Liguria, a thin strip in the north west of Italy, is one of those regions that on the map appear unremarkable and one could easily skip, but yet it has some of the most spectacular and photogenic coastline, UNESCO listed palaces as well as 5 unique fishing villages better known as Cinque Terre.
On the way to exploring Cinque Terre, most people would easily miss out on one of the world’s best kept travel destination secrets, Genoa. Still largely undiscovered by tourists, it has an interesting port and an historic centre said to be the largest medieval quarter in Europe, with a wealth of churches and palaces once residences of wealthy shipbuilders, merchants and bankers from Genoa’s golden age in the 16th and 17th century.
In 2006 Genoa’s Rolli Palaces were added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and you will find that a lot of them, although privately owned, would throw open their doors and welcome the public in. They are definitely worth visiting for their amazing art collections and magnificent roof gardens.
Genoa, even with its grand avenues and large piazzas, is indeed an understated city that doesn’t boast about its culture and achievements, but will surprise you and delight you at every corner or while getting lost in the tangled maze of its typically narrow streets known as caruggi!
On the way to Cinque Terre get on a train, which is by the way the best and most scenic way to explore Liguria’s wonderful coastline, and stop off at the charming and brightly painted harbour village of Camogli on the Portofino Peninsula. Its tall, sunny yellow houses, some of them displaying the typical Ligurian ‘trompe l’oeil’ effect windows, stretching along the craggy cliff walls make it a highly photogenic and delightful place to be.
Another secret gem not to be missed once in Camogli and that can only be reached by boat or on foot hiking the nature trails, is the striking Abbey of San Fruttuoso, set in a bay between Camogli and Portofino. The monastic complex includes an 11th century church with an octagonal bell tower, a cloister and a 13th century palazzo.
Finally base yourself in Levanto, a beautiful coastal town which makes an ideal base to explore Cinque Terre, the 5 UNESCO listed and picturesque fishing villages perched high on the cliffs. Vernazza, the largest village, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore and Monterosso, the only village with a large beach, will be without a doubt the highlight of your tour on the Italian Riviera and not even the best photos could do them justice, and the only way to experience the idyllic charm of these truly remarkable towns is to just go there!
The whole towns tumbling towards the sea are truly picture-postcard pretty as you imagined them to be and if there’s a heaven on earth, surely this must be it! The inhabitants of Cinque Terre benefit not only from its pristine waters, but also from its natural environment, where wild nature is interspersed with vineyards, olive groves and citrus orchards creating a very special bond between man, his traditions and this breathtaking stretch of coast.
If you enjoy hiking, are a keen photographer or you just enjoy wandering and admiring some of the most spectacular views in Italy, I couldn’t think of a better place to be than this captivating and truly magical coastline.
Featured Image: Vernazza, one of the Cinque Terre