The Italian Riviera is filled with picturesque coastal gems, that draws tourists to its seaside promenade, cute colorful homes, and historical remnants. From the fishing villages of Cinque Terre to the heritage site of San Fruttuoso, here are the top 10 Italian Riviera towns and cities to add to your bucket list.
10 Italian Riviera Towns & Cities to add to your bucket list
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. As an Airbnb, GetYourGuide & Booking.com associate, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you, when you book through these links.
The Italian Riviera lies in the northwestern part of Italy. It stretches along the Ligurian Sea from the Italian-French border to Tuscany.
All the destinations that are referred to as Italian Riviera, comprises the region of Liguria. It’s (Mediterranean) coastline boasts of rugged cliffs, hiking trails, and turquoise coves like those in the Riviera di Levante, and the 5 Cinque Terre fishing villages; and showcases luxuriously stylish resorts in towns like Portofino and Santa Margherita Ligure in the east.
The western part of the Riviera is home to рlасеѕ such as Bоrdighеrа and Sаnremo.
The region’s capital city is Genoa and it is filled with stunning Renaissance palaces, and with the most delicious food in the country.
With so many Italian Riviera towns and cities, you must be wondering if it is possible to see it all in a single trip. Well, one of the amazing things to note here is that as a traveler you can make the most of your trip to the region by staying in 1-2 locations, and then taking day trips to explore the rest of the Ligurian region.
The Instagrammable Cinque Terre images that you see online, is not one, but a group of 5 fishing villages – Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. These five towns are connected by footpaths, and are easily accessible.
Other popular areas in the Italian Riviera are Levanto, Noli, Portofino, Santa Margherita Ligure, San Remo, San Fruttuoso, and Sestri Levante. All of these areas had been frequented by celebrities and artists, which gives this region its special charm and character.
Top Tours & Excursions in the Italian Riviera
- Italian Riviera from Pisa: Explore the Riviera on a day trip from Pisa
- Cinque Terre from Florence: Visit Cinque Terre on a day trip from Florence
- Cinque Terre Hiking Experience: Full day guided hiking tour in Cinque Terre
- Portofino & Santa Margherita: Portofino & Santa Margherita tour from Genoa
Although the Italian Riviera is synonymously used with the Ligurian Riviera, the southern part of Italy also has stunning coastal towns that are worth visiting. Amalfi Cоаѕt (Costiera Amalfitana in Italian) is home to Pоѕitаnо, and its landscape is similar to the Italian Riviera, with its rugged tеrrаin, turquoise wаtеrѕ, terraced hills and colorful houses perched on cliffs.
There are 13 towns in total, along the Amalfi Coast. Most popular among them all are Positano, Ravello, Amalfi and Vietri sul Mare. There are also hamlets/smaller towns that are less frequented but just as beautiful, such as the fishing villages of Cetara and Conca dei Marini.
To visit the Italian Riviera/Ligurian Riviera, international visitors can fly to Genoa, for the Amalfi Coast fly to Naples or Rome.
By Nadine from Le Long Weekend
Portovenere lies within the same UNESCO protected area as the Cinque Terre, yet it unfairly receives far less attention than the famous five villages. Located in the Bay of Poets, in the Gulf of La Spezia, Portovenere benefits from a privileged position at the edge of the peninsula, surrounded by islands and idyllic beaches.
Many visitors take the train (which does not stop at Portovenere) directly from La Spezia into the Cinque Terre and completely miss this hidden gem. Don’t make this same mistake, and take the ferry instead. You can buy a single ticket, or a full day pass if you want to take the ferry into the Cinque Terre too.
Spend the day (or many days), hiking in the National Park, wandering through ancient alleyways, gorging on fresh pesto and gelato, visiting the Doria Castle, swimming in Lord Byron’s Grotto, or taking a day trip to the island of Palmaria.
