8 beautiful towns and villages on the Italian Riviera

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The Ligurian Coast of Italy, also known as the Italian Riviera, is a beautiful stretch of coast that begins on the border with France and stretches into Tuscany. This scenic area is dotted with colorful seaside villages that offer incredible views of the Ligurian Sea, a scenic arm of the Mediterranean Sea.

You won’t run out of things to do here as the towns and villages of the Italian Riviera offer plenty to do. Whether hiking, shopping, swimming in the blue waters of the Mediterranean or enjoying culinary delights, this region has it all!

During my trip to the Cinque Terre, I realized that the Italian Riviera is home to numerous small seaside towns and villages just waiting to be explored. Due to their proximity to each other, it’s easy to visit several of these Italian gems in one trip!

So, without further ado, let me introduce you to some of the beautiful towns on the Italian Riviera that you should visit.

Explore the 13th-century Church of San Pietro, visit the 12th-century Castle, or just wander the narrow streets of this remarkable medieval town.

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1. Portovenere

The city of Portovenere is located in the Bay of Poets in the Gulf of La Spezia. Although Portovenere enjoys the same UNESCO World Heritage Site protection as the towns of the Cinque Terre, it is often overlooked for its proximity to the five villages of the Cinque Terre.

The best way to get to Portovenere is to take a boat from La Spezia towards the Cinque Terre, as the train does not stop in Portovenere. During your time here, you can explore the 13th-century Church of San Pietro, visit the 12th-century Castle, or simply stroll the narrow streets of this remarkable medieval town. If you’re visiting in the summer months, be sure to take a snorkelling or boat trip to the islands of Palmaria, Tinetto and Tino.

Pro Tip: If you are planning a trip to the region during the high season (summer), I highly recommend making Portovenere your home base. Just make sure to book your accommodation well in advance.

Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore is the first stop of the La Spezia train.

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2. Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore, the southernmost of the five villages of the Cinque Terre, is the first stop on the La Spezia train. The colorful seaside town is most people’s first stop when visiting the Italian Riviera. The southern part of town has great restaurants, a rocky beach and colorful fishing boats. In the northern part of Riomaggiore you will find the agricultural municipality and the main street Via Colombo.

Pro Tip: If the Via dell’Amore (‘The Way of Love’) hiking trail to Manarola is open, be sure to take it. This easy trail gives you incredible views of the Ligurian coast. Be sure to check this site for trail updates as they are often closed for maintenance.

The fishing village of Manarola

The fishing village of Manarola

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3. Manarola

Manarola is one of the most famous towns on the Italian Riviera thanks to its colorful hillside houses and incredible wine. Be sure to make the climb to discover the 13th-century Church of San Lorenzo before embarking on the scenic Manarola Vineyard Walk. The Vineyard Walk meanders through the terraced vineyards of Manarola and offers some incredible views of the sea and the colorful village.

After your walk, be sure to stop at one of the town’s many charming cafés to taste the Sciacchetra wine, made from the grapes grown on the hillsides. Just note that this is an incredibly sweet wine, so be prepared.

Pro Tip: If you fancy a climb, be sure to head to the top of the town – Punta Bonfiglio to be precise – for a gorgeous view!

Corniglia is a fabulous medieval town

Corniglia is a fabulous medieval town that offers one of the best sea views in this area

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4. Corniglia

Corniglia is a fabulous medieval town that offers one of the best sea views in this area and the best part is you don’t have to hike to see it!

Take the time to roam the small streets of Corniglia with a gelato in hand to really experience it the dolce vita (“The sweet life”)! The town’s main alley leads you to a wide terrace that offers one of the best views in the region.

Pro Tip: When you arrive in Corniglia you can choose to walk the 300+ steps to get into town or simply wait for the town shuttle bus to pick you up right in front of the train station. I personally would wait for the shuttle bus!

Village of Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy

If you fancy a hike, the path from Corniglia to Vernazza offers breathtaking views.

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5. Vernazza

One of the most photographed villages of the Cinque Terre, Vernazza is definitely one of the most beautiful towns on the Italian Riviera. The colorful houses seem to cling to the seafront cliffs, all overlooking the hustle and bustle of the busy harbor below.

