Italian Riviera

There are 20 regions in Italy, some of which are household names – Tuscany and Sicily among them. There are also parts of Italy that, while not technically regions, are still familiar to everyone who has ever planned an Italian vacation. The Italian Riviera is one of those areas. Here’s an overview of the Italian Riviera to help you plan your trip.

When most people hear the word “Riviera,” chances are good they’re thinking of the one in France – but there’s one in Italy, too. The Italian Riviera is less than half the length of the French Riviera – which means less beachy real estate – but no less alluring in its own way.

Italian Riviera Basics

  • The Italian Riviera runs from the town of Ventimiglia close to the French border to a point on about the tip of the Lunense Promontory just past the Gulf of La Spezia.
  • The Italian Riviera is divided into two sections. From Genoa toward France is known as the Riviera di Ponente, and from Genoa to the Lunense Promontory is known as the Riviera di Levante. The words “ponente” and “levante” usually refer to westerly and easterly winds respectively, but in this context the nicknames mean “Coast of the Setting Sun” and “Coast of the Rising Sun” respectively.
  • The Cinque Terre is part of the Italian Riviera.
  • The town of Sanremo, not far from France, is home to an annual song contest (the winner goes on to represent Italy in the quirky Eurovision competition).

Italian Riviera Travel Tips

The Italian Riviera picks up where the French Riviera leaves off at the French border, and wraps around the Gulf of Genoa past the Cinque Terre and La Spezia – the points roughly indicated by the red Xs on the map below.

annotated Italian Riviera map

This stretch of Italian coastline is often known as the Ligurian Riviera, too, because it overlaps the coast of the region of Liguria almost completely.

The Italian Riviera includes places like the gorgeous resort town of Sanremo, the UNESCO-listed city of Genoa, the cliffside vineyards surrounding the five Cinque Terre villages, and the colorful little harbor of Portofino. And yes, there are beaches all along the coast that are extremely popular tourist destinations in the summer months.

The capital of Liguria, Genoa, is at the heart of the Italian Riviera. The city is well-served by Italy’s rail network, has its own airport, and is the country’s largest port – Genoa is a common start or end point for Mediterranean cruises.

Most of the Italian Riviera is easily reached by train, even if the trains aren’t terribly speedy (like the slow trains that connect the five Cinque Terre towns). For most travelers, then, the train is probably the best way to get around the Italian Riviera. The exception is popular Portofino, which doesn’t have a train station. To get there, you’ll take a bus from the train station in Santa Margherita Ligure.

The high tourist season along most of the Ligurian Riviera is summer, as it is throughout Italy. There are some towns that see enough of a drop in tourism numbers during the low season that some businesses may close or at least keep shorter hours, but other cities never really slow down. Be sure to look into what’s available in smaller seaside towns during the off-season before you book your trip so you’re prepared for both weather and activities (or lack thereof).

Guided Tours of the Italian Riviera

These are affiliate links, which means I get a little something if you book one of these tours – but it won’t cost you anything extra.

Further Reading on the Italian Riviera

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