There are plenty of things to do in Portovenere, and it makes a great base for exploring the area if you’re looking for a quieter spot than La Spezia to stay.
Visit in the shoulder season, at the beginning or end of summer in June or September to benefit from sunny weather with slightly fewer crowds. And book a stay at the famous Grand Hotel Portovenere which is located right on the waterfront and has unbeatable views of the bay. Alternatively, families might like to take advantage of the many Airbnbs in the area to have a little more space at their disposal.
By Val from Voyages with Val
Riomaggiore is the Southernmost of the five towns that make up Italy’s Cinque Terre region. These towns are known for their colorful buildings, winding streets, and remote location, making them a perfect family getaway or romantic honeymoon destination.
Riomaggiore, in particular, is a great starting point for your visit, as it is the first town you will encounter if you are arriving by train or car from La Spezia, the nearest major city.
There is so much to do in Riomaggiore! History enthusiasts can visit several of the ancient churches and castles built in the 13th and 14th century, or adventurous travelers can hike the trails that lead between all five villages.
The town is also full of adorable cafes and shops filled with local delicacies and goods. Locals also offer sunset boat tours where you can sip wine and watch the coast go by!
The small, quaint nature of the towns also means wherever you stay is sure to be a cozy getaway. There is an abundance of cute hotels and bed and breakfasts such as Due Gemelli and Terra Prime Lorenza. You can also have more privacy and rent out your own apartment on Airbnb.
While summer is the most popular time to visit Cinque Terre, it is also when the temperatures will be hotter. The beaches allow for you to take a quick dip, but the heat and humidity can get to you after a long day of hiking and shopping up and down the stone streets. If possible, vacation in early fall will allow for slightly cooler temperatures and fewer tourists.
By James Ian from Travel Collecting
Accommodation: Locanda del Parco di Portofino
San Fruttuoso is a small bay in Ligure. It is hidden at the bottom of steep wooded hills and can be accessed by boat or on foot. Ferries go there from Camogli in one direction and Rapallo-Santa Margherita-Portofino in the other.
A great way to visit San Fruttuoso Bay is to hike from Portofino in the morning and then take the boat back in the afternoon. The two-hour hike provides stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea along the way. You can also hike from Camogli, though this is longer and harder. Book a half-day hiking tour in the San Fruttoso Bay
San Fruttuoso is dominated by a tenth-century Benedictine abbey. It has arches at sea level where, when the sea was higher, boats could row under and directly into the abbey. There is also a large tower that you can climb. Today, there is a small museum inside the abbey.
In addition to the abbey, there are several seafood restaurants on the bay and the nearby area. This is a lovely spot to enjoy a long leisurely lunch.
There is a small beach set up with deck chairs and umbrellas for hire, and a small food stand for those who want a more casual eating experience. The water is cool and crystal clear and is the perfect way to cool off after hiking in the hills.
There is a small inn there, the Locanda del Parco di Portofino, with basic accommodations.
The best time to visit is late spring-early fall. Summer gets crowded, but the ferries are more frequent. Early September is perfect.
By Theresa from Fueled By Wanderlust
Accommodation: il Magàn – Cinque Terre
Corniglia is one of the most interesting villages to visit in the Italian Riviera. Situated as the center village in Cinque Terre, it makes the perfect home base for day tripping to the four surrounding towns.
What sets Corniglia apart from the other four Cinque Terre towns is its altitude. Corniglia is perched high up on a hill and requires either a shuttle or climbing 300 plus stairs to access from the train station. However, its high perch also allows for sweeping views over the Ligurian sea, as well as fewer crowds who are willing to make the trek.
Additionally, Corniglia’s position as the middle Cinque Terre village makes it a great jumping off point for day trips. This is especially true for those who plan to hike. You could easily plan one day of hiking north to Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare, and hike south to Manarola and Riomaggiore the next day.