See the remains of the old Genoese walls and a watchtower on a visit to Vernazza. The town’s cafes and restaurants offer delicious seafood and fabulous home-made wine, making Vernazza the perfect place to slow down and enjoy life in Italy.

Pro Tip: If you fancy a hike, the path from Corniglia to Vernazza offers breathtaking views. The entire hike takes about 2 hours and includes a natural, uneven surface.

Statue of San Francesco d'Assisi

Statue of San Francesco d’Assisi

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6. Monterosso Al Mare

Monterosso al Mare is the largest of the five villages of the Cinque Terre and the only one with a real beach, making it the perfect town for beach lovers. Aside from the beach here, Monterosso also offers visitors the chance to explore the historic Church of San Giovanni Battista and the 13th-century Torre Aurora, a medieval tower.

Pro Tip: Monterosso al Mare is also a great base for exploring the Ligurian coast. There are several hotels and guesthouses to choose from here, and public transport links make it easy to get around.

Portofino, an Italian fishing village, Province of Genoa, Italy

The Italian fishing village of Portofino in the Genoa region

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7. Portofino

The village of Portofino on the Italian Riviera has been popular with celebrities, princes and poets for years. Located on the Italian Riviera in the province of Genoa, Portofino has somehow managed to retain its Italian charm despite its popularity.

Like most villages on the Italian Riviera, Portofino is home to brightly colored houses and a lively harbour. What makes Portofino unique is that it is also home to a marine nature reserve, Area Marina Protetta di Portofino, perfect for snorkeling! Of course, there are also plenty of shops and local restaurants to explore during your visit.

Pro Tip: If you’re looking for unique accommodation in Portofino, consider the Belmond Splendido, a 19th-century monastery-turned-hotel.

Santa Margherita Ligure

To avoid the crowds, visit in June or September. You’ll still have great weather but avoid the throngs of tourists.

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8. Santa Margherita Ligure

Another great village on the Italian Riviera is Santa Margherita Ligure. Located near Portofino, Santa Margherita is a delightful port town that is more affordable compared to some other towns on the Italian Riviera.

During your stay in Santa Margherita, enjoy a stroll along the promenade before visiting the 16th-century Castello di Santa Margherita Ligure, which overlooks the sea. There are also a number of historic churches to visit in Santa Margherita Ligure. Noteworthy is the Basilica di Santa Margherita d’Antiochia.

Pro Tip: To avoid the crowds, visit in June or September. You’ll still have great weather but avoid the throngs of tourists.

The Grand Canal in Venice, Italy

The Grand Canal in Venice, Italy

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Bonus: Cities on the Italian Riviera

While the following are far from cities – with populations near or well over 100,000 – I couldn’t help but include these dazzling towns on the Italian Riviera.

Genoa

If you are a lover of architecture, food and history, then Genoa should definitely be on your list of Italian Riviera cities to visit! Genoa’s old town has plenty of Renaissance and Baroque architecture, as well as numerous museums and art galleries just waiting to be explored.

Like Venice, I feel like there are photo opportunities around every corner in Genoa’s old town. Don’t miss the Piazza de Ferrari, Via Garibaldi and the Teatro Carlo Felice.

Pro Tip: Parts of Genoa feel a little gritty and industrialized. If this isn’t your mood, then be sure to stay in Genoa’s historic center during your stay.

sanremo

The casino town of San Remo is one of the most stylish destinations on our list. The winding streets of La Pigna, the oldest part of town, offer visitors the chance to immerse themselves in Italian culture. Here you will be surrounded by beautiful gardens, charming cafes, churches and fabulous boutiques.

When you’ve had enough of gambling at the casino, be sure to visit the Sanctuary of the Madonna della Costa. A landmark of the city of San Remo, the sanctuary boasts breathtaking views, a beautiful exterior and an even more incredible interior.

Forte Santa Tecla stands high on the hill overlooking the harbor and offers visitors incredible views during their stay in San Remo.

Pro Tip: For an amazing experience, visit San Remo between June and October to take a whale watching cruise from San Remo. These excursions give you the opportunity to see the whales that migrate along the Ligurian coast at this time of the year. Of course, you can also see other aquatic life on your trip!

You can find more inspiration for your well-deserved short break in Italy at:

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