The region of Liguria is also known as the Italian Riviera and is well known as a major tourist spot with famous resort towns sprinkled among fishing villages and rocky coastline. Liguria occupies a thin stretch of the coast from Italy’s western border with France stretching south and east to the region’s border with Tuscany. To the north and east coastal mountains separate Liguria from Piedmonte and Emilia-Romagna.
This unique geography of mountains and sea has produced a climate and landscape that you would expect much further south in Italy. Palm trees, citrus fruits and olive groves share terraced growing spaces with Liguria’s famous flower industry and more common northern species like chestnuts.
Liguria is separated into two “Rivieras”, the Riviera di Ponente to the west and the Riviera di Levante to the east with the Ligurian capital of Genoa separating the two. In the past the Riviera di Ponente was the more famous of the two, populated with resort towns like San Remo, however lately writers, artists and tourists have discovered the jewels of the Riviera di Levante such as Portofino and the Cinque Terre.
Liguria is a region of scenic contrasts–look no further than the mountains towering over the sea–and is a region of cultural compromises, where the cultivation of a hostile land has taken over from the practice of fishing. It is ideal for those who are eternally undecided between a walk on a sandy beach with the scent of the sea in the air or hiking in the mountains and discovering the beauty of the Alps. It is unusual that such a short stretch of land provides for such varied interests. Indeed, this territory is most often chosen by the curious traveler, but is also perfect for the family on vacation, the sportman and even those looking for relaxing or romantic holidays. Liguria is also famous because it is the only region in the world that features two UNESCO World Heritage sites–the historical city center of Genoa and the famous Cinque Terre area.
Tigullio and Genovesato are full of quaint fishing villages dotted with multicolored houses and boats bobbing in the deep blue waters. The city of Portofino, a glamorous destination of the international jet-set crowd, is part of this beautiful area. Visitors to Portofino will find many different types of shops and accomodations of several different categories and price points. Camogli is another place to visit, famous for its annual Fish Festival, hosted in its little harbor, that draws people from all over the world to taste fresh fish prepared in a giant frying pan. Or why not check out San Fruttoso Abbey? Located among the rocks in a small bay the town boasts several little restaurants that serve excellent seafood. There is also great diving to be found here, including the underwater sight of Christ of the Abyss.
Rivera delle Palme is full of fascinating places like Varazze (a little village that is a paradise for surfers, water skiing and sailing), Albisola with its pottery and wonderful masterpieces, and Bergeggi and its naturally beautiful isle. There is also Finale Ligure and Varigotti, famous little towns with sandy beaches), Albenga and the little Gallinara island, and Alassio (where you can taste the renowned pastries Baci di Alassio.)
Finally, there is the Riviera dei Fiori area, which borders France. In this area the most famous town is Sanremo, known for its flowers and Italian Song Festival, but there are also other places worth visiting like Blazi Rossi, Arma di Taggia and Diano Marina.
Ligurian Food and Wine
Liguria is a territory of fine cuisine made of simple, genuine products. The pride of Ligurian cuisine is pesto, the traditional sauce most often used in pasta dishes that is famous the world over.
Genoa: The Capital
Genoa is the capital of the Liguria region and it is known as the Superb. The city’s medieval district is filled with beautiful palaces and churches and is one of the oldest in Europe. Genoa’s great expansion began in the year 1000 when the city began its might ascent thanks to the power rendered by its harbor and being such a trade hub. In that time, Genoa extended its commercial and military rule to most parts of the Mediterranean and the apex of the city’s power was reached under Andrea Doria in 1528. In fact, this period is often referred to as the Genovese Century. The Genoese people were wealthy merchants, navigators and extraordinary financiers of Charles V’s Spanish empire. During Genoa’s Resurgence the city was populated by the likes of Mazzini (patriot, politician and philosopher) and Mameli (patriot, poet and author of Italy’s national anthem, which still bears his name). Genoa is also famous for producing the Italian military great Giuseppe Garibaldi, known as the Hero of the Two Worlds.
In the 1900s Genoa continued to be one of the major ports in Northern Italy. In the new century, 2004 to be exact, the city was named the European Capital of Culture and in 2006 Genoa was declared a World Heritage of Humanity site by UNESCO.