Liguria, Italy: travel guide and places to visit
The Liguria region of north-west Italy is one of the most beautiful stretches of coast in Europe, with resorts and towns including San Remo and Portofino and numerous picturesque villages including the stunning villages of the Cinque Terre
Liguria travel guide and places to visit
For a summary of the most popular sights in the region see also Liguria places to visit.
Liguria is the region of north-west Italy that follows the Mediterranean coast, from the border with the Cote d'Azur in France in the west to the border with Tuscany to the east, and for about 25 kilometres inland from the Mediterranean.
Italy This Way comment: don't make the common mistake of thinking Liguria is a 'day trip from Tuscany' destination! It deserves a visit of its own and has plenty of interest for the most demanding visitor...
The highlights of the region include the coastal towns of Genoa, Portofino, and San Remo and the beautiful Cinque Terre villages in the east of the region.
Although Liguria is best known as a coastal region along the 'Italian Riviera' there is also a good deal to see in the inland part of the region, especially in the hillside villages and away from the intense development that has covered a large part of the coast of Liguria.
The inland parts of Liguria are also less accessible than the coastal towns - there is an autoroute that follows along the coast, but roads inland are much slower moving.
In our travels below we travel from west to east through Liguria (starting from the French border and heading towards Tuscany).
In the west of Liguria near the border with France the most popular attractions include the lovely botanical gardens at Villa Hanbury close to Ventimiglia. A short distance inland you can visit Dolceacqua with its medieval humpback bridge and castle dominating the village.
This section of coast is called the Riviera di Ponente (trans: western Riviera)
Almost on the border with France there is an ancient prehistoric site in the cliffs in a very scenic location and with crystal clear waters and a pebble beach (the beach is unfortunatey largely privately owned) at Balzi Rossi.
Travelling east along the coast pause to admire the old town and early 20th century villas and gardens at Bordighera. A further 20 kilometres east you reach San Remo, a rather upmarket seaside resort built at the beginning of the 20th century.
A little further and the interesting village of Bussana Vecchia, abandoned for much of the 20th century after a devastating earthquake, is now gaining new life among the artistic community. In the hills to the north of San Remo we also suggest you visit the village of Triora.
Continuing north-east along the Mediterranean, the coastal village of Cervo is very picturesque. The seaside resort of Alassio is also popular with sun-worshippers and you can stroll along the seafront to the small resort of Laigueglia. The centre of Albenga is worth visiting for its well preserved romanesque style architecture.
We recommend that you take a trip into the countryside north from here to visit the picturesque little medieval villages of Castelvecchio di Rocca and Zuccarello and to enjoy the scenery of the forested hills.
Another highlight near here is the cave system called the Grotte di Toirano: inhabited 100,000 years ago these caves have rare prehistoric footprints as well as very lovely rock formations to see.
A little further along the coast is the lively beach resort at Finale Ligure (and the asociated medieval village at Finalborgo), one of the most popular along this stretch of coast, the medieval village on the hill behind Borgio Verezzi (with lovely views across the Italian riviera from the main piazza in the village centre) and the attractive medieval village and resort at Noli.
This area of coast is called the Riviera di Levante (trans: eastern Riviera).
In the centre of the Liguria region, the coastal city of Genoa is the largest commercial port in Italy and also has the largest medieval centre of any town in Europe. As a result it lacks the pristine prettiness of much of the Ligurian coast but has an appealing down to earth charm and several notable historic monuments to visit.
If you are exploring the hills north-west of Genoa it is worth pausing to visit the town and castle at Campo Ligure.
Italy This Way comment: in case it isn't clear below this is one of our favourite coastal areas in Europe: the group of places around Camogli and Portofino, the cluster of villages of the Cinque Terre and the resort at Portovenere together make for an exceptional destination!
Continuing towards the east, be sure to visit the harbour in the traditional fishing village of Camogli and the beach front resort at Sori then continue onwards to the Portofino peninsula and the exclusive resort of Portofino itself, one of the most upmarket and sophisticated resorts in Italy, and always very popular with visitors - not surprising since it is also exceptionally pretty!
The region around the Portofino peninsula is also known as West Tigullio.
Another charming resort that is also a good base for exploring the coast around Portofino is Santa Margherita Ligure while the traditional fishing village and resort at Sestri Levante is also very popular and has a free beach in a very scenic bay.
The region east of Chiavari and around Sestri Levante is called East Tigullio and combines beaches and resorts with mountain villages and scenery.
If you want a change of scenery head for the hills! The mountains north of here are lovely to explore with deep forested valleys - start perhaps with a visit to the unusual medieval 'round village' of Varese Ligure.
About 50 kilometres south-east from Portofino and often explored from the popular beach resort at Levanto you reach one of the greatest highlights in Liguria: indeed the five cliffside villages of the Cinque Terre together form one of the most beautiful areas in the whole of Italy, and a visit is extremely highly recommended!
Note: the path between the villages of the Cinque Terre and the views along the coast and towards the villages are as much a highlight as the villages themselves so allow plenty of time to visit.
Before reaching the Ligurian border and continuing onwards into Tuscany you must also visit the stunning coastal towns of Portovenere and Lerici and explore the nearby historical town at Sarzana. Much less visited but also extremely scenic is the small fishing village of Tellaro.
Liguria highlights - a photo gallery
Most Beautiful Villages - Liguria
The following Italian towns and villages in Liguria are listed among the 'most beautiful villages in Italy':
Apricale* / Borgio Verezzi* / Brugnato / Campo Ligure* / Castelbianco / Castelvecchio di Rocca / Cervo / Finalborgo* / Laigueglia* / Lingueglietta / Manarola* / Millesimo* / Montemarcello /Noli / Tellaro / Triora / Varese Ligure / Vernazza* / Zuccarello*
Orange Flag Tourism towns in Liguria
The following Italian towns and villages in Liguria are listed among the 'Orange flag towns in Italy'(a national tourist award):
Apricale / Brugnato / Castelnuovo Magra / Castelvecchio di Rocca Barbena / Dolceacqua / Toirano / Pigna / Pinion / Sassello / Santo Stefano Aveto / Seborga / Triora / Varese / Ligure