Exploring the Italian Riviera

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Portofino

The Liguria peninsula in the northwest of Italy, a short drive east of Genoa, is a gorgeous region of colourful fishing towns, beautiful beaches and historic attractions. Liguria, often referred to as the Italian Riviera, is a favourite holiday destination amongst many Milanese and the global jet-set (think royal families, Madonna, Rihanna… and you get the picture!) who come here to stay at one of the stunning villas that dot the coast or moor their flashy yachts in one of the secluded coves.

The Liguria loop

A great way to get acquainted with the area is to do the Liguria loop, making use of public transport to get around. The loop, as shown in this map, covers three towns: Santa Margherita, Camogli and Portofino, and can easily be done as a day trip during the tourist season. I chose Santa Margherita as my base, due to its many accommodation options and eateries, and explored the peninsula from there.

Santa Margherita

Santa Margherita is a lovely town with colourful squares and a palm-fringed waterfront. As it’s one of the largest towns in Liguria, there’s a multitude of hotels, restaurants and cafés to choose from. Its biggest attraction is arguably the Basilica di Santa Margherita, with its elaborate interior and extravagant chandeliers.

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Santa Margherita

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A colourful street in Santa Margherita

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The stunning Basilica di Santa Margherita

From Santa Margherita, take the train to Camogli, a seven-minute ride under the mountains of the peninsula.

Camogli

Camogli is a fishing town at the foot of the Monte di Portofino. Famous for its colourful buildings and annual fish-fry, Camogli also has a popular beach and a picturesque harbour. Spend some time here exploring the fortress, the narrow alleyways and the centuries-old fishing traditions. And stop by the famous Revello focacceria for some delicious focaccias.

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The beach in Camogli

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Camogli’s charming harbour

From Camogli, take the local ferry to San Fruttuoso. Check at the harbour for departure times.

San Fruttuoso

San Fruttuoso is a tiny village hemmed in between the Monti di Portofino and the sea. Despite its small size, San Fruttuoso has a variety of historic gems that are more than worth a visit. The first monument visitors see as the boat sails into the inlet is the San Fruttuoso di Capodimonte Benedictine monastery, which includes a 13th century abbey, a 10th century church and a Romanesque cloister. Another famous attraction lies under the surface of the water: the statue of Christ of the Abysses, which can be viewed on a diving excursion.

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San Fruttuoso

From San Fruttuoso, take the boat service to Portofino.

Portofino

Portofino is the playground for the rich and famous. Located in the heart of the Italian Riviera, Portofino is a small town with a stunning harbour that’s a perfect shelter for the many colourful fishing boats and million-dollar yachts. Lovely restaurants and cafés line the emerald-green harbour and there’s a gorgeous Botanical Garden that’s ideal for a leisurely stroll. The nearby Castello Brown and the San Giorgio church and lighthouse are within walking distance and provide panoramic views of the town and the Ligurian coast.

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Portofino

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Colourful fishing boats and multi-million-dollar yachts vie for your attention

From Portofino, it’s a short bus ride back to Santa Margherita. The route hugs the coastline and winds past stately villas, beautiful coves and beaches before reaching Santa Margherita….. just in time for a well-deserved glass of Pinot Grigio!


View Liguria loop in a larger map

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20 Responses to “Exploring the Italian Riviera”

  1. cristina 24/05/2013 2:38 pm
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    I did visit the Amalfi in my early years of travel and really liked it, particularly the Island of Capri and the Blue Grotto.

  2. Keith Jenkins 24/05/2013 11:12 am
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    Awww, that’s a pity. Hope you had a great time on the rest of your trip along the Riviera. Did you also visit the Amalfi coast south of Naples?

  3. Cristina 23/05/2013 11:14 pm
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    Hey Keith! Thought I would come back and report! I made it to Cinque Terre after all, but unfortunately I feel like I wasn’t really wow’d by it 🙁 It is a beautiful part of the region but something just didn’t do it for me there. I think maybe my travel style may be changing. I did plan on hiking all 5 towns but unfortunately it was still closed due to the landslide last year.

