Liguria is one of Italy’s most beautiful coastal regions, making it a perfect choice for a long, scenic road trip. Road trippers can take advantage of the coastal road Via Aurelia which runs the 332 kilometres between the Liguria borders.
Starting in Ameglia, a small town nestled between the mountains and the coast, the first port to stop at is La Spezia. Take a break from the road and hop on the train to visit Riomaggiore. Less than ten minutes away and costing less than 2 Euros, this is one of Italy’s famous Cinque Terre villages featuring sun bleached pastel buildings jutting out of the cliff face and offering outstanding seafood.
The next stop off is Rapallo, where a rare coastal golf course can provide both great entertainment alongside stunning views. No trip is complete without a cable car ride up to the Sanctuary of Monteallegro.
After a visit to the capital of Liguria, Genoa, renowned as the birthplace of Christopher Columbus and for its rich artistic history, the next stop on the journey simply needs to be the beautiful Savona. The commune is blessed with a mild climate and sandy white beaches, cosy side streets and sunny piazzas that make for a beautiful day trip. Savona is a boat ride away from the protected islands of Bergiggi and Gallinara, where visitors can glimpse Roman ruins and an abundance of overgrown forests.
The last major coastal city before reaching the Liguria border is Imperia. Known for its abundance of olives and flowers (there’s even a museum dedicated to olives, called ‘Museo dell'Olivo’), visitors can also wander around the various religious sites, soak in the architecture or simply enjoy the mild sea temperatures.
There are plenty of places to cycle in Liguria but the Cycling Riviera cycleway is unrivalled in all of Italy. Running along an old railway line, the 24 kilometre route is fairly flat and well kept making it a pleasant ride, particularly when combined with the stunning panoramic views. On one side, the Alps offer a magnificent backdrop against the light blue sky, whilst on the other, the blue-green Mediterranean glistens and rolls rhythmically.
The route winds through historic fishing villages which offer strong Italian coffee, fresh bread and fruit for anyone stopping off to see the pastel houses that hug the coastline. Those who are taking a slower pace can stop off at the previously inaccessible white-sand beaches which dot the route, or perhaps stay over for a night in one of the villages and sample delectable Ligurian wine.
One of Italy’s smaller regions, Liguria spans thinly along the North West coast bordering France. The Italian Riviera is perfect to make your way along by bus. Taking you through its main four cities, it starts at San Remo and runs right through to La Spezia, the final city before the border with Tuscany. Liguria has a brilliant public transport system and getting around via bus is a preferable option for many tourists. Depending on which area you’re in, there are several different companies that provide regular bus services.
ATP (Azienda Transporti Provinciali) is one of the larger bus services covering the whole province of major city Genoa, as well as larger towns along the coast such as Savona, Piacenza right through to La Spezia.
The ATP public transport system also connects the picturesque harbour town of Portofino with Santa Margherita and Rapallo. These three stops are highly recommended as you make your way up to Genoa.
Even though Portofino is heavily tourist based, that shouldn’t put you off. The exclusive seaside town is lined with brightly coloured buildings along the seafront, which has also inspired a recreation of the landscape around the harbour at Tokyo Disney Sea in Japan.
Santa Margherita is one of the older towns in the province of Genoa which you can reach by bus from Portofino. A fishing town with a beautiful harbour, it is quieter than Portofino and in the summer months, is a perfect place to escape the busier towns and watch the yachts sail in.
Then catch the ATP bus service up to Rapallo - central to Rapallo is the town’s most prominent landmark, the Castello sul Mare (Castle on the Sea) where you can fully take in the stunning views of the historical seaside town and Mediterranean Sea.
The rail service within Liguria may not cover as many places as travelling by bus does (simply due to the logistics of having rail station in some of the smaller seaside villages), but there are still over 50 railway stops in key areas. These give you an accessible and easy way to travel around the Italian Riviera – in fact, rail is probably the easiest and quickest method of travelling from town to town within Liguria.
One suggested route is to start in San Remo, then head to Varazze in Savona, before travelling up to the capital, Genoa, and finally making your way East-West down the Riviera to La Spezia.
Genoa is one of Liguria’s major port towns and as such has plenty of attractions. It is worth stopping off for a day or two in order to catch everything; from the panoramic view off the Spianata Castelletto, to the 42 palaces that make up the UNESCO-listed Palazzi die Rolli, or simply for some of the best cuisine in Italy.
The final stop, La Spezia, has some incredible attractions, including the beautiful 12th-century San Pietro Church high up in the cliffs in the small village of Portovenere. A beautifully structured castle sitting high on the edge of the mountain, this is as close to heaven you can get in Italy.