The Italian Riviera is the backdrop of countless dreams, poems, movies, songs, and celebrity romances. Musician John Legend and supermodel Chrissy Teigen spent their honeymoon exploring this magical landscape, as did rock stars Avril Lavigne and Chad Kroeger, as well as TV personality Jimmy Kimmel and Molly McNearney.
Situated between Piedmont and Tuscany, the region of Liguria dazzles with imposing mountain ranges to the north and east, and a pristine Mediterranean coastline to the south and west. In between, visitors will find charming coastal towns, a picturesque landscape rich in greenery, isolated mountaintop villages dating back to ancient times, and the crystal clear waters of the Ligurian Sea.
Considered the most elegant and fashionable locale on the Italian Riviera, travelers to Portofino are in good company with famous fellow visitors like Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Madonna, George Clooney, Humphrey Bogart, and Stephen Spielberg.
The former fishing village is home to less than 500 residents. However, it draws visitors from around the globe with its colorful cliff-side homes lining the bay, underwater reefs, and a breathtaking lighthouse on the slope of the mountain. Portofino is rich in history, and popular sites include the 12th century Castello Brown, as well as the underwater statue of Christ of the Abyss. The village regularly hosts sailboat regattas, spring through fall.
Portovenere and Cinque Terre
Dating back to the middle of the first century B.C., Portovenere and the adjacent five villages of Cinque Terre, which are listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites. They pay tribute to man’s ability to transform the environment through architecture without altering the landscape’s inherent, natural beauty. The Doria castle perched on a cliff-top presides over colorful facades hewn into a rugged relief dropping into the sparkling Mediterranean. The region’s beauty once served as literary inspiration to authors Byron and Shelly, who were known to go for refreshing swims in the clear waters of the so-called Gulf of Poets.
Just north of Portovenere, visitors can cross over to Cinque Terre by ferry. Cinque Terre is a secluded coastal settlement on the Italian Riviera comprised of the quaint villages of Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Riomaggiore, Corniglia, and Manarola. This charming setting allows visitors to discover opulent villas and gorgeous beaches, winding alleys and beautiful churches, charming piazzas and bountiful vineyards. Spectacular hilltop views of the scenery abound. Riomaggiore and Manarola are connected by the Via dell’ Amore hiking path, a distance of less than a quarter of a mile. The trail offers breathtaking vistas of the vineyards, cliffs, and the sea.
Santa Margherita Ligure and Camogli
Approximately 50 miles south of Genoa and 3 miles north of Portofino lies the Italian Riviera harbor town of Santa Margherita Ligure. Must-sees include the Santa Margherita castle, built in 1550 as a defense against pirates from North Africa, the 13th century Basilica di Santa Margherita d’Antiochia, and the Abbazia della Cervara.
Less than eight miles to the west of Santa Margherita Ligure is Camogli. It is a picturesque seaport formerly known as the “City of a Thousand White Sails” thanks to its impressive fleet of ships back in Napoleon’s time. Renowned for its extensive nautical tradition and maritime history, the town’s colorful coastal buildings are said to have guided sailors into the harbor like beacons. Also of interest is the Abbazia di San Fruttuoso, a 10th-century abbey near Camogli. Situated in a small bay, the abbey is only accessible by footpath or boat.
With its idyllic seaside towns and unique landscape, the Italian Riviera is a marriage of glamour and nature too beautiful to miss.