Finally, you won’t go hungry in Corniglia, as this small town offers a delicious array of eateries to choose from. Kick any morning off at Caffe Matteo with a yummy pastry and cappuccino before setting off on a hike.
In the evening, A Cantina de Mananan offers super-fresh seafood, with their specialty being pasta Frutti di mare. Alberto Gelateria is the perfect last stop of the day for incredibly smooth gelato.
The best times to visit Corniglia are April and May or September and October for the best weather and lighter crowds. For incredible terrace views and chic rooms, il Magàn is the perfect retreat after a day of exploring.
By Annbel from Smudged Postcard
Accommodation: Hotel Villa Salvarezza
Noli is a lovely Ligurian seaside town close to the port of Savona, about 50 km (30 miles) west of Genoa. Noli is frequented predominantly by Italians and has an unspoilt and charming feel.
The beach of Noli is great for families, there are good beach facilities including cafes, play areas and beach chairs and umbrellas for hire. From the beach there are wonderful views over the hills of the town’s old defensive walls which stretch away into the distance.
There’s a long promenade lined with palm trees behind the beach which is perfect for an evening passeggiata – the Italian tradition of a walk with family and friends.
The medieval part of Noli is a warren of narrow streets with stone towers and old gateways. It is difficult to know whether to enjoy dinner at a pizzeria overlooking the sea or to head into the town and choose from one of the many seafood restaurants in the little streets and squares. Whichever you choose, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
Noli is a brilliant destination for an afternoon if you’re taking an overnight crossing on the car ferry to Corsica from the port at Savona. However, to really do this charming town justice it’s worth staying a few nights in a small hotel such as the charming Hotel Villa Salvarezza.
Noli is best visited in summertime when there’s a warm, lively atmosphere with people of all ages enjoying the sunshine. Noli can be reached by car or by train. Noli shares a railway station with the nearby town of Spotorno.
By Chrysoula from Travel Passionate
Portofino is a pretty little fishing village situated on the Italian Riviera in the Genoa province. The village has long been popular with princes and poets and is now a popular haunt with celebrities, but has somehow managed to maintain its charm. Village life is focused on the harbor where fishing boats are moored alongside luxury yachts.
The harbor is overlooked by brightly colored buildings with shops and really good fish restaurants and it is fun to relax in the sunshine with a coffee and ‘watch the world go by’ or enjoy some Ligurian cuisine made with fresh seasonal ingredients and including anchovies fried in breadcrumbs, cacciucco (traditional seafood soup) and plenty of fresh fish.
The waters around the bay are a Marine Nature Reserve so are good for snorkeling. Kayaking and sailing are fun to do and there are traditional wooden boats to hire in the harbor. Book a kayak tour in Portofino
The area around Portofino is perfect for walking. There is the coastal path to follow and also the walk up through the village to the Church of St George and then onto the lighthouse passing several exclusive villas. Portofino is in a National Park area so there are numerous trails to enjoy. For the ultimate start to the day, there is the climb up to Castello Brown to watch the sunrise.
Portofino can be visited all year through but for the best weather May through August are the popular months. The Belmond Splendido is a stunning hotel in a 19th-century monastery with fabulous views of the bay. The hotel has excellent facilities, fabulous food, and exceptional service. Its sister hotel the Belmond Splendido Mare is beautifully furnished and offers understated luxury to its guests and the chance to enjoy harbor life.
By Roxanne from Faraway Worlds
Accommodation: Hotels in Santa Margherita
Santa Margherita Ligure is one of the most charming towns in the Italian Riviera and a highlight of any trip to Northern Italy. Its location on the eastern Ligurian Coast along with a train station makes it a great base to explore more of the region.
An old fishing village, Santa Margherita is much more affordable than nearby Portofino. However, it has a similar elegance, with colourful buildings just beyond the waterfront, some larger buildings in the surrounding hilltops, and a picturesque harbour-side town.
