Every year, millions of tourists visit Italy thanks to its renowned cuisine, natural landscapes, fascinating culture, and artistic sites. Italian Riviera Cities and towns contribute significantly to both domestic and international tourism.
This article will discuss the top nine Italian Riviera towns and cities you must visit while traveling to Italy. We will explore what makes them famous and the activities you can do while visiting these towns.
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What Is The Italian Riviera
The Italian Riviera, also referred to as Ligurian Riviera, is a narrow coastal strip in Italy. It has gorgeous seaside and scenery, making it one of the top tourist destinations in Italy and Europe.
The Italian coast has pristine beaches with panoramic ocean views. In addition, vibrantly colored homes adorn the Italian Riviera towns, which offer mouthwatering regional cuisine and an enchanting mix of history.
Lovers of la dolce vita, celebrities, royalty, writers, and artists have been flocking the beautiful places of Liguria since the 1800s. The Italian Riviera cities have everything to offer, including picturesque hiking in Cinque Terre towns, open-air markets in Ventimiglia, and glitz in Sanremo. There are so many cafes with charming views to sit and enjoy all types of Italian pastries and sweets.
Where Is The Italian Riviera
The Ligurian Riviera is a stretch of Italy’s coastline. It lies between the mountain chains formed by the Apennines, the Maritimes, and the Ligurian sea.
The Italian Riviera covers nearly all the Ligurian coast. Historically, it stretched further to the west to as far as Marseille, which is now French territory.
The Italian Riviera is customarily divided into the Ponente Riviera, the western section, and Levante Riviera, the eastern section. Voltri, the Ligurian arc’s apex, is the division point.
Its population is about 1.6 million, with most inhabitants concentrated on the Italian coast.
Learn more in some of our top posts about traveling to Italy:
How To Book Hotels In Italy
In the 20+ years of traveling to Italy, we’ve learned a thing or two about booking a hotel in Italy. We’ve stayed at some stunning hotels like the Westin Excelsior Rome and St. Regis in Florence. And we’ve stayed at some not-so-great hotels mainly around train stations in Italy. Do yourself a favor and avoid hotels near train stations at all costs.
When planning a trip to Italy, we use Booking.com for our accommodations. In addition to booking hotels, we’ve used them for booking apartments for longer stays or booking villas in Italy when we want something special. We’ve even found some charming and less expensive guest houses in Italy on Booking.com.
Ligurian Coast of Italy
The Coast of Liguria starts from the border with France, the French Riviera, near Ventimiglia. It stretches eastwards to Capo Corvo (Punta Bianca) which marks the eastern end of the La Spezia Gulf. The Gulf of La Spezia is near the regional border between Tuscany and Liguria.
The Ligurian Coast crosses all four Ligurian provinces and their capitals. The major Italian Riviera cities and towns include Genoa, Imperia, La Spezia, and Savona, with a length of approximately 218 miles.
The Italian Riviera towns have a mild climate that attracts an active tourist trade. There are numerous coastal resorts with stunning Italy Riviera beaches.
Before traveling to the Italian Riviera, be sure to learn what things to pack for Italy.
When Is The Best Time To Visit The Italian Riveria
The protection of the mountains and the presence of the sea offer the Italian Riviera towns and cities a favored mild climate you can enjoy both in summer and winter.
The Italian Riviera can be extremely crowded in summer when Italians flee the cities in favor of the Coast of Liguria. The twisty roads between towns become congested. If you visit Italy during this period, you may want to avoid national holidays and weekends.
The best time to visit Italy’s coastline is in October, late September, May, and April. You can miss the summer crowds during this time.
Stay clear of Italy during August. Many Italians are on vacation celebrating the Ferragosto holiday. Most Italian restaurants, sites, and businesses remain closed, and Italy Riviera beaches are packed. This is one of our top tips for travelers to Italy.
The 9 Best Italian Towns In The Italian Riviera
Italian Riviera cities and towns are some of the most beautiful places in Liguria. There is much to do on the Italian coast, including swimming, hiking, fishing, shopping in boutiques, tasting the region’s wine, and eating the local delicacies.
Here are some of the best Italian Riviera towns with something for everyone.
Genoa is a historic port city on the Italian Riviera. This Mediterranean seaport is located in northwestern Italy. In addition, it is the capital of Liguria and Italy’s sixth-largest city. Genoa is also one of the best cities in Italy for food.
It is one of the numerous charming Italian Riviera cities that has tourists falling in love with the local community, architecture, and local cuisine.
Though most parts of the city are industrial, the Old Town has Baroque and Renaissance architecture as well as galleries and museums that entertain visitors.
Some things you can do while visiting this historic city are visiting the Teatro Carlo Felice, the Piazza de Ferrari, and the elegant street of Via Garibaldi.
Portofino is a village in Liguria, northwestern Italy. It is located on the southeast end of a small rocky peninsula that encloses the Rapallo Gulf on the west.
Once a small fishing village, Portofino is now a holiday resort and hosts excellent restaurants, expensive hotels, and luxury boutiques with brands like Dior and Gucci. It is a picturesque town with colorful houses and a small harbor with yachts and fishing boats.
After eating gelato and walking around the villages, you can go to Castello Brown. It is a historical museum located on top of the harbor of Portofino. Though you will pay an entrance fee, the view of the small town from above is stunning.
