Italian Riviera Cities & Towns: Top 10 Places to Visit (Ligurian Riviera)

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There is much to love about Italy beyond the usual destinations such as that of Rome or Venice. In fact, if you want to enjoy crystal-clear waters and pristine beaches, visiting the famed Italian Riviera cities is a must on your travel itinerary!

Bordering the south of the French Riviera, it has been a famous getaway since the 1800s not only during the summer but also during the off-season — especially because most days are sunny and the winters are often mild. Combine that with the Italian Riviera cities’ rich histories, picturesque hiking trails, timeless castles, and delectable food, then for sure, there is something to enjoy for just about any kind of traveler!

» Where is the Italian Riviera?

The Italian Riviera (also called Ligurian Riviera) is a coastal strip in Italy found between the Ligurian Sea and the towering mountains of the Maritime Alps and the Apennines. It primarily crosses all four (4) of the Ligurian provinces and their capitals namely, Geona, Imperia, La Spezia, and Savona, spanning a total length of about 350 kilometers.

As such, the Italian Riviera encompasses all of Liguria’s coastline and it is said to be divided into 2 parts: from the western side of Genoa called ‘Riviera di Ponente‘ (bordering the French Riviera) and the eastern side called ‘Riviera di Levante’ (includes Cinque Terre and bordering Tuscany).

» Best way to go around the Italian Riviera?

By car. If you want to see more of the Italian Riviera cities or little towns, then traveling by car would be ideal — especially if you are staying inland. It will even save you from going through the trouble of sorting out train and ferry schedules; so in case you don’t have your own, renting a car is easy and hassle-free if you do it with Hertz, a highly-recognized and trusted rental company worldwide. I actually had the chance to try them out and it was a joy to explore the coast with their help!

By train. If, however, you plan to explore places like Cinque Terre or are staying in places near the coastal train line, it will make more sense to use the public trains. After all, the train lines serve almost all major tourist destinations on the Riviera and you can navigate your way through them easily with Google Maps or Rome2Rio apps.

By bus. Bus service is frequent along the Riviera but only for short distances such as that of places like Portofino, Portovenere, and Lerici. (You can see all bus schedules on Google Maps or Rome2Rio apps).

By ferry. Depending on the season, there are ferry lines that run from major cities to smaller Riviera towns but take note that they are mainly intended for day-trippers and are not so useful if you want to do point-to-point journeys.

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To jumpstart your holiday, there are surely a number of places that you can visit but if you’re pressed on time, below are the top 10 Italian Riviera cities or towns that you must see!

Italian Riviera Cities: Top 10 to Visit

1. Camogli

Camogli Beach, Italy

Photo by: Shutterstock

Found east of Genoa, this small yet idyllic fishing village is famed for its winding streets, lush olive groves, and picturesque painted facades called trompe l’œil.

The name Camogli actually means ‘house of wives‘ due to the fact that in the olden times, the women ‘ruled’ the town while the husbands are busy working at sea. If you come around the 2nd weekend of May, you will witness the town celebrating its maritime heritage — and if you go to the waterfront, you’ll even get to see them fry hundreds of fish in 3-meter wide pans!

TOP ATTRACTIONS OR THINGS TO DO IN CAMOGLI:
– Abbazia di San Fruttuoso
– Punta Chiappa Trail
– Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta
– Marine Museum
– …and more

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••• Best Hotels in Camogli: [click]

2. Cervo

Italian Riviera Cities: Cervo

Photo by: Shutterstock

Enjoy some dolce far niente (the art of doing nothing) in this ancient town of Cervo that’s built on top of a towering hill.

Apart from the scenic coastal views that surround Cervo, you’ll love the eclectic mix of architectural design that is speckled within the vicinity — a mix of Greek, Italian, Spanish, and even North African!

TOP ATTRACTIONS OR THINGS TO DO IN CERVO:
– Centro Storico di Cervo
– Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista
– Bagni Tosco
– …and more

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••• Best Hotels in Cervo: [click]

3. Cinque Terre

Manarola, Cinque Terre National Park

Photo by: Shutterstock

Arguably the prized jewel of all the Italian Riviera cities, Cinque Terre (meaning “five lands”) is an area that encompasses 5 of the most dreamy coastal fishing villages that you will ever lay your eyes on!

As a part of the Cinque Terre National Park, the area has also been lauded as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997 thereby making it a favorite among tourists who seek an unforgettable staycation — if not spend days of hiking. Though cars are banned between the villages, a well-connected 19th-century railway cuts through the mountains to connect one village to another, namely:

  • Monterosso al Mare
  • Vernazza
  • Corniglia
  • Manarola
  • Riomaggiore

TOP ATTRACTIONS OR THINGS TO DO IN CINQUE TERRE:
– Monterosso Public Beach
– Castello di Riomaggiore
– Scalinata Lardarina
– …and more

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••• Best Hotels in Cinque Terre: [click]

4. Genoa

Piazza De Ferrari, Genoa

Photo by: Shutterstock

This is the 6th largest city in Italy and it boasts a seaport that is the largest of its kind in the whole country!

