There is no better way to start a Friday and end the week than by dreaming about travel destinations, this week it’s Liguria, the coast of the Italian Riviera, an area which is by far considered the most glamorous and most picturesque in all of Europe.
Starting from the French border, this trail of quaint towns and fishing villages, high cliffs and sheltered beaches is remarkable in every way, and largely undiscovered by the run of the mill Italy tourist crowd. Liguria is known among sailors, which makes it an essential stop if you’re looking forward to a summer of sailing. It’s now only the perfect ports that are the attraction, but also what lies beyond them.
Home of Christopher Columbus, Liguria is also home to some of Italy’s richest cuisine (pesto made its first appearance here), maritime traditions, elegant mansions, lush vegetation and countless historical treasures. Liguria is easiest accessible by boat or by plane, there are cheap flights to Genoa, the only city with an international airport. From there you can hire a car to explore the coast at your own pace, stopping along the way.
What to see in Liguria? Sanremo, Portofino, Genoa and Cinque Terre.
Nearest to the border with France, Sanremo is a popular destination for those also travelling to the French Côte d’Azur. What is striking in Sanremo is its flowers. The town is one of the biggest flower exporters in Europe. Catch Sanremo’s Music Festival or try your luck at Casino di Sanremo, built in 1905.
The founded of the prestigious Nobel prize, Alfred Nobel, bought a villa here in Sanremo in 1891 and it was also the place where he passed away. Today is is a dynamic museum housing displays on the most important discoveries of the 19th century.
This small town hides itself in the rocks. It is secluded and is easiest accessible by boat, making it perfect for sailors. It is a city of inspiration, for writers at least. Virginia Woolf, Friedrich Nietzsche, Truman Capote and Guy Maupassant all sought refuge in Portofino’s enthralling atmosphere while writing novels and novellas.
The town itself is a lot of glitz and glamour and if you want to get away for for an afternoon, sign up for an off-shore dive. Some of the Mediterranean Sea’s most colourful fish can be found here, among many dolphins and whales.
One of the most pristine parts of the Italian Riviera, Cinque Terre is part of the Cinque Terre National Park which is also recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Sight. You won’t find many kitsch souvenir shops here, only pure Italian culture. Hike along the Path of Love, a string of 5 villages which are attached by a winding walkway, leave a love lock between Riomaggiore and Manarola as a sign of your unfaltering devotion to your sweetheart.
Some consider it more gritty than glamorous, at least compared to other towns along the coast, but it is nonetheless essential to any trip along the Italian Riviera. The most industrial port in the area, this was Christopher Columbus‘ stomping ground and is today bustling with young entrepreneurs and well, sailors. Start at Piazza delle Erbe, the best place to find great pizza or a cone of gelato.
Walk along the wharfs and Genoa’s historical harbour, Porto Antico, wander through the Galata Museo del Mare, a quaint maritime museum and then lose yourself in the old part of the city, one that dates back to the Middle Ages. Don’t miss the San Lorenzo Cathedral and the Church of San Matteo. Via Garibaldi is a protected area and is lined with ancient mansions, many of which have now been converted to museums.
Lazing on the deck of a sail boat moored off the shore, wandering through romantic streets, sipping a glass of wine on a restaurant terrace, soaking in the sun’s rays… this is something every traveller could get used to. Have you had the chance to explore the Italian Riviera? What were your favourite places to stop? Have you seen any place more beautiful than this?!
Image: stahrdust3 / flickr cc