Though Camogli is among the less-famous Italian Riviera towns, it is a tourist destination that offers all the charm and color of more well-known spots. This town is situated down the coast from Portofino and boasts a pristine port and exquisite seafood.
Camogli is a classic Italian Riviera holiday destination, thanks to its traditional local cuisine, stunning hiking trails, a laid-back atmosphere, and polychromatic architecture. However, the town has less pretense than other towns in the region.
The town also has great boating excursions. You can rent a boat and visit popular nearby towns like Santa Margherita Ligure, Golfo del Tigullio, Rapallo, Portofino, and the Cinque Terre towns further south.
Riomaggiore is Cinque Terre’s most sourthern village. The railway lines divide this colorful Italian Riviera village into two. The lower village, a fisherman village, has small fishing boats, a rocky beach, and excellent restaurants, while the upper part is the agricultural village.
Because of the village’s topography, the colorful stone houses appear to have been stacked on one another. Riomaggiore is part of the five villages that comprise the UNESCO Heritage Site, Cinque Terre.
Via Colombo is the village’s main street. It has numerous takeaway restaurants you can order fish, souvenir shops, and bars. The road is steep with many steps. The famous hiking path, known as Via dell’ Amore, starts from Riomaggiore and leads to Manarola.
Portovenere is a medieval seaside town situated on the coast of Liguria. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is regarded as the most beautiful place on the Gulf of the Poets. Most tourists visit the neighboring Cinque Terre towns and leave it out. However, Portovenere is a hidden gem that deserves a visit.
This small Italian Riviera town has a lot to offer; colorful houses, beautiful churches, and an old castle. You can also tour the nearby islands of Tinetto, Palmaria, and Tino, with crystal clear waters and numerous caves to explore. These islands are perfect for a cruise.
Vernazza is the most beautiful among the Cinque Terre towns. In the high season, it also attracts so many tourists that it’s best to visit this Italian Riveria town early in the morning.
Piazza Marconi is the center of Vernazza. You can sit there on the bench to admire the stunning view of the sea or the fishing boats. Alternatively, you can relax in one of the restaurants and have dinner.
The town has a small sandy beach where you can dive from the rocks or swim. You can take the route towards Corniglia or Monterosso al Mare and admire the breathtaking views of Vernazza.
Manarola is another seaside town in the Cinque Terre. The perfect route to the town is to take the path from Riomaggiore called Via dell’ Amore. It is flat and easy to walk. If the path is open, you will enjoy the most stunning views of the town. Alternatively, you can use a boat.
The light is perfect in the afternoon during the summer if you want to take photos. You will also find some huge rocks that are great for sunbathing when swimming.
Historically and today, this Cinque Terre town is famous for a highly-coveted sweet dessert wine called Sciacchetra. It is a blend of Bosco, Albarola, and Vermentino grapes.
Santa Margherita Ligure
Santa Margherita Ligure is a Ligurian fishing town turned coastal resort located on the most popular stretch of the Riviera. It offers the best parts of the Italian coast but with slightly less footfall. The buzzy Rapallo is to the north, while the chic Portofino is to the south.
You can take a boat, train, or bus from Portofino to the Italian Riviera town of Santa Margherita Ligure. The charming town has elegant restaurants and hotels, pastel houses, a nice marina with yachts, and sandy beaches. There are also amazing villas on the surrounding hills.
While visiting the town, you can check out the statue of Italy’s first king, Vittorio Emanuelle II, and the statue of Cristoforo Colombo.
San Remo is the Italian Riviera’s casino city. The stylish Mediterranean destination offers charm and grandeur. La Pigna, located in the hills just off San Remo, has winding streets that let you enjoy the Italian sunshine while exploring gardens, buildings, cafes, boutiques, and churches.
The Madonna della Costa Sanctuary is likely the most popular symbol of the city after the casino. It features stunning exteriors, interiors, and vistas.
Palm-fringed boulevards line the waterfront while quaint boats and yachts dot the harbor for you to admire. Along the harbor is the imposing yet impressive Forte Santa Tecla. The hilltop fort offers spectacular views of the city.
Italian Riviera cities and towns are great tourist destinations. Our guide offers you a sneak peek of the incredible Italian coast.
FAQs – Visiting The Italian Riveria
The Italian Riveria starts on the French border and runs east along the Ligurian Sea. There are dozens of small towns and villages included along this Italian coastline. The Italian Riveria cities and towns we included in this list are our favorite and the most popular for travelers. They include Genoa, Portofino, and our favorite – Camogli, among others.
There are numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites along the Italian Riveria. Cinque Terre includes 5 villages that are part of the Riveria along the eastern edge. The Riveria stretches from the France border but the Cinque Terre heads towards La Spezia in the direction of Rome.
Both areas are part of the Italian coastline, but the Amalfi includes the region further south. The Amalfi is south of both Rome and Naples and faces the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Culinary Travel To Italy
Our Italy Travel Experience
Check out Food & Drink Destinations original founder Amber Hoffman’s book, the Food Traveler’s Guide To Emilia Romagna, which is available on Amazon. In addition to being a culinary travel guide to the region, it walks through how many of the typical Italian food products are made, like mortadella, prosciutto, and Parmigiano Reggiano.