Popular Vacation Spots On The Italian Riviera
Since the great Romantic poets, Byron, Keats and Shelley, wrote about the Italian Riviera’s magical landscapes and gentle, enticing climate, the area has been a favorite destination of holidaymakers all over the world. The Italian Riviera is also known as the Ligurian Riviera and runs along the coast, from the French-Italian border to Capo Corvo, near the Ligurian-Tuscan border. In terms of width, the area is bordered by the Ligurian Sea and the mountains – the Maritime Alps and the Apennines.
The historical city of Genoa is right in the middle of the Italian Riviera. The area to the west is called the Riviera di Ponente, which translates to “the coast of the setting sun” and the area to the east is called the Riviera di Levante, which means “the coast of the rising sun.”
Most parts of the Italian Riviera offer great beauty and locations of artistic and historical interest. Some of the spots to have become particularly popular include San Remo, Portofino, Bordighera, Lerici, Cinque Terre and Golfo dei Poeti.
Established during the Roman Empire, San Remo now has a 57,000 strong population and is, without doubt, one of the Italian Riviera’s tourism hotspots. It is known as the “Town of Flowers” or as the capital of the “Italian Riviera of Flowers.”
San Remo is positioned between Capo Nero and Capo Verde, in a broad, sweeping inlet. Some of the city’s medieval history can still be experienced in the La Pigna, the old district, which is a lovely, romantic place to walk around and let the imagination wander, with its dark alleyways, small houses, hilly streets and charming town squares.
The old town melts into an up market, modern area, where tourists flock to stay in famous coastal hotels, villas and resorts and have a flutter or hang around with the high rollers in the San Remo Casino.
San Remo’s annual calendar of diverse and fascinating events is another of the city’s major draw cards. The immensely popular San Remo Music Festival has been held every year since 1951. It is a major song competition and was actually the inspiration for the establishment of the Eurovision Song Contest, which kicked off in 1956.
If you are in San Remo during January and February, you might catch the “Flowers Parade.” For this event, representatives of every town in the Italian Riviera come to San Remo with their own flower arrangement, presented on a moving car, and cruise down the city center, creating an entrancing and uplifting visual spectacle.
Another visually exciting event is the International Firework Contest, or “Ferragosto,” which happens during the second week of August every year. Sport fanatics should try to make to San Remo in March, when the city welcomes cyclists as they cross the line at the end of the 298 kilometer Milan to San Remo cycle race.
Forty-five minutes’ drive west of Genoa can be found the spellbinding fishing village of Portofino.
The name Portofino is an evolution of the Romans’ original name for the place, which was “Portus Delphini,” meaning “Port of the Dolphin.” They called it this because of the abundant, lively dolphin population that they found living in the Tigullian Gulf.
From the late 1800s onwards, European tourists started to travel to Portofino, attracted by its warm weather and by the impressions shared by Romantic poets and writers. Fishing continued to be the village’s main industry until the 1950s, which brought the onset of mass tourism, and the development of cafes and restaurants along Portofino’s coastline.
Portofino offers some fascinating sight-seeing for travelers. One of its most famous artistic assets is the “Christ of the Abyss” or “Il Cristo degli Abissi,” which is a two and a half meter high statue of Jesus cast in bronze, depicting him reaching upwards, his arms outstretched. The concept is that he is providing protection to those who live close to the sea and its constant dangers. Sculptor Guido Galletti created the sculpture in 1947, after Italian diver, Dario Gonzatti, the first Italian to dive with SCUBA gear, died in the spot where the sculpture now sits. Ferries from Portofino can take you to the sculpture.
Christ of the Abyss
Portofino’s other major attractions include the Oratory of Santa Maria Assunta, an example of Italian gothic architecture, and the Churches of St Martin and St George. Castello Brown is also worth a visit. It is a 16th century castle that used to play a significant role in Portofino’s defense systems and, towards the end of the 1800s, became the private villa of the British consul in Genoa, Montague Yeats Brown. Since 1961, Castello Brown has functioned as Portofino’s Museum.
About ninety minutes’ drive west of Genoa, you will come to one of the Italian Riviera’s most important cultural sights, Cinque Terre. This title means “The Five Lands” and refers to the five villages in the area, Monterosso al Mare, Corniglia, Vernazza, Riomaggiore and Manarola.
In 1997, UNESCO declared these five villages and the neighboring landscape, from Cinque Terre to Portovenere, a World Heritage Site. UNESCO describes the area as a “cultural site of outstanding value.” It recognizes Cinque Terre as a place of incredible geographical beauty, but also as a place where traditional ways of interacting with nature have been preserved for hundreds of years. This recognition will help the area to retain its unique character for many years to come.
Set along five miles of stunning coastal cliffs and unspoiled beachfront, Cinque Terre is a wonderful place to visit. You can spend time gazing at architecture that has remained well-preserved for hundreds of years – churches, oratories and old castles abound. Much of the housing has been built to fit into the surrounding landscape and people move between the villages via train, boat or on foot – cars are unable to access the area from the outside world. This is a large part of the reason why Cinque Terre has remained so untouched in a world where modernization has had a dramatic effect on most towns and cities, particularly in coastal areas.
Quaint grocery shops, welcoming cafes and atmospheric restaurants, often serving meals using fresh local produce, and offering extensive lists of local wines, provide ample opportunities for dining.