frescoes.
  • Rapallo, an established resort town with a pretty harbor, a seafront promenade — and a medieval castle for good measure.
  • Monterosso and four other villages known collectively as Cinque Terre and packaged together as the Cinque Terre National Park. They sit below or on terrain so steep they are only accessible by train, boat or foot.
  • Portovenere, set at the end of a peninsula, remarkable for its colorful narrow houses, steep walkways and narrow alleys. It is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site in combination with the Cinque Terre villages.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Suit up for the sea and go scuba diving in order to explore under the area’s stunning waters.
  • Book a Slow Fishing experience, which involves spending a day with local fishermen learning about traditional fishing methods and savoring freshly caught and prepared fish. Slow Fishing complements the Slow Food movement, which champions small local food sources.
  • Rent a mountain bike to explore the mountains behind fishing villages on the Riviera.
  • Go canyoning in the Vara Valley, or head to the Vara River for rafting.
  • Come to La Spezia in August for the area’s palio race (which here means boat racing, not horseracing) involving 13 seaside villages. The event also includes parades, allegorical floats and fireworks.
  • Take a course in deep-sea sailing, a technique used to face the open sea.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Attend the San Remo Music Festival in February. Or, maybe the International Boat Show, held in the fall in Genoa, is your cup of tea.
  • Take the train to the five villages known collectively as Cinque Terre, then get your exercise walking up and down to see each of them.
  • For a romantic stroll, choose the Via dell’Amore between Manarola and Riogmaggiore. It is for pedestrians only and was dug out of the rocks halfway up the hill overlooking the sea.
  • Eat local foods, such as the famous stuffed pie, torta Pasqualina, a thin pastry stuffed with greens, cheese and eggs. And, take multiple opportunities to have foods made with pesto.
  • Hike or cycle along one of nine prepared itineraries that take you from vineyard to vineyard in Liguria. Itineraries contemplate excursions of from a few hours to three days.
  • Learn about the area’s wine and oils by following the 79-mile La Strada del Vino e dell’Olio (Wine and Oil Route) from the Col di Nava to the Spotorno, on the coast of Italy’s Riviera west of Genoa.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Take a boat tour at Portovenere to visit the Azzurra grotto on the nearby island of Palmaria.
  • Devote time to the beaches on the Italian Riviera west of Genoa.
  • Time your visit to attend the Festival of Lemons, held annually the Saturday before Ascension in Monterosso. It features food and wine stands, music, literary and art contests plus prizes for the largest citrus fruit.
  • The Ligurian coast area has the highest concentration of aquatic mammals in the Mediterranean, so go whale watching.
  • Try your luck at the casino in San Remo.
  • Build an itinerary around a selection of the 26 villas and gardens that are part of the network, un Mare di Giardini, or a Sea of Gardens.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the Italian Government Tourist Board at www.italia.it and choose your language if necessary.