  4. Keith Jenkins 20/05/2013 12:28 pm
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    Thank you Barbara for your lovely comment. Glad it brought back many fond memories. 🙂

  5. Barbara 19/05/2013 2:54 am
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    This is such a beautiful part of Italy, we really enjoyed our time there. Your photos are amazing and really brought back many fond memories. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Charu 03/02/2013 8:36 pm
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    There are some places in Puerto Vallarta which reminded me of Cinque Terre—lovely photos, Keith…glad you had a great time

  7. Mitch 14/11/2012 7:27 pm
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    Great Job Keith! This brings awesome memories of cinque terre! Love the blog buddy!

  8. Farah 07/11/2012 11:33 pm
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    THANK YOU 🙂 Im so excited thanks to your blog information!

    Kind Regards
    Farah

  9. Keith Jenkins 07/11/2012 12:02 pm
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    Hi Farah,

    You’re most welcome to share the link of the post with your guests. Glad you found this post useful! 🙂
    I wish you a fabulous wedding day in Camogli. What a glorious spot to get married!

    Best wishes,
    Keith

  10. Farah 07/11/2012 3:53 am
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    Hi Keith

    GREAT WEBSITE! do you mind if I use some of this information for my wedding guests, Im getting Married in Camolgi and I need to help them with some touristic info and yours is perfect

    Let me know if you dont want me to by email!!!!!

    LOVE THIS WEBSITE x

  11. Chrystal McKay 27/06/2012 6:41 pm
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    Beautiful Photos and a great loop around the region! I was just south in Cinque Terre – next time I’ll visit Liguria!

  12. Blumen Riviera 22/05/2012 3:25 pm
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    Great photos! It’s also worth mentioning that Liguria is more than just the coast- it also offers some great mountains too 🙂

  13. Cristina @thetravolution 15/05/2012 3:25 am
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    I feel so lucky I was born and raised in an Italian home, where the language, culture, and the most amazing cuisine was part of everyday life. I’ve explored Italy but still have so many more places and regions I would love to explore – and now I’ve added La Liguria to my list. I hope it will be soon!

  14. Jeremy Branham 08/05/2012 6:13 am
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    Love the photos of the coast. I’ve never been to this part of Italy but have spent time in the Cinque Terre. I definitely need to see more of Italy but it looks as if I may need to work on my tan first 🙂

  15. Dujour 28/09/2011 6:16 pm
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    I’m italian and got some family in those places, very interesting to see a different point of view. I blog about travelling myself too since a short time and sometimes I do that in english, I’d highly appreciate if you’d join my blog which is not at all technical but more narrative about personal experiences and the spiritual path a human being can do through travel experiences, I also give tips if requested.
    Xoxo from Italy!

  16. Nancy & Shawn Power 21/09/2011 9:45 pm
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    Beautiful pictures, so colourful.

    Great new places for us to visit.

    Thanks Keith, love reading your blogs!

    Nancy & Shawn

  17. Angela 20/09/2011 5:47 pm
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    Beautiful pictures, many places to visit!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    […] peninsula is a short drive east of Genoa in northwestern Italy. Liguria, often referred to as the Italian Riviera, is a favourite holiday destination amongst many Milanese and the global jet-set (think royal […]

  2. Photos of the picturesque village of Portofino, Italy | Velvet Escape - 20/02/2012

    […] Despite the throngs of tourists, it’s hard not to feel drawn by the charms of Portofino. Strolling along the harbour, with its many colourful fishing boats against a backdrop of houses in shades of yellow, pink and orange, I felt like I was walking through a gorgeous painting, albeit one with noisy tourists and designer boutiques. With beautiful luxury villas dotting the hillsides surrounding the picturesque harbour, I can imagine why Portofino is a dream getaway for many. Set off with a mild climate and relaxed, friendly people, this little town is one of my favourite spots in the Italian Riviera. […]

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