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Liguria: Genoa and the Cinque Terre

Genoa, Portofino and Cinque Terre: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore, Portovenere.

We went to Liguria a couple of times, the first time by car and the second time after the trip to Spain and France on the way back from Monte Carlo (read blog), in motion. It is a small but beautiful region, that offers picturesque landscapes and impervious territory but is capable of giving emotions. Let's find out together!


Genoa, what to see

In Genoa, we recommend staying one or two nights at most. The center is bordered by Piazza della Vittoria where you can park and in the center is the Arco della Vittoria, built in the 1930s as a tribute to the fallen in the First World War. From here starts Via XX Settembre, the street of prestigious bars, shops, and restaurants. You arrive at Piazza De Ferrari, the central square of Genoa with a large fountain in the center, and the Palazzo Ducale, the Stock Exchange, the Region, and the Carlo Felice Theater on either side. From the square begins the descent towards the Porto Antico along Via San Lorenzo where the Cathedral of San Lorenzo is located. Inside is a copy of the unexploded bomb dropped on the church during the First World War. In the street behind is the Bar degli Asinelli, a fantastic little bar that has remained as it once was where they make a liqueur similar to the white Martini with the recipe of yesteryear.


And where to find the caruggi? The typical narrow and shady alleys are behind the Porto Antico hidden inside the historic center. Among the various places to walk: are Piazza Banchi with the Loggia della Mercanzia from the Middle Ages, Via del Campo, sung and inhabited by Fabrizio De Andrè, the Church of the Annunziata.

The Old Port was renovated during the 1992 Genoa Expo and houses the famous Aquarium, the Biosphere (or Renzo Piano's Bubble), the Museum of the Sea, the Submarine, the vessel Neptune, and the Bigo panoramic lift. The Aquarium is the symbol of Genoa and is the largest and third most important in Europe: it has 71 tanks and more than 400 species of animals and plants. To see it, it is good to have at least three hours available.

🎫 Aquarium of Genoa official site



Portofino

Portofino is one of the most magical places on the Ligurian coast that fascinates tourists from all over the world. Elegant village in a semicircle on the sea, nestled in the greenery, with its tall colored houses, luxury yachts anchored in the port, fabulous villas of the international jet set, and small restaurants on the port and around the famous Piazzetta.

You can climb the lighthouse staircase that leads to the Church of San Giorgio with a beautiful panorama and you can continue until Castle Brown. The Castle was first an ancient Roman tower, then a medieval village and fortress against pirates in the following centuries, until it was purchased by the English Consul Brown who made it his summer residence.

Don't miss the Walk of Kisses, an easy path through nature that connects the cove of Paraggi to Portofino.

On foot or by boat you can reach the Abbey of San Fruttuoso, a Benedictine monastery built in an inlet by the sea. On the seabed in front of the Christ of the Abyss: a statue 15 meters deep in the sea that has been lying on the seabed since 1954.

Near the beautiful Rapallo e Recco famosa for his focaccia with cheese.

🚗 be prepared, parking is very expensive.

🍞 Focaccia from Recco



Going down from Portofino towards the Cinque Terre, there is Sestri Levante which stretches out towards the sea with its turquoise Baia del Silenzio and its typical houses.


Cinque Terre

We chose to sleep in Levanto because it is close to the villages but quieter and with excellent facilities and costs. In Levanto, there is also a beautiful beach and the Maremonti cycle and pedestrian path which passes on the route of the former railway and connects Levanto with Bonassola passing through the beach of Punta Carlino.

🍴 L'Igea Restaurant

🛏️ Agriturismo I Pipetta



Monterosso

Monterosso is the largest village in the Cinque Terre and is made up of an ancient soul and a more modern one. These two areas are located on the sides of a promontory with a tunnel that connects them: Fegina is the residential and tourist area with the railway station (here there is also Villa Montale where the Nobel Prize resided); the old port is the historic center area and the ferry dock. It is the only one with a long sandy beach and promenade. Furthermore, from Monterosso, you can take the ferry which stops in all the other villages of the Cinque Terre.


Vernazza

Among the most evocative villages, with valuable buildings thanks to the economic development that the village had since the Middle Ages. The village consists of a central street from which steep stairways start, the remains of the medieval fortifications with the castle and the tower, and the church of Santa Margherita di Antiochia. The road to get there is long and winding with a very small parking lot with limited places (better to arrive by train or ferry). In Vernazza there is a small sandy beach with rocks and an area dedicated to swimmers; while on the pier you can spread out your towel and take a dip when no ferries are arriving.

For those who go trekking, the paths to Monterosso and Corniglia start from here (blue path with a panoramic bar in the middle).


Corniglia

The only one of the villages not to be bathed by the sea, but to be located on a 100-meter rocky promontory with lots of vineyards around it. It can be reached by train and then take the bus to the main square or walk up a flight of 377 steps; or by car and there is a large paid car park here.


Manarola

Manarola is the jewel of the Cinque Terre with typical Genoese-style tower houses.

Its name is thought to derive from an ancient "magna roea", i.e. a large mill wheel present in the village. Manarola doesn't have a beach, but the seabed where the pier is located is deep and you can swim and dive from the rocks.

There is a path that allows you to reach Corniglia; while the Via dell'Amore path has unfortunately been closed for years due to a landslide, it is only possible to walk the first 200 meters and the total reopening is scheduled for July 2024. The bar-restaurant overlooks the on-the-sea Nessun Dorma (you can also just go in front of the panoramic point) and the last stretch of Via Belvedere with a balcony and panoramic square.


Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore has the most characteristic small port of the Cinque Terre with the multi-colored boats moored near the shore, whose colors mix with those of the houses and lush nature. Finally, the castle that dominates the historic center completes the postcard.

From Riomaggiore, you can see breathtaking sunsets. The small beach is sheltered from the wind and made up of large pebbles or nearby there are rocks perfect for sunbathing. The 12 km trekking path up to Portovenere starts from here. In Riomaggiore, there are several paid parking lots. Just before going down to the village, there is the panoramic bar Bar Il Sole a 180 Gradi.


Portovenere

Medieval village on the Gulf of Poets, included in the UNESCO heritage. The houses are tall and narrow with facades in red and yellow colors. Boats bound for La Spezia enter from the strait and climbing the cliff near the Castle is the Church of San Pietro with black and white colors, dating back to the 5th century and built on an ancient Roman temple. Portomaggiore can also be reached with a long and panoramic footpath, where in the middle there is the Monesteroli staircase with its 1100 steps.



Helpful tips:

  • Parking: there are in every village but they have very limited spaces and it is often difficult to park even on the street because they are narrow, winding and with no parking.

  • Ferries: they leave from Monterosso, Vernazza, Manarola, Riomaggiore, and Portovenere (some also from Levanto, Lerici, and La Spezia) and you can get on and off when you want; they are available from the end of March to the beginning of November and allow seeing the villages even from the sea. Link

  • Train: Cinque Terre Express is an additional service from March to November with trains every 15 minutes; you can buy the Cinque Terre Card.

  • Sea and Diving: The Cinque Terre is not the ideal destination for swimming, but by elbowing a little, you can take a dip or go for a swim. Monterosso is the only one with a real beach, together with Riomaggiore (whose beach remains hidden).

  • Trekking: the paths are paid and you need the Cinque Terre Card

  • Cinque Terre Card: offers access to trekking trails and the train with unlimited travel in second class on the Levanto - Cinque Terre - La Spezia railway line. You can buy the two services separately or together. Link

  • Be ready for the incredible hordes of tourists!

  • For more information, there is the official website www.cinqueterre.it



Itinerary on the map:


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