Hidden Gems of the Italian Riviera: Beyond Cinque Terre

The Italian Riviera is synonymous with the postcard-perfect villages of Cinque Terre, attracting throngs of tourists eager to walk the cliffside trails and gaze upon the colorful facades clinging to the rugged coastline. While these five famous villages—Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore—deserve their acclaim, there’s a whole world beyond them waiting to be explored.

From secluded coves to charming coastal towns that exude old-world charm, the Italian Riviera’s lesser-known destinations offer a tranquil retreat for discerning travelers. Dive into the allure of these hidden gems, where the pace is slower, the crowds thinner, and the authentic Italian spirit shines brightly.

Santa Margherita Ligure: The Jewel by the Sea

Nestled between the more famous Portofino and the bustling town of Rapallo, Santa Margherita Ligure is a sophisticated seaside town that has managed to stay under the radar. Its charm lies in its understated elegance, with grand hotels that date back to the Belle Époque era and a harbor filled with sleek yachts and colorful fishing boats.

Santa Margherita Ligure: The Jewel by the Sea

Stroll along the palm-lined promenade, where cafes spill out onto the sidewalks, offering the perfect spot for a leisurely espresso or a glass of local Vermentino wine. Explore the pastel-colored buildings and the vibrant market squares. The Villa Durazzo-Centurione, with its stunning gardens and views over the Gulf of Tigullio, is a must-visit for a dose of history and beauty.

Camogli: The Enchanted Fishing Village

A short drive from Santa Margherita Ligure, the village of Camogli offers a slice of traditional Italian life with a touch of romance. Known for its narrow streets, pebble beaches, and brightly painted houses, Camogli is a haven for those seeking a picturesque escape.

Camogli: The Enchanted Fishing Village

The town’s name, which translates to “house of wives,” harks back to its fishing heritage, where fishermen’s families would keep the homes while the men were at sea. Today, the harbor is still filled with fishing boats, and the daily catch often ends up in the delicious seafood dishes served in local trattorias.

Camogli is also the gateway to the San Fruttuoso Abbey, accessible by a scenic boat ride or a challenging hike through the Monte di Portofino Regional Park. This medieval abbey, nestled in a secluded bay, is one of the Riviera’s most enchanting sights.

Sestri Levante: The Town of Two Seas

Sestri Levante, often overshadowed by its more famous neighbors, offers a unique charm with its two stunning bays: the Bay of Silence (Baia del Silenzio) and the Bay of Fables (Baia delle Favole). The former is a tranquil cove, ideal for swimming and sunbathing, while the latter is named in honor of Hans Christian Andersen, who lived here for a time and found inspiration in its beauty.

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Sestri Levante: The Town of Two Seas

The historic center of Sestri Levante is a labyrinth of narrow alleys and elegant piazzas, where gelaterias, boutique shops, and restaurants invite you to linger. The town’s mild climate and gentle sea breezes make it a year-round destination for those seeking relaxation and natural beauty.

Zoagli: A Hidden Coastal Haven

Perched on a rocky promontory between Rapallo and Chiavari, Zoagli is a small coastal village that offers breathtaking views and a sense of serenity. Known for its scenic walks and diving opportunities, Zoagli is a paradise for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.

Zoagli: A Hidden Coastal Haven

One of the highlights is the Via dei Tigli, a panoramic path that winds along the cliffs, offering stunning vistas of the Ligurian Sea. For those interested in the local craftsmanship, Zoagli is famous for its silk weaving tradition, and visiting the local artisans’ workshops is a journey into the town’s rich heritage.

The town’s quiet beaches, framed by rocky cliffs and crystal-clear waters, are perfect for a day of swimming and relaxation away from the crowds.

Levanto: Gateway to the Ligurian Sea

Levanto, located just beyond the Cinque Terre, is a vibrant yet laid-back town that serves as an ideal base for exploring the Riviera. With its long sandy beaches, historic architecture, and lively atmosphere, Levanto combines the best of coastal living with a touch of sophistication.

The town is a haven for surfers, thanks to its consistent waves, and it offers numerous outdoor activities, including hiking and cycling along the scenic trails that connect to the Cinque Terre. Levanto’s weekly market, held every Wednesday, is a bustling affair where you can sample local produce and artisanal goods.

Levanto: Gateway to the Ligurian Sea

The town’s culinary scene is a delight, with numerous restaurants serving up fresh seafood and traditional Ligurian dishes. Don’t miss the opportunity to try the local focaccia, a savory bread that is a regional specialty.

Tellaro: The Seaside Poet’s Retreat

On the eastern edge of the Riviera, near the border with Tuscany, lies the village of Tellaro. Often considered one of Italy’s most beautiful small towns, Tellaro is a place where time seems to stand still. Its cobblestone streets and pastel-hued houses, set against the backdrop of the azure sea, create a picture-perfect setting.