Truth be told, for over 7 centuries, Genoa was the capital of one of the most powerful maritime republics making it a strong naval power and a wealthy abode. Nowadays, its historical center is teeming with rich history and a part of it has even been listed on the UNESCO World Heritage list. You’ll surely enjoy making your way through its narrow streets which the locals call “caruggi”.

TOP ATTRACTIONS OR THINGS TO DO IN GENOA:
– Piazza De Ferrari
– Porta Soprana
– San Lorenzo Cathedral
– Via Garibaldia
– …and more

.
••• Best Hotels in Genoa: [click]

5. Noli

Noli, Italy

Photo by: Shutterstock

This is one of the lesser-known Italian Riviera cities but its beauty is something you must not miss!

Located on the coast of the Riviera di Ponente, Noli is a treasure chest of sandy beaches (with ‘Bandiera Blu’ or great water quality status) as well as picturesque structures and its name is said to have been derived from Neapolis, meaning ‘new city’ in Greek. It has also been one of the mighty maritime republics like that of Genoa, Pisa, and Venice.

TOP ATTRACTIONS OR THINGS TO DO IN NOLI:
– Romanesque Basilica of S. Paragorio
– Tower of Four Sides
– San Paragorio
– …and more

.
••• Best Hotels in Noli: [click]

6. Portofino

Italian Riviera Cities: Portofino

Photo by: Shutterstock

A favorite day trip amongst those who are exploring either Genoa or Cinque Terre, Portofino is a great stop especially if you want to do some shopping or some great sightseeing.

As part of its allure, this coastal village is well-known for its harbor that is often filled with superyachts and backdropped by a line of pastel-colored buildings.

TOP ATTRACTIONS OR THINGS TO DO IN PORTOFINO:
– Statue of Christ of the Abyss
– Castello Brown
– Church of St. Martin
– …and more

.
••• Best Hotels in Portofino: [click]

7. Portovenere

Portovenere, Italy

Photo by: Shutterstock

Yet another one of the smaller Italian Riviera cities but I assure you that it is well worth the visit! Typically, you can reach this medieval village by ferry from Cinque Terre or La Spezia, or by bus.

As a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well, it is composed of 3 villages: Fezzano, Le Grazie, and Porto Venere as well as 3 islands: Palmaria, Tino, and Tinetto. (Oftentimes, people tend to call it the ‘6th Cinque Terre town’). To pass time, spend the day away exploring its narrow streets or its promontory tip where you will find a picturesque church.

TOP ATTRACTIONS OR THINGS TO DO IN PORTOVENERE:
– Isola Palmaria
– San Pietro Church
– Grotta di Byron
– Castello Doria
– …and more

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••• Best Hotels in Portovenere: [click]

8. Sanremo

Sanremo (La Pigna)

Photo by: Shutterstock

Did you know? The name of the city is a phonetic contraction of Sant’Eremo di San Romolo — which basically refers to Romulus of Genoa, the successor to Syrus of Genoa.

Founded in Roman times, the city is filled with a lot of attractions while also granting great panoramic views from different vantage points. Nowadays, Sanremo is also a hotspot for events such as that of the Sanremo Music Festival and the Milan-Sanremo Cycling.

TOP ATTRACTIONS OR THINGS TO DO IN SANREMO:
– Pista Ciclabile Area
– Old Bussana
– La Pigna
– Russian Orthodox Church
– …and more

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••• Best Hotels in Sanremo: [click]

9. Santa Margherita

Santa Margherita

Photo by: Shutterstock

Typically referred to as the gateway to Portofino, Santa Margherita Liguria might have less ‘bling’ than that of the former — however, it makes up for it with its wider waterfront, beach space, and affordable accommodations.

For a top travel tip, drop by the tourist office and they can give you color-coded walking maps with points of interest.

TOP ATTRACTIONS OR THINGS TO DO IN SANTA MARGHERITA:
– Villa Durazzo

Baia di Paraggi
La Cervara
– …and more

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••• Best Hotels in Santa Margherita: [click]

10. Ventimiglia

Ventimiglia

Photo by: Shutterstock

What draws in most visitors to Ventimiglia is its interesting medieval district perched on top of a hill across the river from the modern center of the town.

If you want some great bargain finds, be like the French who flock to Ventimiglia’s popular street market along the seafront or ‘lungomare‘ every Friday.

TOP ATTRACTIONS OR THINGS TO DO IN VENTIMIGLIA:
– Battaglia di Fiori
– Old Town
– Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta
– Vieille Ville de Vintimille
– …and more

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••• Best Hotels in Ventimiglia: [click]

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Essentials for the Italian Riviera

Book an AirBnB
Booking.com

TIP: It’s a good idea to crosscheck your World Nomads‘ total travel insurance price with that of SafetyWing because the latter is often priced cheaper (especially when it involves travel that spans for several weeks or months — and even years!).
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However, take note that SafetyWing’s affordability typically means lesser coverage than World Nomads. So please always ensure that you read the fine print in order to decipher which travel insurance company is the right fit for you and your trip!

Looking for more travel tips for Europe?

Check out my other detailed Europe travel guides!

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Italian Riviera: Vernazza

Overall

There are a lot of other towns that speckle the stretch of this famed coast, but the 10 Italian Riviera cities and towns above can already make for a fulfilling getaway!

I hope this post can be of help to make the most of your getaway.

• • •

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