The Italian or Ligurian Riviera, a coastal strip that lies between the South of France and the Tuscany borders is a very popular holiday spot. Colourful seaside villages, panoramic views, the blue of the Mediterranean Sea and the stunning beaches make this part of Italy a piece of heaven.
On my recent trip to Italy, I had the chance to visit some of the most pretty Italian Riviera cities and towns. I was amazed by the beauty of the region and the many activities it offers to visitors. From swimming to clear blue waters, fishing, hiking, shopping in boutiques, to eating local delicacies and tasting the region’s wines, the Italian Riviera has something for everyone.
8 Italian Riviera cities and towns you have to visit
Portovenere a seaside village located on the Ligurian coast was designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Many visitors tend to visit the neighbourhood Cinque Terre villages and leave Portovenere out. For me, Portovenere is a hidden gem that definitely deserves a visit. This small town has a lot to offer; an old castle, beautiful churches, colourful houses, the nearby islands of Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto which are perfect for a cruise, many caves to explore and crystal clear waters.
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It’s the most Southern village of the Cinque Terre. This colourful village is divided into two by the railway lines. The lower part is the fisherman village, where you will see small fishing boats, excellent restaurants, and a rocky beach at the side and the upper part where is the agricultural village. The main street of the village called Via Colombo has many take away restaurants serving fresh fish, bars and souvenir shops. The road is very steep and has many steps. From Riomaggiore starts the famous hiking path called Via dell’ Amore that leads to Manarola. Unfortunately, the path is closed due to many rockslides caused by a flood.
Another seaside village of the Cinque Terre. The best way to see it is by boat or by taking the path from Manarola towards the village of Corniglia. The path is currently closed, but there is a small part open. From there you can enjoy one of the most breathtaking views of the village. During summer the light is better in the afternoon if you are interested in taking photos. If you walk a little bit further from there, you will find some big rocks that are perfect for sun- bathing and swimming.
Corniglia is the only village of the Cinque Terre that doesn’t have a harbour. It’s actually located 100 meters above sea level and is the smallest and quietest of all. To get there from the train station you have to climb 382 steps. Alternatively, you can take a bus to the village. If you have the Cinque Terre card, the bus is free. The bus will leave you at a big square. Follow the sigh towards Centro, where through a small alley with shops, bars, and gelaterias you will end up at Corniglia’s main square. From there if you walk further down you will end up in a terrace from where you can admire the whole coast and the other villages of the Cinque Terre. Don’t forget to try some gelato at the Gelateria of Alberto. It makes the best ice cream in the whole Cinque Terre. Even though we didn’t stay in Corniglia, we went twice just for the ice cream. Corniglia is a very charming village.
Vernazza is considered the most beautiful village of the Cinque Terre. It is also the most touristy one so if you want to visit during the high season do it early in the morning or in the afternoon. The centre of Vernazza is Piazza Marconi. There you can sit and have dinner in one of the restaurants, or sit on the bench and admire the view and the fishing boats. There is also a small sandy beach where you can swim, or you can dive from the rocks. If you take the path towards Monterosso al Mare, you will admire the most spectacular views of Vernazza. The same applies if you take the path towards Corniglia.
Monterosso al Mare
Monterosso is the biggest village of the Cinque Terre and the easiest to get around. If you are traveling with kids and elderly people, this is your best choice. Monterosso also has a big sandy beach with umbrellas and sunbeds, many hotels, restaurants, and nightlife compared to the other villages of the Cinque Terre. The historical center is very beautiful with little alleys, pastel houses, and small shops. Don’t forget to climb to San Cristoforo Hill to admire the best views of the coastline. Once there you can visit the Convent of Cappuccini and the Church of San Francesco.
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Santa Margherita Ligure
I only went to Santa Margherita because from there you can take the boat or bus to Portofino. I am glad that I did because it’s a very charming Italian Riviera town with pastel houses, elegant hotels and restaurants, sandy beaches and a nice marina with yachts. Don’t forget to check the statue of Vittorio Emanuelle II the first king of Italy and the statue of Cristoforo Colombo who was born in the area. On the surrounding hills, you will also see some amazing villas.
Portofino used to be a small fishing village. Now it’s a posh resort with expensive hotels, excellent restaurants, and boutiques with brands like Gucci, Dior and more. It’s a very picturesque village with colourful houses, a small harbour with fishing boats and yachts. After walking around the villages and eating a gelato take the road towards Castello Brown. There is an entrance fee to get inside but the view of Portofino from above is breathtaking. The only way to get to Portofino is by taking a bus or ferry from Santa Margherita or hike either by the coastal road or over the hills.
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Have you visited any Italian Riviera cities? Which was your favourite?