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 Italian Riviera – places to visit
A great way to get acquainted with this part of the Italian Riviera is to do the Liguria loop, making use of public transport to get around. The loop, as shown in the map below, covers three towns: Santa Margherita Ligure, Camogli and Portofino. I chose Santa Margherita Ligure as my base, due to its many accommodation options and eateries, and explored the peninsula from there. The Liguria loop can easily be done as a day trip from Santa Margherita Ligure during the tourist season.
Santa Margherita Ligure 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.
From Santa Margherita, take the train to Camogli, a seven-minute ride under the mountains of the peninsula.
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.
Find accommodations in Camogli (Booking.com).
From Camogli, take the local ferry to San Fruttuoso. Check at the harbour for departure times.
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.
From San Fruttuoso, take the boat service to 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.
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!
Find accommodations in Portofino (Booking.com).