The Italian Riviera runs along the azure waters of the Ligurian Sea, from the French border to La Spezia. It encompasses an intriguing variety of scenic highlights: from secluded mountain villages, to charming seaside towns and rocky beaches, to the hustle and bustle of the port city of Genoa. For two centuries the agreeable climate and beautiful landscapes have drawn tourists to the hotels and penziones of Portofino, Rapallo and San Remo, among others. This little corner of Italy, where the Alps and the Appenines converge, is the ideal place to capture your own sense of the rhythms of Mediterranean Europe.
For those who prefer the more understated air of a rustic village perched on the rocky coastline, Portofino might just be the perfect destination. An afternoon of sitting in an elegant harbour-side cafe, watching the yachts come and go, is as relaxing as one could imagine. There are also plenty of hiking opportunities in the immediate environs. Admittedly, you will not be the only visitor enjoying the views, and the prices are correspondingly high, but this photogenic location is probably worth the expense. For those with a taste for a slightly faster-paced atmosphere, the resort town of San Remo offers a tantalising glimpse of late nineteenth century glamour. There is certainly a lot more to do here than in Portofino, with a vibrant social scene centred on a lively collection of cafes, bars and restaurants. San Remo is also famous for the bright colours and delicate aromas of its massive flower market, the Mercato dei Fiori.
For city slickers and culture vultures, Genoa might be the most interesting port of call. This cosmopolitan city, which has existed in some form for more than two thousand years, contains the largest old centre in Europe. It is also home to a fascinating variety of museums and palaces, as well as the remnants of a system of ancient fortresses. Genoa is perhaps not the most serene destination on the Riviera, but it does host some of its cultural highlights.
There are countless towns and villages dotting the coastline of the Italian Riviera, interspersed with spectacular seaside cliffs and rocky inlets. Perhaps the most charming aspect of any trip to this region involves the simple pleasures of exploration and discovery. Although elegant charm and a touch of old world glitz and glamour certainly come at a price, the Italian Riviera remains an enchanting destination.