Italian Riviera Travel Guide - Danielle Connor

Italian Riviera Travel Guide

Lifestyle, Travel

Our trip to Europe last summer truly was the trip of a lifetime! It had been twelve years since I’d been there (I had just finished grade seven last time I was in Europe), and Guido and I had never been together! We decided to explore the Italian Riviera, and it was nothing short of spectacular!

We also stayed in Paris for a few days at the end of our trip (we flew in and out of Paris from Vancouver), but I’ll have to share that in a different travel guide.

In total, we spent about twelve days travelling through the Italian Riviera. We hopped from one town to the next, walking through old cobblestone streets, swimming in the sea, and eating all the delicious Italian pasta and gelato!

A few general tips:

  • Don’t rent a car! We took the train from one town to the next and it was so easy. Honestly having a car would have ended up being a nightmare, as many of these towns are so small and there isn’t much parking.
  • Travel with a carry-on. The amount of walking we did from train stations to Air Bnb’s, to the boats we took – it made it so much easier not having a big suitcase. There were so many times that I was incredibly grateful to have our carry-ons!
  • Most times we were able to buy our train tickets at the train station right before our train. There was only one time where we got to a station and the train was fully-booked, so we had to wait an hour for the next one. Just something to keep in mind – if you have to be somewhere at a specific time, I would buy your train tickets ahead of time (you can do it online at Tren Italia).

Here’s a breakdown of our Italian Riviera trip, with where to stay, things to do, places to eat, and some extra tips! I hope you enjoy this travel guide!

 

Nice

We started our adventure in Nice, and while it isn’t technically the Italian Riviera, it was a perfect place to fly into (from Paris) and spend our first night!

Where to Stay:

  • We stayed at a cute Air BnB, super close to the train station and a ten-minute walk down to the water – here’s the link!

Things to Do:

  • Walk through the old town, and the Promenade des Anglais along the water. You can rent bikes, segways, skates to explore the Promenade too.
  • Hang out at the beach – it’s a bit rocky so not the greatest beach, but the water was divine!
  • Admire the amazing view at Colline du Château. There are a few different entrances including one beside the tower, or you can climb the stairs (haha like we did!), or take the lift. It’s a pretty park to walk through!

Places to Eat:

  • Bar des Oiseaux – We didn’t actually get to eat here, because when we got there it was full for the rest of the night (so clearly it’s a popular spot!), but it had amazing reviews!

Ventimiglia

This was one of my favourite spots of our entire trip! It wasn’t a very touristy town which I loved. It felt very secluded and you got this old-town vibe from the tiny cobblestone streets.

Where to Stay:

  • We loved our AirBnb, it had such character! It’s a bit of a walk though from the train station, and all uphill, so be prepared for a bit of exercise, unless you take a cab. Here’s the link!

Things to Do:

  • Walk around Ventimiglia, explore the tiny cobblestone streets!
  • Relax at this gorgeous, secluded beach near the Airbnb. It’s beautiful and full of locals, no tourists at all! The closest spot I could find on Google Maps was “Spiaggia Le Calandre”. It’s a 10 minute walk down the coast to the beach, and there’s a little cafe where you can buy drinks and snacks!

Where to Eat:

  • U Funantin – We adored our dinner here! It’s this delicious seafood place right by our AirBnb. It has an amazing view and we ate some of the best pasta of our trip!
  • Bar Canada – On our way back to the train station, we stopped at this little cafe to have lunch. Guido had a panini and I had a caprese salad. We had a good laugh that the place was called Bar Canada!

Imperia

While Imperia was a neat place, if I were to do it again, I would probably omit Imperia and spend the day in one of our other stops. Although if you do visit, stay in Porto Maurizio, that’s the old town. We made the mistake of staying in actual Imperia, which is about a half hour walk from the old town.

There are some great little beaches in Porto Maurizio, which have bars that you can also enjoy a drink at. Then you can walk around the old town which has some pretty neat streets to explore.

Genoa

We spent two days in Genoa, and we enjoyed ourselves! It has more of a big-city vibe, but there’s so much history to it which Guido loves.

Where to Stay:

  • Our AirBnb was awesome here – here’s the link. It was super central, had a full kitchen, and an adorable balcony where we enjoyed breakfast overlooking the port!

Things to Do:

  • Check out all the palaces, we got a day pass and walked through a bunch of them. Our favourite was Palazo Rosso – it was the most ornate and had some pretty cool rooms and spaces! Make sure to go to the rooftop terrace – there’s an incredible view of the city!
  • Walk through the Eataly market – there are so many delicious Italian treats there. We bought some pastas and sauces to bring home!
  • Explore the old city and port. We went and got a booklet from the tourist centre with some great walking routes. We got 24,000 steps one day – that’s the best way to see a city!

Places to Eat:

  • Cavour 21 – This was the most delicious restaurant! Food was amazing and super reasonably priced! We went there for dinner both nights and it was fantastic. Be sure to get there early and expect to wait to be seated, but it’s so worth it!