Like other beach spots, Santa Margherita is a summertime town. Visit in June or September for good weather and few crowds. And, while you’re there, be sure to visit some of the wonderful bars and restaurants in the town. Alternately, you can also book a pesto cooking class to learn all the secrets of Italian pasta.
Take a leisurely stroll along the promenade and stop for ice cream or coffee at one of the little shops along the way. For some of the best views of the town, pause at the road between Rapallo and Camogli, on the hill high above the town.
For a more cultural experience, you can visit the castle on the waterfront which dates from the 16th Century.
There are also a number of churches worth a visit, especially the Basilica di Santa Margherita d’Antiochia. Originally built in the 13th century it was rebuilt in the 17th century with the Baroque façade and bell tower added in the 18th Century.
Next to the church is the Villa Durazzo-Centurion which is open to the public along with a typical Italian garden. The views from both are stunning.
Santa Margherita is also a great base for visiting Portofino. Walk there along the water, looking at the waterfront mansions, boutique hotels and tiny beaches on the way. After spending a few hours (or longer if you wish) in Portofino, take the ferry back to Santa Margherita, and see both beautiful towns from the water.
By Dymphe from Dymabroad
Accommodation: Recanissu Apartment
One of the best places to visit in the Italian Riviera is the town of Vernazza. This town is part of the Cinque Terre area which comprises five towns along the coast. Larger cities nearby include Pisa and Genoa.
The town of Vernazza is really beautiful. There are many colorful houses that look incredible and make this town very unique. Furthermore, there are lots of picturesque streets and shops. It’s here where you can taste some of the most delicious ice cream!
Vernazza is also known for its amazing viewpoints. From these viewpoints, you can see the beautiful town and the blue water of the sea. The most beautiful viewpoint of Vernazza is on the hike from Vernazza to Monterosso al Mare. This hiking route itself is also great and really worth doing when you are going to Vernazza!
Another great thing about Vernazza is that in summer it is great to swim here. The beach is conveniently located in the middle of the town and from there you can see the colors of the houses of Vernazza while swimming, which is lovely. Vernazza is very photogenic and you’ll find some of the best photo spots in Cinque Terre here.
Visiting Vernazza is great throughout the year! However, at the end of spring and the end of summer, the weather is great and it is less busy in Vernazza than in summer. Most places to stay in Vernazza are apartments, one of the best of these is Recanissu Apartment with balcony & AC.
By Nichola from Global Mouse Travels
Genoa is a fantastic city to visit, right at the top of the Italian Riviera and an often overlooked gem. While parts of the city can have an urban, gritty feel there’s a beautiful historic centre at its heart.
The higgledy piggledy little streets and lanes through the middle are the perfect place to lose yourself for a while. Here you can come across the Via Garibaldi, the “Strada Nuova ” (New Street) which was the most up market road in Genoa and where the city’s most prestigious families had homes.
Today you can wander through, gazing up at these beautiful residences and twice a year, usually in July and October, the city opens up the palaces on “rolli days” and you can look around for free so this is a great time to visit the city.
To get a really nice overview of the city take Genoa’s Art Nouveau lift from Piazza Portello and stare over the wonderful rooftops and bell towers.
Finally, it may be small, but don’t miss the opportunity to step into the home of Genoa’s most famous former resident, Christopher Columbus. This reconstructed building shows the workshop on the ground floor that Columbus’s father would have used and the family’s lodgings. Book a private tour with a local to hear all about Genoa’s rich past
If you’re planning a family holiday in Italy, then Genoa is a wonderful place to start and there are some gorgeous hotels here including the wonderful Palazzo Cicala. Stay here in the heart of the Old Town in somewhere packed full of character and stay as if you are a resident in this bewitching city.
Final Thoughts on Cities and Towns in Italian Riviera
The Italian Riviera makes for an amazing European destination for a weekend getaway with family and/or couples. The mild weather, stunning landscapes, sea-views, and colorful villages await you in Italy, where will you travel to?