Villas in Liguria
Villas in Liguria
From those stunning sea views to inland hideaways
Liguria offers one of the steepest and dramatic coastlines in Italy - the region is awash with sea hamlets and valley villages that are full of character and history. With the glitz and glamour of the coastal towns, the peace of the valleys and great coastlines, Liguria offers something for everyone.
One of Italy's smallest regions, Liguria stretches west in a narrow ribbon along the coast from France and offers one of the steepest and dramatic coastlines in Italy, all the way to its neighbour, the region of Tuscany.
The coastal area is known as the Italian Riviera and has always been a region loved by tourists as it enjoys an all-year round mild climate, blooming gardens and the Mediterranean vegetation overlooking the sea. The region is awash with sea hamlets and valley villages that are full of character and history.
The region has more variety in landscape & architecture than its French counterpart and is generally less chaotic. Most Italian visitors are eager to press to their chosen sea-side resort and miss the lofty hinterland areas which can offer wonderful respite from the hustle & bustle of the sun-bed lined beaches.
This Mediterranean coastline produces some of Italy's finest herbs, oil and sea food. The rugged steep hills that line the entire region provide a backdrop to ensure idyllic growing conditions for its vineyards.
Like so much of Italy, Liguria is a land of contrasts, home to seaside resort towns and hamlets as well as beautiful villages clinging to the hillsides and mountains. Resorts such as San Remo and Alassio keep the glamour and cosmopolitan feel to the area and Portofino, Santa Margherita Ligure and the Cinque Terre create enough beauty to fill more than an album of picturesque photos.
San Remo - the grand hotels and villas of this queen of the Italian Riviera offer aged glamour & character of this, the first port of call coming from the west and largest of the regions resorts. Set in a huge sheltered bay between twin headlands, its heyday as a classy resort was most apparent in the 60 years prior to World War II. San Remo is blessed with the regions most famous casino and still remains a showy and attractive town with a great beach. The lively & commercial heart of its centre is Corso Matteotti, its main shopping street but the old town is a favourite, a tangled mesh of steep lanes & stairs creeping under archways & narrow tunnels, a casbah experience.
Alassio - with its spectacular 4km fine sand beach and motorboat trips out to Isola Gallinara nature reserve offers a younger vibe. Quite often referred to as one of the prettier beach resorts on this mountainous stretch, the sea front is lined with places to snack and dine in style but the town still has delightful narrow alleys in the old centre leading down to the sea-front.
Cinque Terre - these "five lands" boast some of Italy's most extraordinary countryside by the sea. Mountains covered by terraced vineyards drop precariously into the crystal-clear waters of the Mediterranean Sea passing hamlets and tiny fishing villages. The Cinque Terre is by far the principal highlight of the whole Riviera, the scenery is truly breath-taking with bucket list walks between the villages. Our favourite of the five is Vernazza, a mini Portofino, an enchanting little town with it's enclosed natural harbour and houses grouped like an amphitheatre.
Portofino - this exclusive home to the rich & famous is one of Italy's most romantic little nooks surrounded by lush Cyprus & olive clad slopes discovered long ago by artists and then by the yachting set. It's delightful port & huddle of pastel coloured houses around the waterfront piazza is a charming attraction. The footpath south from the harbour offers a terrace at its end, where one will find breath-taking views of this pint-sized Portofino and beyond.
Finale Ligure - a clutter of twisting alleys behind medieval walls and equally atmospheric waterfront. With its good beach & affordable accommodation, it's a handy base for exploring the Riviera. Well known for its evening passeggiata along the promenade where Italian families spill out from the restaurants and gelatos.
Diana Marina - a long sandy beach with palm trees stretching along the promenade. This spot may be sheltered from the wind but unfortunately not earthquakes, virtually destroyed by the Imperia earthquake of 1887, and then completely re-built, becoming a destination for the Italian holiday makers rather than its previous routes as an olive oil centre and port.
Porto Venere - from its brightly coloured houses along the waterfront narrow steps & cobbled paths lead up to the hills which are blessed with spectacular panoramic views. This memorably tranquil setting is on the very tip of the south western arm of this bay and along with the Cinque Terre is listed as a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Rapallo - bright blue changing cabins line the sandy beach. A highly developed resort town with an expanse of glass fronted restaurants and hotels surrounding a south facing bay and mild climate. Its marina and castle are the most striking landmarks and the old town offers meandering ancient cobbled streets behind the stone saline gate.
Santa Margherita - the origins of a calm fishing village far from the limelight of other resorts changed this sleepy resort after the visit of Hollywood stars, thus becoming a feature in the national geographic in the 50's. The beachfront and palm tree lined harbour are the main attractions but the rest of the town is also attractive with pleasant shopping streets centred around the Piazza Mazzini.
Top things to do in the Italian Riviera
Walking - there is a wide variety of walks and hikes available along the Ligurian coast. Coastal paths and woodland walks can link its many coves and hillside villages. The beauty of the national park of Porto Venere includes the hilly cape, in addition to the islands of Palmeria, Tino & Tenetto if you are a keen walker then we highly recommend a visit. If it's solace you require whilst walking, the island of Palmeria is a good choice with easy hike but offering great views without the mass tourism. By far the highlight and most significant walk is alluring trails of the Cinque Terre, Liguria's main attraction and quite possibly the most beautiful coastal walk in Europe. The walk between Monterosso and Corniglia taking in the breath-taking scenery and the "Way of love walk" which connects the villages or Riomaggiore and Manarola are our two top picks.