Other Tips:

  • We took a ferry to Portofino which was super cool! We were able to take our carry-on luggage with us so it worked out perfectly! (There’s no need to make a reservation, but do call ahead to confirm if it’s running due to weather).

Portofino

What a gorgeous little town – expensive haha – but so pretty none-the-less! Be prepared for some pricier restaurants. We did see a few pretty spectacular super yachts that docked in the bay for the evening. But my favourite activity here was the paddle boarding!

Where to Stay:

  • B&B Tre Mari Portofino – A great place to stay, and the view of Portofino from our room was incredible! It’s quite the hike to get up there, so maybe not ideal if you have lots of luggage, but it’s so cute!

Things to Do:

  • We went paddle-boarding and it was SO FUN! I highly highly recommend it! Then we got to snorkel in the area too, so pretty! We booked it through Outdoor Portofino, and I’d recommend booking ahead if you can.

Places to Eat:

  • Gepi Portofino – A delicious ice cream parlour!

Cinque Terre

I can’t say enough good things about this region, it truly was paradise! We spent three days at an AirBnb in Vernazza and I loved it! I can’t recommend enough not doing this all in one day.

A lot of people stay in Genoa or La Spezia and then try and do Cinque Terre as a day trip – don’t do that. I loved the evenings in Vernazza after the “daytime tourists” left and the town felt like it was all ours to enjoy. Spend a few days and take your time exploring each of the five towns!

Where to Stay:

  • We stayed in Vernazza, which we loved. We were in a tiny Air Bnb, and while it wasn’t anything special inside – it was reasonably priced and a few steps from the main plaza and water! Here’s the link.

Things to Do:

  • Vernazza Winexperience – I can’t recommend this enough!! Being here was a highlight of our trip! It’s a wine tasting of regional wines overlooking the water – absolutely spectacular! See the photo below for the view!
  • One of the days, we walked from Vernazza to Monterosso (about an hour and a half – you need to buy a trecking card, which you can grab at the start of the trail). We spent that afternoon at the beach in Monterosso. We rented two chairs and an umbrella and it was so nice to spend an afternoon relaxing! It’s also the only town with a proper beach.
  • We went swimming in Vernazza in the port every day and played in the water!
  • Another day, we took the boats (that run quite often and all day long) to the other two towns (Riomaggiore and Manarola – Corniglia is up on a hill and only accessible by train)!

Places to Eat:

  • All the restaurants in the main square of Vernazza were good, we just alternated throughout the nights!
  • Vineria Santa Marta – A cute little restaurant on the main town road, and it had amazing food! I had an octopus and potatoes dish (a local specialty) and it was delicious! See the photo below for a picture of our dinner!
  • Lunch Box – We ate the most amazing paninis for breakfast on our last morning. I highly recommend the focaccia nera (whole wheat) – it’s incredible!
  • Vernazza Gelato – I swear this is the best chocolate ice cream I’ve ever eaten! I had the Bacio Chocolate Nuts, absolutely unreal!!
  • Ristorante Bar La Tore – Another place with a spectacular view! It’s a bit of a walk to get up to but you get the most amazing view of Vernazza and are high above the town.
  • La Grotta – This restaurant is in Riomaggiore, we went on the day we took the boat to the other towns. I had this amazing walnut cream pasta – another Italian favourite!

Other Tips:

  • We took the boat again all the way to Porto Venere with our carry-on luggage. It stops at all the towns, but you can just choose to stay on the boat.

Porto Venere

This town is super similar to the Cinque Terre towns – it has the same style and vibes. We loved our two days here!

Where to Stay:

Things to Do:

  • Take the little ferry boat across the water to the beach on the other side! It’s a bit rocky but you can rent lounge chairs and umbrellas.
  • Walk through the town, along the water, and up to the castle with an incredible view!

Places to Eat:

  • Trattoria Tre Torri – Another place that we ate at more than once because it was so delicious! Super close to the main town street, and also to our AirBnb, I highly recommend this gem!

Other Tips:

  • To get to our next destination (Pisa) we took a bus to La Spezia and then the train to Pisa.

Pisa

I know this isn’t technically part of the Italian Riviera, but it was our last stop before heading back to Paris and so I wanted to share!

  • We stayed at this great hotel called Relais | Miracoli, and our room had the most incredible view of the Leaning Tower! Ask for the Family Room if you can! They also gave us a delicious, big breakfast, and were so accommodating – highly recommend it!
  • Buy your tickets to climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa ahead of time – it’s worth it! Such a cool experience and a great view at the top!
  • Walk around the area, up and down the street next to the hotel. We didn’t venture too far but there are some neat little neighbourhoods to explore around the hotel!

There you go! Happy travels!

Have you been to any of these places? Got any recommendations? Let me know as I’d love to go back one day! It was absolute paradise!

And let me know if you have any questions below, I’d be happy to answer them!

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Danielle

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danielle

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