Liguria Italy for the Italian Riviera - Mild Climate, Clean Beaches and Good Food

Liguria Italy is a playground for the rich and famous. It is a feast for travellers offering magnificent beaches, to skiing, mountain climbing and skin diving. With a coastline that has clean beaches, a mild climate all year round from the protecting mountains, coastal and mountain villages and good Italian food, Liguria has it all!

2/5ths of the population live in the capital city of Genoa. Although Liguria is one of the smallest regions, it has the largest population density in Italy, after Campania and Lombardy. 90% of the people live along the coast and 2/5ths live in the capital city of Genoa. Due to their lifestyle, the mild climate and their Mediterranean diet, The people from Liguria have one of the highest life expectancy rates in the world.

The Ligurian people are known to be frugal with their money, and resourceful with the use of the little land that they have. A typical Ligurian is swarthy, with black hair, many of whom are of Greek origin.

Camogli Liguria Italy

Liguria italy home to 2 Italian Rivieras:

  • Riviera di Ponente which includes the Riviera dei Fiori
  • Riviera di Levante
Both of these rivieras are neatly bisected with Genoa in the middle. The overdeveloped Riviera di Ponente, west of Genoa , has some of the most expensive holiday resorts in Europe, and if you don't want to break the bank, it is best to stay elsewhere and may day trips to this area.

East of Genoa, the Riviera di Levante offers beautiful untouched villages set in mountain terrain.

If you are looking for a busy, tourist destination then head for the west where you will find colourful and thriving seaside towns like San Remo, which has 1 of only 4 casinos in Italy. You will also find Bordighera, Ventimiglia,  and Imperia along the azure coastline, and unspoilt hilltop villages steeped in tradition such as Apricale, Isolabona, Pigna, Ceriana and Dolceacqua, to name just a few.

The east of Liguria is more undeveloped and rugged. It is less commercialized in places and therefore considered off the beaten path.  Exceptions to this are the heavily visited town of Portofino and the 5 towns of  Cinque Terra.

Most people today come to Liguria for the wonderful climate, the clean beaches the fresh seafood and many unspoilt villages both on the coast and in the mountains that have largely remain unchanged over time.

Travel Tip: If you wish to avoid the busy roads and congestion during the summer, especially in July and August, as well as during festival times, then avoid the S1 when travelling between towns and take the A10 if you are travelling west, or the A12 if travelling east. These roads will help avoid the snarl-ups you might encounter.

Riviera Dei Fiori

Hanbury Garden

Riviera Dei Fiori translated means  the Flower Riviera. This is because cut flowers are grown on the many flower farms in the region due to the mild climate.  It is also the home of the world's largest botanical gardens. This is the Hanbury Garden (Giardino Hanbury) started in 1867 and can be found at Mortola Inferiore.  For those of you who love gardening, this is not to be missed. It is a special place where not only will you find plants and flowers from 5 different continents, you will also be able to enjoy spectacular views of the coast from the gardens.

See the official website for more information: http://www.giardinihanbury.com/

Ventimiglia

Ventimiglia is the first Ligurian town you will come across as you leave France and enter Italy. It is a typical border town that can get really busy during weekend markets when the French descend looking for a bargain.

However, Ventimiglia has been around for a long time. In fact, during the Roman era it was called Albintimilium and as a result you can find some important Roman ruins in this town. There is a 2nd century AD arena with its first level of steps still in tact, the porta di Provenza (Gate to Provence), baths and mosaic floors.

This is also the place where you can explore the
Caves of Balzi Rossi .

Hidden below the village of Grimaldi, which rises steeply out of the sea, are the caves of Balzi Rossi. Their name coming from the reddishness of the rocks. These caves were used 200, 000 years ago by cave men.  We know this as many archaelogical digs unearthed stone tools, ornaments and fossils of animals. These can all be found at the National Museum of Prehistory in Ventimiglia.

Bordighera

Bordighera, a stone's throw from Ventimiglia is a famous winter resort.  Many Englishmen moved here towards the end of the 19th century and evidence of this can be seen.  Instead of the usual espresso and  cappuccino one can see many sipping afternoon tea instead.

Because it was the first European town to grow palm tress on its coastline, it is now the official provider of palm fronds to the Vatican for Palm Sunday and other Easter celebrations.

It is a less commercial city in the area, and a better choice than San Remo if you are looking for somewhere with less tourists. The other nice thing about Bordighera is that unlike other towns on the Riviera it doesn't close down over winter, and has many fine hotels and restaurants for every budget.

San Remo

San Remo, Italy is a lively, bustling seaside resort known for its many beaches, medieval architecture in the old quarter, La Pigna,  and its casino.  This is the capital town of this area and is  a mecca for tourists and sunworshipers.

The beaches are good in places with miles of fine sand, and in others not so good with pebble beaches instead. However, San Remo is a good place to base yourself if you want to explore the Flower Riviera and also its hinterland. Is a place with great restaurants too.

Imperia

Imperia, 26 kms from San Remo going east is in fact two towns. It is made up of Porto Maurizio, a Medieval town, and Oneglia an industrial town known for its oil refining and pharmaceuticals.  Forget about Oneglia, it is ugly and hasn't any redeeming features. The Medieval town is different. It has an almost intact Medieval center, the Parasio quarter,  and narrow streets, cobbled alleyways and stone portals.

Best Places to Visit in Liguria

5 Beautiful Small Towns to Visit in Liguria

1) Camogli
2) Portofino
3) Cinque Terre and Porto Venere
4) San Remo
5) Triora

Ligurian Coast Window on the Sea

Ancient ruin looking out from the Ligurian Coastline

Slow Food Italy - Food from Liguria Italy

The local Ligurian food has been shaped by the dense population living on such a small amount of land, as well as those that came before; the Romans, Greeks, Barbarians, Lombardians, the Normans and the Saracens have all heavily influenced the cooking of the region.

