A Guide to Liguria

Sun, sea, and infinite glamour - Liguria has it all. Whether you’re looking for history, fantastic grub, top-notch hiking or an epic suntan, the Italian Riviera has got it covered. Step aside Côte d'Azur, Liguria will tick all of your boxes. 

The SUN-SEEKER  

WHY: The Italian Riviera stretches across almost 200 miles of coastline, so beach bums will be spoilt for choice. From the vast sands of Finale Liguria to the more exclusive beaches surrounding Portofino and Pariggi, to picturesque fishing villages like Camogli, there’s there’s something for everyone and all budgets.  

TOP TIP: If you’re looking for something a bit different, take the hike from Santa Margherita or Camogli to San Frutuosso. This secluded beach, which can only be reached by foot or boat, is the site of the San Frutuosso Monastery, built in the 10th century, as well as ‘Christ of the Abyss’, a larger than life-size bronze statue of Christ, buried fifty feet below sea level, offshore. You’ll need to take a tiny little glass bottom boat to see this spectacle. Waters are crystal clear, and you won't find too many tourists there either. 

 San Fruttuoso Abbey can only be reached by foot or boat. 

San Fruttuoso Abbey can only be reached by foot or boat. 

The CULTURE VULTURE

WHY: Once the centre of the Medieval Empire and Italy’s most important port, Genoa is now a working city, packed full of narrow streets, age-old markets and small museums. It’s grubbier than Venice and Florence, so remains an off-the-beaten-track destination, but it's plethora of art exhibitions, museums, and historical palaces will keep you more than occupied. Here you’ll find the house in which Christopher Columbus once lived in, the oldest football stadium in Italy and the largest aquarium in Italy.  

TOP TIP: Don’t miss the infamous Via Garibaldi (or Strada Nuova). This street was erected in the mid-16th Century to assemble the most important families of the region in one place and is punctuated with historical palaces. The entire promenade is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A ticket for Musei di Strada Nuova will get you into the Piazza Rosso, which houses works by Strozzi and Van Dyke, Palazzo Bianco and Palazzo Doria Tursi, which is still home to the Town Hall today. Take the Ascensore Panoramico up to the top of Palazzo Rosso, for panoramic views of the whole city. 

 Palazzo San Giorgio in Genova. Built in 1260 with materials from the Venetian Embassy in Constantinople, this magnificent building was also formerly a prison (Marco Polo was one of its most notable residents). 

Palazzo San Giorgio in Genova. Built in 1260 with materials from the Venetian Embassy in Constantinople, this magnificent building was also formerly a prison (Marco Polo was one of its most notable residents). 

THE ACTIVE ONE

WHY: If you want top-notch hiking, you can't really beat Liguria. Head to the Southern most parts of the region for the toughest climbs. The Cinque Terre or ‘Five Villages’, has long been a favoured hot spot for hikers and you’ll no doubt have seen images of those iconic pastel houses clinging to the mountains all over Instagram. For most of the year, you can hike between each (I’d advise North to South). Head there early in the morning or later in the evening and you’ll avoid the majority of tourists. 

TOP TIP: Less frequented by tourists is the trail across the Portofino Vetta. The Parco di Portofino covers the region from Camogli to Portofino and encompasses hikes to Punta Chiappa, San Rocco, San Frutuosso and the illustrious Portofino. You’ll find yourself walking through woodlands, olive groves, small villages and coastal paths which offer spectacular views of the rest of the regions. Hike up to the Santuario della Madonna di Caravaggio for some pretty incredible panoramic views. 

 Views of Liguria's rather rugged coastline from San Rocco

Views of Liguria's rather rugged coastline from San Rocco

THE FOODIE

WHY: Perhaps you’ve heard of pesto? It’s where the humble salsa fresca hails from. Liguria is home to one of the richest and most diverse regional cuisines in the country. As a result of some rather excellent topography, with mountains on one side and sea on the other, the region has access to a diverse range of ingredients, from pine nuts and basil to seriously fresh seafood. Liguria is perhaps most commonly associated with focaccia, and you’ll find the stuff everywhere, served with hundreds of different toppings. It’s most commonly eaten plain here; bread is thin with a crusty surface, punctuated with dimples filled with oil and salt. Anchovies are particularly popular here, but you’ll find cuttlefish, swordfish and salted braised cod at most establishments. Don't miss the opportunity to try some fish carpaccio. 

TOP TIP: For the glutenous, but gluten-free, Italy (land of the refined carbohydrate) has a solution for you! La Farinata is a sort of unleavened crepe or pancake made with chickpea flour, olive oil, salt, and water. Most commonly found in Liguria and the northern most part of Tuscany, this snack is traditionally cooked in a very high heat pizza oven, in a big round coper pan and cut into large triangular slices.  

 

Still not sure where to stay on the Italian Riviera? Here are eight very good reasons to visit Genoa, a budget guide to Portofino and a quick guide to Portovenere

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