Liguria, Italy: travel guide and places to visit

Photo of Liguria (Liguria region)

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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...

Ventimiglia

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).

Western Liguria

Villa Hanbury

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.

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.

Ligurian resort of Finale Ligure

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.

Eastern Liguria

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.

Portofino

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.

Coast at Cinque Terre

If you can drag yourself away from Portofino be sure to also visit the pretty town of Rapallo, and then the historical town of Chiavari a little further east.

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.

Tellaro fishing village

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

  • castelvecchio-di-rocca
  • cinque-terre
  • manarola-dusk
  • manarola
  • sori
  • street-at-night
  • varese
  • vernazza
  • villas

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 /NoliTellaro / TrioraVarese 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

See also:

Map of Liguria and places to visit

Places to visit near Liguria

Alassio

Alassio

Alassio is a popular resort on the Italian riviera with a long and sandy beach

Alassio

Albenga

Albenga

As well as the cathedral and baptistry, in Albenga you can also see the remains of a 1st century ship

Albenga

Apricale

Apricale

Apricale is a lovely medieval village surrounded by forested hills in western Liguria

Apricale

Bordighera

Bordighera

The town of Bordighera has a pleasant promenade and old town, and 19th century villas and gardens of interest

Bordighera

Borgio Verezzi

Borgio Verezzi

The medieval village in Borgio Verezzi also has lovely views across the Italian riviera

Borgio Verezzi

Bussana Vecchia

Bussana Vecchia

The ghost village of Bussana Vecchia, destroyed by an earthquake in 1887, is now an evocative local arts centre

Bussana Vecchia

Camogli

Camogli

Camogli is a very pretty fishing village in Liguria on the edge of the Portofino Regional Natural Park

Camogli

Campo Ligure

Campo Ligure

Campo Ligure is a hill town in northern Liguria overlooked by a medieval castle

Campo Ligure

Castelvecchio di Rocca Barbena

Castelvecchio di Rocca Barbena

The small village of Castelvecchio di-Rocca Barbena is a perfectly preserved medieval Ligurian hill village overlooked by a ruined castle

Castelvecchio di Rocca Barbena

Cervo

Cervo

The coastal village of Cervo on the Riviera di Ponente in Liguria also has an interesting baroque church

Cervo

Chiavari

Chiavari

Chiavari is a well known beach resort that also has an interesting old town of narrow medieval lanes called carrugi

Chiavari

Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre

The five Cinque Terre villages together form one of the loveliest stretches of coast in Italy

Cinque Terre

Corniglia

Corniglia

On a raised rocky promontory, the ancient village of Corniglia is one of the Cinque Terre villages

Corniglia

Dolceacqua

Dolceacqua

The charming historic centre of Dolceacqua includes an ancient bridge across the river and a ruined castle

Dolceacqua

Finalborgo

Finalborgo

Finalborgo is a medieval walled village next to the Finale-Ligure seaside resort in Liguria

Finalborgo

Finale Ligure

Finale Ligure

The resort of Finale Ligure is an attractive beach resort in Liguria

Finale Ligure

Genoa

Genoa

The medieval centre of Geno is apparently the most extensive in Europe!

Genoa

Imperia

Imperia

Imperia is a pretty coastal city in Liguria. Its beautiful orange buildings cover the hills above the clear blue waters below.

Imperia

Laigueglia

Laigueglia

Laigueglia is a small, traditional beach resort on the popular Liguria coast of Italy

Laigueglia

Lerici

Lerici

With its picturesque harbour, village centre and castle Lerici is a popular excursion from the Cinque Terre villgaes

Lerici

Levanto

Levanto

Levanto, on the coast near the Cinque Terre, is one of the most popular beach resorts in eastern Liguria

Levanto

Manarola

Manarola

Manarola is one of the famous villages of the 'Cinque Terre' coast in eastern Liguria

Manarola

Millesimo

Millesimo

Millesimo is a small traditional village in the Liguria region of north-west Italy

Millesimo

Monterosso

Monterosso

Monterosso is on the Ligurian coast, a Cinque Terre village and beach resort

Monterosso

Noli

Noli

The resort and medieval village at Noli is one of the most interesting on the Riviera di Ponente in Liguria

Noli

Portofino

Portofino

Portofino is an exceptionally beautiful fishing village on the Ligurian coast

Portofino

Portovenere

Portovenere

Portovenere and its harbour is an exceptionally lovely seafront town in Liguria

Portovenere

Rapallo

Rapallo

Rapallo is an attractive Liguria seaside resort also known for the cable car ride up the adjacent mountain

Rapallo

Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore is the most southerly of the five pretty coastal villages of the Cinque Terre in Liguria

Riomaggiore

Sanremo

Sanremo

Once the best known resort in Liguria, San Remo retains a great deal of its belle epoque charm

Sanremo

Santa Margherita Ligure

Santa Margherita Ligure

The charming resort of Santa Margherita Ligure is one of the most attractive along the Liguria coast

Santa Margherita Ligure

Sarzana

Sarzana

Sarzana is known for its historic centre, with numerous palazzos and monuments to discover

Sarzana

Sestri Levante

Sestri Levante

The resort at Sestri Levante has two beaches and an attractive old town, making it a very popular resort on the Italian riviera

Sestri Levante

Sori

Sori

The resort of Sori is one of several in the Paradise Gulf area of eastern Liguria

Sori

Tellaro

Tellaro

Tellaro is one of the most picturesque villages on the coast near Portovenere in Liguria

Tellaro

Triora

Triora

The picturesque village of Triora is hidden in the steep valleys of north-west Liguria

Triora

Varese Ligure

Varese Ligure

In the forested hills of northern Liguria, Varese Ligure is a very unusual medieval town designed around a circular layout

Varese Ligure

Ventimiglia

Ventimiglia

Almost on the French border, Ventimiglia has a small beach and several historic highlights

Ventimiglia

Vernazza

Vernazza

Vernazza is a lovely village in Liguria and one of the famous Cinque Terre villages

Vernazza

Villa Hanbury

Villa Hanbury

Villa Hanbury in western Liguria is famous for its beautiful and extnsive gardens

Villa Hanbury

Zuccarello

Zuccarello

Zuccarello is a small medieval village in the Nera Valley to the west of Albenga in Liguria

Zuccarello