It is heavily influenced too by its location, and so most dishes that are eaten are fresh from the sea where mussels and anchovies take pride of place  with many dishes created around these two prizes of the sea.

Liguiran cooking is based on humble ingredients, and again resourcefulness of using every bit of the animal or plant in their cooking. One such regional Lingurian dish is Ventresca di Vitello Piena, suffed calf stomach.  Stuffed with turnips, ricotta cheese, pistachio nuts, cheese, tongue, other vegetables and ingredients it is then baked in the oven.

The Ligurians are a master at using mountain herbs gathered in the spring and summer to compliment their dishes. Borage is still widely used as a substitute for spinach when it is not available and used in pasta fillings.

Farinata is a Genovese dish of tripe flavoured with  mushrooms and pine nuts, and  zuppa di ceci is a chickpea soup. Another soup is Mes'ciua made with boiled chickpeas, beans and spelt, an ancient grain seen throughout this area, as well as Tuscany and known locally as faro.

Pesto comes from this region and when made fresh with the right ingedients is sublime. Forget about that rubbish you see in bottles on the supermarket shelves. Make your own as it is so simple. Use olive oil, basil, pine nuts, garlic and parmesan and you have a wonderful signature Ligurian dish.

Pasta is also different here. Here you can  find past like troffie and trenette as well as ravioli such as pansotti which is a stuffing made with oven-cooked vegetables and herbs with a delicious walnut sauce.

Focaccias and savoury pies are a speciality of this region, from the simple focaccia with oil and rosemary to those filled with cheese. One of my favorite savoury pies of the region is torta pasqualina, layers of puff pastry filled with spinach, ricotta cheese, herbs and eggs.

A dessert that is frequently seen is torta di riso which is a rice cake made with rosewater and sugar.

Wine from Liguria Italy

The vineyards here cling to the cliffs overlooking the sea and the grape grows tenaciously blessed by the balmy climate and kissed by the sea breezes off the coast. North of La Spezia in the Cinque Terre fishing villages, vines are grown on steep and inaccessible  terraces, where they have been grown like that since ancient times.

Ligurian wine PigatoThe Riviera di  Levante produces some very good whites, especially Cinque Terre DOC, a dry white with a delicate bouquet, as well as the Sciacchetr�, hard to find, but a great  red after-dinner wine.

Other good Ligurian wines come from the Riviera di Ponente with Pigato and Vermentino being notable whites, but Pigato being strongly recommended. And then ther is  Rossese di Dolceacqua being a very drinkable, and delicate red, along with Valpolcevera Rosso.


Markets Liguria Italy

There is nothing better than to wonder around local markets looking at handicrafts, homegrown produce and antiques doing the rounds. In towns and villages around Liguria there are regular antique markets that take place where you may be lucky enough to pick up a bargain.

Here are some of the antique and handicraft markets that you will find in the area.
  • Ameglia
    (July) Antique market.

  • Arma di Taggia
    (Viale delle Palme on Saturdays and Via Soleri on Sundays, third weekend of the month) About 30 stands. This is a great market for collectors with an array of interesting objects to look at.

  • Bogliasco
    (Piazza XXVI Aprile, first Sunday of the month) About 20 to 30 stands of furniture and antique
  • Calice Ligure
    (May and September) Handicrafts market
  • Calizzano
    (August) Antique market
  • Campo Ligure  (End of August) Jewelry market of gold and silver jewelry
  • Chiavari
    (Via Martiri dellaLliberazione e Caruggio Drito, second Sunday of the month and following Saturday). Antique market of about 120 stands.
  • Finale Ligure
    (Chiostro di Santa Caterina, first Saturday and Sunday of the month). Antique market of about 30 stands.
  • Genova
    (Palazzo Ducale, first Saturday of the month except in August and September. In December the market takes place on the second Saturday of the month). Flea and antique market of about 80 stands.
  • Isolabona
    (Piazzetta della Chiesa, Piazza Martiri, first Sunday of the month). This is a good opportunity to browse and see the curious and the ancient all in one place.
  • Laigueglia
    (July) Beautiful regional market with all sorts of local handicrafts.
  • Mallare
    (September) Antique market
  • Millesimo
    (May and September) Flea market (July) Antique market
  • Pietra Ligure
    (Piazza XX Settembre and Piazza La Pietra, last Saturday and Sunday of the month). Handicraft and antique market of about 50 stands.
  • Recco
    (Piazza Nicoloso, third Sunday of the month) Antique market of about 30 stands.
  • Sarzana
    (First Sunday of the month) Antique market
  • Sassello
    (August) Antique market
  • Savona
    (Historic Town, first Saturday and Sunday of the month). This is a unique flea market where you can buy antique ceramics.
  • Vallecrosia
    (Historic Town, central square, second Sunday of the month). About 80 stands of handicrafts and antiques

How to Get There:

By car: If you are travelling by car, western Liguria borders France and Ventimiglia is the first coastal town you will come across along the A12 or Autostrada.  If you are looking at distances:

Genoa to Nice    = 2.5 hours on the A10
Genoa to Milan  =  2 hours on the A7
Genoa to Rome  =  6 hours on the A12

By Train: Liguria well connected by rail to the rest of Italy. 

Genoa to Milan = 1.5 hours
Genoa to Rome = 5 hours

By Boat: Genoa is the port for ferries to other parts of Liguria and Italy, as well as from other countries, including the USA.  This is the port for cruise ships that make frequent calls on their Mediterranean cruises and others.

By Plane: The international airport in Liguria is just outside of Genoa is the Cristoforo Colombo International Airport.