When visiting the Italian Riviera, having someone that is more than a tour guide can make the difference between a nice trip and an unforgettable, quality experience. Not only can qualified insiders help you save time and avoid tourist traps, they make the destination come alive with local anecdotes and insider access.
Today we meet Giulia, one of our insiders for the areas of Cinque Terre and Portofino.
This interview allows you to meet a member of Beautiful Liguria’s team, and also provides a unique occasion to have tips and opinions on the territory by a local expert.
Giulia was born and raised in Genoa. After graduating in Natural Sciences and specializing in Environmental, Public &Marketing Communication, she worked in the fields of scientific divulgation, and later obtained the license as environmental guide for the provinces of Genoa and La Spezia.
She shares an interesting fact about herself: “Among the qualities that a guide should have, although it is often taken for granted, is the voice: we must know how to make ourselves heard and, above all, we need to know how to use our voice. For this and other reasons, I fell in love with choral singing and now I am a soprano in two different choirs – Jingle Jam Singers and Coremì”.
So, imagine Giulia’s soothing and firm voice as you read the interview about her experience as a tour guide for the Cinque Terre – Portofino area.
What are the trekking trails that you love the most?
Not an easy question, because my work is first of all a passion, and the paths that I travel in Liguria are many. For beginners, an easy and beautiful trail goes from Santa Magherita Ligure to Portofino with a hike of about 2.5 hours, or you can stretch until San Fruttuoso for a total of 3 or 4 hours.
As you walk, you are surrounded by the Mediterranean vegetation that alternates with holm-oak woods. At first you travel along the eastern side of the Promontory of Portofino, and later along the south, always facing the sea.
At the beginning the climb is very gentle, the views range from the entire Gulf of Tigullio to the Cinque Terre and beyond if the sky is clear. The descent on Portofino (and eventually San Fruttuoso) offers unique views on these 2 little jewels.
A beautiful trail, but for expert hikers, is the one between Riomaggiore and Portovenere.
Here the difference in altitude is greater (about 600 meters), although the most difficult part is towards the end when you descend towards Portovenere after 5-6 hours. But it’s definitely worth it: even here you can admire beautiful views of the Cinque Terre and of the Gulf of Poets with its islands.
You arrive in Portovenere from above, passing near the Castle.
What is the question that tourists ask you most frequently?
In pole position among the FAQ is how much it costs to buy or rent a house in the different locations. Also, Americans in particular ask me about the purpose of the persiane shutters.
Sciachetrà, Limoncino, Cinque Terre DOC, fresh lemonade… what is your favorite local drink?
Lemonade and tangerine juice from Monte di Portofino. Refreshing!
What about your favorite typical dish?
I am Genoese: a good pesto, made with basil from Prà and just a few ingredients as dictated by the original recipe, is part of my weekly diet. Superb if combined with good trofie, perhaps with potatoes and green beans.
Would you like to share a tip as a local?
Liguria is perfect even in winter. There are many sunny days (even more than during the mid-seasons) and the mild weather allows you to enjoy outdoor activities.
This is the season I prefer for my personal excursions and visits in my region, it is also the time when the most popular destinations are quiet and livable.
Both Cinque Terre and Portofino are among the most photographed and “instagrammed” destinations. Any advice for places where you can take pictures with unusual or lesser-known views?
The view of Portofino from the terraces of Castello Brown; the Gulf of Tigullio seen from the Lighthouse of Portofino; the coast from Camogli to Genoa to be admired from Ruta di Camogli; the panorama of Golfo Paradiso from San Rocco di Camogli.
Another gem is Portofino in a “three-lake version”: going up the Fondaco path that starts at the bottom of the village, you can see Portofino in such a perspective that the bay looks like a small lake while the peninsula seems to divide the sea in two more lakes.
And the Cinque Terre can be photographed from S. Antonio al Mesco; Santuario di Soviore (Monterosso); the terrace at the end of Corniglia; the terraces near Volastra at the beginning of the path that goes towards Corniglia; Santuario di Montenero (Riomaggiore) and even from the Station of Monterosso.
How many days do you need for an ideal visit?
I recommend at least 4/5 days, especially if you love hiking, so that you have time to enjoy both the excursions in the nature trails and the visits in the different villages.
In your opinion, what are the things that strike the most the visitors that you accompany?
Most tourists arrive because they are attracted by the landscape of these places, which is indeed something unique and striking. After they get to know the area and to taste what it has to offer, what strikes visitors is how man has contributed to creating this environment and how he has worked and continues to work in synergy with it.
Another thing that often leaves them stunned, especially non-Europeans, is the “amount of history” (these are the exact words I’ve heard repeatedly).
What is your favorite attraction?
This is another complicated question, there are wonders everywhere…
Perhaps the Abbey of San Fruttuoso, because it really represents something unique for its position (set in the middle of the southern slope of the Promontory of Portofino, accessible only by sea or on foot), for its history and for its simplicity.
Thank you, Giulia!
Do you want to explore the Cinque Terre and Portofino with one of our insiders? More Tips and ideas?