Perhaps it is the contrast between the mountains and the sea, lapping against a cresent coast which forms the fabulous Italian Riviera, the most visually appealing feature of Liguria - my families ancestral home. Located in north-western Italy, bordering with France in its westernmost point, Liguria is a land of towering mountains and rolling hills covered by Mediterranean scrub overlooking the high and rugged coastline of the Ligurian Sea.
The most impressive stretch of this coastline is of course the world-famous Cinque Terre, which, along with Portovenere, Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto, have been declared a Unesco World Heritage site. In the Cinque Terre, colorful houses and vineyards cling to steep terraces where Sciacchetrà wine is produced; walking paths, local trains and boats connect the villages of Manarola, Riomaggiore, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso, historic and colorful ‘borghi’ in spectacular seaside locations.
The Gulf of La Spezia nearby, also known as the Gulf of Poets, is the stretch of coast closest to Tuscany, and takes its nickname from the many writers who chose it as their residence, including British poets Byron and Shelley. Some sights not to miss here include colorful Portovenere, and the island in front of it, Palmaria, and a visit to the Blue Cave; Lerici and its castle; and Tellaro, considered one of the most beautiful villages in Italy. Moving westward along the coast, you’ll soon find glitzy Portofino, the picturesque former fishing village turned into glamorous international destination, with luxury yachts anchored in the small harbor. Sit in the piazzetta for an aperitivo to soak in the atmosphere. Take the 20-minute boat trip to the tiny island of San Fruttuoso, an isolated village of fishermen with a small beach and a Benedictine abbey. The best way to reach Portofino? By driving the old coastal road Via Aurelia, which starts at Nervi and passes the towns of Camogli, Santa Margherita Ligure, Rapallo, Chiavari and Sestri Levante, affording great coastal views. If you decide to spend a few days in this area Santa Margherita Ligure is much more affordable and literally a 10min. bus ride along the same bay as Portofino.
Towns worth a stop include Santa Margherita Ligure (a great place to stay while in the area - less expensive than Portofino and literally a 5min. bus ride away), which features an elegant seafront promenade lined with shops, bars, restaurants and more yachts; Rapallo, with the Sanctuary of Montallegro for a beautiful view; Chiavari, with its old streets and the Basilica dei Fieschi; Sestri Levante, with a picturesque port called the Bay of Silence. Climb to the Parco dei Castelli at the top of the cape for a beautiful view of the Ligurian coast.
Genoa, the capital of Liguria, divides the coast in Riviera di Levante (Eastern Riviera, described above) and Riviera di Ponente (Western Riviera). Genoa was for centuries a powerful maritime republic and its close relationship to the sea is still strong today. The birthplace of Christopher Columbus and Niccolò Paganini, Genoa has been nicknamed la Superba (“the Proud one”) because of its glorious past and impressive landmarks. Part of the old town of Genoa, with its characteristic ‘carruggi’, narrow alleys, was inscribed on Unesco World Heritage List in 2006. Part of the Unesco inscription are also the Palazzi dei Rolli, extraordinary palaces built in the 16th century to host visiting politicians and noble personalities. Not to be missed in Genoa is the Aquarium, the largest in Italy and second largest in Europe.
West of Genoa is the Riviera dei Fiori (the Coast of Flowers), best visited by driving along the old coastal road Via Aurelia. Explore Albenga, known for its towers and historic monuments; Alassio, with a little church that has a prime view of the town below; Taggia, where you can admire the houses dating back to the 14th and 15th centuries; Sanremo with its elegant Corso Imperatrice promenade, a casino and the medieval neighborhood of La Pigna; and Bordighera, which has a magnificent seafront promenade and old town area.
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Tony Moglia's grandparents immigrated from Italy in the early 1900's. He's a dual citizen who has traveled extensively throughout Italy for 40 years. He's happily married to a vibrant dancer who together have two children and three grandchildren. Tony has dreamed of Villas of Italy since his first trip to Italy, and now he shares his dream with you.