Cruises & sailing tours - take a look at the Ligurian coastline from another perspective, sandy private coves, coral fishing harbours, cliffside villages, national parks and island spotting with the odd whale and dolphin thrown in to the mix. Liguria really has something for everyone, day tripping, village hopping, snorkelling or relaxing with a glass of vino watching the sunset. A favourite of ours has to be the simple but relaxing trip to the Isola Gallinara, an afternoon trip with an hour stop over on the island for some bathing in the crystal-clear waters. We also managed to catch site of a dolphin or two on our way.
Sights & landmarks - we have mentioned the main attraction for many in Liguria, the UNESCO site of the Cinque Terre and obviously this is the most notable stop for many. However, just inland & often overlooked but could be one of the highlights of any visit is the pretty hilltop towns of Dolceaqua and Apricale. Not only does this ensure a tranquil break from the sea-side but these villages, linked by a single arched medieval bridge are crowned by the 16th century Castello Dioria. Apricale ("open to the sun") itself cascades gracefully from its mountain peak position and houses the charming medieval Piazza Principale which looks like a stage set and is quite often used by the local theatres to put on shows in the narrow lanes.
Shopping - it goes without say that the Italian Riviera is an upmarket region, hence there is no shortage of designer outlets, in particular in Portofino, Sam Remo & Alassio. However, if labels are not your thing then there's something for everyone at the regions open-air markets. These are still very important for the locals and even in the smallest towns they are more of an event than a shopping day out. The local senoritas will have their hair done, wear their best clothes and meet friends for a coffee and a gossip. A much-loved (even the French venture this far) & the larger of the markets is the Friday Ventimiglia street market, where not only can you pick up anything ranging from local home cooked delicacies to last season's designer fashions at a fraction of the price.
Wine tasting - Liguria produces mostly white wine. The regions primary grape varieties are Vermentino and Pigato, the vineyards are majestic terraced slopes plummeting into the Mediterranean Sea. A wine tour here is more low key than other regions of Italy, spend an afternoon tasting mineral rich whites iconic of the Riviera or walk the Cinque Terre after a morning of wine tasting and have a wine excursion with a view. September hosts the worlds most vertical wine harvest, using specially designed lifts to transport the grapes
Beaches & Rivers - it's all about the best beaches in Liguria. For a relaxing sun-bathe & swim Alassio's sandy beach is great & very family friendly, but for a more rugged beach day try Paraggi although it can be crowded in peak season you should be able to find a quiet spot on the nearby rocks. We also love the three beaches at Varigotti, long stretches of stunning golden sand. But let's not forget the rivers of Liguria, a favourite wild swim for us would be the River Trebbia. If it's thrills you seek then head to the diving centre of the Cinque Terre Marine Park or white water rafting again on the Trebbia.
Food & drink - the region's cuisine relies heavily on the Ligurian land and sea. It is typified by a range of humble ingredients and widely regarded as one of the healthiest diets in Italy. Expect to see lots of vegetables, ricotta cheese, fish, pasta, Pesto & Focaccia, with the latter two quite prominent as they are believed to have originated in this region. There are some good local wines including Vermentino, Pigato, Rossese di Dolceacqua and Bianchetta Genovese.
Getting around and to the Italian Riviera
Whilst in the region if you haven't hired a car, buses & trains link Genoa with mainly of the coastal towns & villages and this public transport is the best way to access the Cinque Terre which are closed anyway to non-resident traffic. In summer, there is an abundance of ferry services that hop from harbour to harbour. If you wish to explore the mountains inland then ideally a car is needed but there's also reasonable bus services particularly from the coastal town of Ventimiglia. The Cinque Terre is best visited by the local train which links all five towns and the journey from start to finish only takes around 30 minutes. We highly recommend buying an open ticket which allows you to hop on & off whenever you choose.
The east of the region is served by Nice airport in neighbouring France, while the west can be reached by Genova as well as Pisa. If you don't mind a drive and Turin airport is more accessible for you then it's only a 2 drive to Alassio from here
Italian Riviera weather & best time to visit
The Italian Riviera is well known for its mild climate all year round and little rain, mainly due to the combination of its position within the gulf stream and mountainous regions just slightly inland. With 300 sunny days per year it is one of the sunniest regions in Italy.
The months between May to September are the best time to visit with less chance of rain and milder temperatures. Spring is wonderful in this region and an ideal season to stay (post a few possible April showers) where you can enjoy the first warm days with a walk on the beach and admire the numerous towns. October can be equally as pleasant with people still swimming in the seas and rivers on a warm day.
Why the Italian Riviera?
Due to its popularity as a holiday destination, Liguria has a great selection of properties from seaside apartments to hillside houses and villas. If you're looking for something similar to the South of France, Liguria is humble and less pretentious.
Liguria is mainly about the coast and is a great setting to relax and watch the world go by. The coastal resorts offer a great range of shops, restaurants and bars so you have plenty of choice on offer. Boat trips are a great way to spend a day out or visit the Cinque Terre, also easily accessible by bus or train which runs along the coastline.
For some reason Liguria is often overlooked as a holiday destination internationally, compared to the more famous regions in the south. However, with its mild all year-round climate, easy access from the south of France and numerous airports, outstanding coastline & natural beauty of the mountains, we find ourselves scratching our heads as to why. The Italians love it here and as the old saying goes, when in Rome…..
The coastline is busy especially in summer but it is also exciting with a great choice of bars, restaurants and shopping. The locals are friendly and will certainly welcome overseas visitors as the area is very cosmopolitan.
With the glitz and glamour of the coastal towns, the peace of the valleys and great coastlines, Liguria offers something for everyone.