Tellaro: The Seaside Poet’s Retreat

Tellaro’s charm has long attracted artists and writers, including the poet Mario Soldati, who called it his home. The village’s intimate atmosphere and dramatic coastal scenery provide endless inspiration for those seeking a quiet escape.

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The Church of San Giorgio, perched on a rocky outcrop overlooking the sea, is the town’s iconic landmark and offers panoramic views of the Ligurian coast. Tellaro is also part of the Montemarcello-Magra Natural Park, making it an excellent base for exploring the region’s natural beauty.

Noli: A Medieval Treasure

Stepping into Noli feels like stepping back in time. This medieval town, with its narrow alleyways and ancient fortifications, offers a glimpse into the Riviera’s storied past. Once a powerful maritime republic, Noli is rich in history and culture, with landmarks such as the Church of San Paragorio, one of Liguria’s most important Romanesque buildings.

Noli: A Medieval Treasure

The town’s sandy beach is less crowded than those in more famous destinations, making it an ideal spot for a leisurely day by the sea. Noli’s waterfront promenade is lined with charming cafes and restaurants, where you can savor fresh seafood while enjoying views of the Ligurian Sea.

Noli is also a gateway to the hills and trails of the Riviera di Ponente, offering numerous hiking opportunities with stunning vistas.

Cervo: The Baroque Hilltop Town

Perched on a hill overlooking the sea, Cervo is a hidden gem that combines breathtaking views with Baroque splendor. The town’s historic center is a maze of winding streets and steep staircases, leading up to the Church of San Giovanni Battista, a masterpiece of Ligurian Baroque architecture.

Cervo: The Baroque Hilltop Town

Cervo’s artistic heritage is celebrated every summer with the Cervo International Chamber Music Festival, attracting musicians and visitors from around the world. The town’s peaceful ambiance and stunning coastal scenery make it a perfect retreat for those seeking a blend of culture and tranquility.

Cervo’s beach, though small, offers a peaceful spot to soak up the sun and enjoy the clear waters of the Ligurian Sea.

Bogliasco: A Surfer’s Paradise

Tucked between Genoa and Portofino, Bogliasco is a small village that offers big waves and a relaxed atmosphere. Known as a surfers’ paradise, Bogliasco’s beaches attract wave riders from across the region. Even if you’re not into surfing, the village’s laid-back vibe and stunning coastal views make it a delightful destination.

Bogliasco: A Surfer’s Paradise

The town’s colorful houses and narrow streets are typical of the Ligurian style, and its small harbor is filled with fishing boats and yachts. Bogliasco’s location makes it an excellent base for exploring the nearby towns and the bustling city of Genoa.

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Laigueglia: A Quiet Coastal Escape

Laigueglia, located on the western Riviera, is a charming seaside town that retains its traditional fishing village character. Its narrow streets, lined with pastel-colored buildings and filled with the scent of freshly baked focaccia, invite you to wander and explore.

Laigueglia: A Quiet Coastal Escape

The town’s long sandy beach is one of its main attractions, offering a tranquil spot for sunbathing and swimming. Laigueglia’s lively seafront promenade is dotted with cafes and restaurants, where you can enjoy the local cuisine while gazing out over the turquoise waters.

Laigueglia’s annual festivals, including the Fiera di San Matteo and the Settimana del Mare, celebrate the town’s maritime heritage and provide a glimpse into its vibrant community life.

Recco: The Culinary Capital

Known as the culinary heart of the Italian Riviera, Recco is a must-visit for food lovers. This small town is famous for its focaccia di Recco, a delicious cheese-filled flatbread that is a local specialty. Recco’s numerous restaurants and bakeries offer ample opportunities to sample this and other Ligurian delights.

Recco: The Culinary Capital

Beyond its culinary fame, Recco boasts a scenic coastal setting, with rocky beaches and clear waters perfect for swimming and snorkeling. The town’s annual fireworks festival, held in honor of Our Lady of Suffrage, is a spectacular event that lights up the night sky and attracts visitors from near and far.

Exploring Beyond Cinque Terre

While Cinque Terre’s beauty is undeniable, the Italian Riviera’s lesser-known destinations offer a wealth of experiences for those willing to venture off the beaten path. From the elegance of Santa Margherita Ligure to the medieval charm of Noli, each of these hidden gems has its own unique character and allure.

Whether you’re seeking a peaceful beach retreat, a cultural escape, or a culinary adventure, the Italian Riviera’s secret treasures promise a journey of discovery and delight. So next time you plan a visit to this enchanting region, take the road less traveled and uncover the true essence of the Italian Riviera.


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