The Italian Riviera, an evocative name for the beautiful Italian region of Liguria, is a strip of land that extends from the border with France all the way to Tuscany.
Liguria is a concentrate of unmissable places: here you will find history, pristine nature, colorful villages, delicious food and a touch of glamour too.
With this article we will guide you through the top places to go on the Italian Riviera between Genoa and Tuscany, ie the eastern part of the region which is also the most well known worldwide.
Let’s start with the capital town of Liguria: Genoa.
This city, the sixth largest in Italy, is located right in the center of the region and has always been well known for its important role in commerce throughout the centuries.
Genoa was one of the medieval maritime republics together with Venice, Pisa and Amalfi. Even today you can still feel an omnipresent historic atmosphere while walking around the city’s historical center and along the old port, bumping into historical shops and countless monuments, churches and sculptures at every corner.
Genoa boasts the second largest historical center in Europe after Venice: a real maze of alleys full of contrasts where you can find the true soul of the city between testimonies of antiquity and modern shops with a hipster feel.
Interested in visiting Genoa? Don’t miss the 10 Top unique and unusual things to do in Genoa.
Let’s now move eastwards, along the coastline. Not far from Genoa we encounter the beautiful “Golfo Paradiso” (Paradise Gulf). Among the 7 villages of this gulf is beautiful Camogli, a colorful fishing village, too often neglected by tourists.
It is said that the name “Camogli” comes from “Casa de Moglie” (house of wives) because when the ship captains left the town to sail their wives remained at home waiting for them.
Camogli is home to the “Sagra del Pesce”, fish festival which takes place in May every year, where a giant frying pan is used to fry fish for up to 30.000 people!
On the rest of the year, Camogli is the perfect place to enjoy this part of Liguria, being very close to Portofino and away from its crowds at the same time.
Another town of Golfo Paradiso that is worth mentioning is Recco thanks to its very popular “focaccia” made with local cheese.
The original recipe is only served here so if you’re a foodie don’t miss it!
Golfo del Tigullio
Immediately after Camogli is Portofino, the most famous town in the Golfo del Tigullio and easily among the most famous in Italy too.
Here, you will find exclusive hotels and boutiques, typical restaurants serving fish specialties, mega yachts and celebrities, all in a tiny fishing village surrounded by Mount Portofino and the sea.
Despite its glamourous side, there is a growing “off the beaten path” part of Portofino that deserves to be discovered. Did you know you can visit an old mill and its hops, bees’ wood, vineyard and olive grove? And of course have a delicious lunch based on local specialties like pasta with pesto and vegetable quiches.
In the last few years, local producers began recovering abandoned lands with the aim to develop sustainable agriculture and sustainable tourism in Portofino.
The area called Golfo del Tigullio refers to all the towns – hinterland included – between Portofino and Sestri Levante included.
Santa Margherita Ligure
After Portofino, eastwards, is Santa Margherita Ligure, another picturesque and colorful town with a beautiful seaside promenade sprinkled with boutiques and typical restaurants, trendy bars and nightlife too.
While in Santa Margherita keep an eye on the buildings to see the finest Ligurian trompe l’oeil representing windows, architecture and some characters too. Another landmark not to miss is the Renaissance Villa Durazzo-Centurione with its frescos, trompe l’oeil and a wonderful Italian garden with fountains and statues.
Both Portofino and Santa Margherita Ligure are very popular for yacht owners during the summer, the best time to explore the area by sea enjoying the local landscapes and the best views of the towns.
Another town we recommend visiting while in this area is Chiavari. Thanks to the fact that this is not an extremely touristy place, it feels authentic, with its markets, medieval city center and artisan workshops.
In Chiavari you can truly live like a local!
Last but not least, make sure to visit Sestri Levante, the “town of the two bays”: Baia delle Favole, (Bay of the Fables), and Baia del Silenzio, the (Bay of Silence).
Together with Santa Margherita Ligure, Sestri Levante has a young vibe, good nightlife and a rich cultural life, all framed by a beautiful natural landscape.
Cinque Terre (which means “Five Lands”) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site area that comprises five villages – Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore – and the surrounding hills.
Tourists from all over the world flock to Cinque Terre throughout the year but mainly during the summer to discover the unique views of the five picture-perfect villages overhanging the sea.
The Cinque Terre can be explored by boat, train or by foot, with scenic hikes on steep hills covered in olive trees and vineyards.
This is definitely bucket list material!
Porto Venere and Golfo dei Poeti
Porto Venere of Portovenere (which means “Venus Harbor”) is a true gem that is too often overlooked by tourists because of the world-famous nearby Cinque Terre that unfortunately grab up the whole scene.
The town lies on the western side of a peninsula that forms the beginning of “Golfo dei Poeti” (which means “Gulf of Poets”).
At the end of the peninsula are 3 little islands: Palmaria (the only inhabited one), Tino and Tinetto.
One of the best ways to enjoy the Golfo dei Poeti is with a boat tour…
If you liked Portofino and the Cinque Terre you will love Portovenere!
Take a walk on the colorful harbour surmounted by Doria Castle, and explore the alley just behind the facades, with many restaurants and shops where you can buy crafts and typical foods.
Continue your visit walking all the way up to Chiesa di San Pietro (Saint Peter Church), which rises on a rocky outcrop on the open sea. This is one of the most romantic places you will meet on your trip, for sure.
The gulf is called “of Poets” because many poets, writers and artists in general spent part of their lives here throughout history, hooked by its beauty.
Among the most famous inhabitants of Golfo dei Poeti we remember Dante Alighieri, Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, who sadly drowned in the local waters in 1822.
Well, it looks like we reached the easter end of the Italian Riviera!
Here is were Tuscany begins, with its many wonders. Pisa and Lucca are not far, just to name the closest historical cities.
While in the eastern edge of Liguria you can easily visit Lunigiana, the northernmost part of Tuscany, famous for its delicious wine and because it has more castles than Scotland – believe it or not!