Liguria Itineraries (22)
Our recommendations if you are planning a vacation or visit to Genoa, the Cinque Terre or the rest of Liguria. A selection of itineraries you may not have considered before with our our current favourites first.
A short summer break in the beautiful countryside of the Val di Vara in the province of La Spezia is highly recommended. The zone is just a few miles from the Cinque Terre and the Riviera Levante and I immediately found this inland territory of Liguria one of the most relaxing spots I've visited for a long time.
In less the half an hour you can pass from the deep blue of the sea to the lush green of the Ligurian Appennines, part of the Regional Natural Park along the Vara river. The forested valley is the largest European certified area for organic cultivation and has gained the name of 'organic valley'. It is unspoilt and the river Vara offers local sports associations the opportunity to practise canoeing and rafting in some stretches.
From a tourism point of view, its best to consider the province of La Spezia as 5 distinct zones.
Although with 2000 years of naval history and naval battles behind it, La Spezia city was little more than a backwater when Cavour decided to transfer the Piemontese fleet here during the unification of the country (that's Piemonte without any coast!).
In a single gesture he created home for Italy's largest naval presence.
The Naval Museum or Museo Tecnico Navale was also transferred, this time from Genova, and is the first point of call for getting under the skin of the city.
Above all, it hosts an amazing collection of ship figureheads.
The Val di Vara covers more than 60% of the territory of the province of La Spezia and all of the inland area of the province as it heads towards the Tuscany border. The zone is just a 35 minute drive from the Cinque Terre and do consider combining both for a vacation.
The valley is full of medieval hamlets set in woods and openings in the hilly terrain. The old Via Aurelia passes through the valley and this must have been one of the busiest transit routes for trade and pilgrims for hundreds of years. Today, things are a little different.
It was perhaps Pliny who wrote the first guide to Portofino. He described this stunning natural area and named it 'Portus Delphini'. This over time was corrupted to Portofino. Today, the sea around the coast of Portofino is a protected marine reserve dating from 1935.
Pick up the comprehensive listing of all the museums and libraries in the province of Genova and the first impression is of the incredible number and variety in this corner of Italy.
Perhaps its not surprising considering the number of people who have passed through the area. Centuries of commerce seem to have left behind a bewildering array of objects and records.
First stop should perhaps be the 'Museo Navale' at Piazza Bonavino, Genova, to leave you with a better appreciation of the maritime tradition of the area.
The museum has collected together much of what remains from the medieval seafaring Republic, but don't overlook the Galata Museo del Mare which demonstrates the evolution of the port with modern technology and interactive displays.
The International Festival of Maiolica or 'Festival Internazionale Della Maiolica' links the towns of Genoa, Albissola, Marina, Albisola Superiore and Savona in Liguria.
For centuries they were the antique centres of pottery production in the region and also the principal trading towns with the Middle and Far East.
You may wonder from what stone the sloping roofs of the traditional houses of Liguria are made of. It's called 'ardesia' and the characteristic thin grey tiles made from the stone are laid like scales of a fish to protect the occupants from the sun and rain.
Please send an outline of the Cinque Terre itinerary. I can not find any on the site. Can you recommend anything?
The Consorzio Turistico Cinque Terre has sent us a guide and map of the routes and paths which connect Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore.
'A Man Made Landscape Between Sky and Sea' is the line used by the regional authorities to promote the five villages of the Cinque Terre along this stunning Liguria coastline and one of Italy's most sought after tourist destinations.
Although referred to collectively, they are in fact the small hamlets of 'Monterosso a Mare', 'Vernazza', 'Corniglia', 'Manarola' and 'Riomaggiore'.
They can be reached from Levanto and Portovenere and are linked by 18 km of coastline representing the spirit of Ligurian culture; that combination of sea and steep sun drenched terraces.
Of the five, Corniglia is the one built the furthest up the hillsides and offers fine views of the 'Mar Ligure'. It also leaves room for a large beach below the town which is suitably protected by the cliffs behind.
Certainly spectacular, yet a punishing place to live.
The legacy left by the original inhabitants of steep terraces, paths cut out of the rocks, drystone walls, are so beautiful that it is easy to forget what hardship it must have been.
Try the walk which links Saviore to Reggio, San Bernardino, Volastra and Montenero or the paths below.
Sanremo is most famous these days for its Festival of Italian Songs. Once a year at the Ariston theater both new and not so new talent takes the stage to benefit from a huge national television audience. Some of the competition winners become huge stars, such as Domenico Modugno, while others are simply forgotten.
The four main coastal towns in the province of Savona are Albissola, Celle Ligure and Varazze as well as Savona itself. This stretch of mountainous land marks the arc of Liguria and the beginning of the Italian peninsular proper and where the Maritime Alps meet the Ligurian Apennines.
The provincial capital has always been a rival port to Genova. It even supported Hannibal and the Carthaginians against Rome in 205 BC and was only conquered by the latter in 1528.
The Priamar Fortress was immediately built on the 'roccia' to keep an eye on the burghers. Today, it is a splendid artistic treasure with Renaissance palaces, museums filled with masterpieces and wide streets for modern shoppers. Do find out more.