Our Essential Guides aim to give you an introductory overview to a city or region. For a deeper dive into Liguria, check out the Summer 2024 issue of Bellissimo, our quarterly e-magazine for Premium Members.

The Essential Guide to Liguria

Liguria is a sun-soaked, crescent-moon-shaped coastal region in the northwestern corner of Italy, popular for its seaside resorts, ancient fishing villages, vine-terraced landscapes, and maritime-centric towns backed by majestic Alps and Apennines mountains. 

Made up of four provinces named for their capital cities, Genoa, La Spezia, Savona and Imperia, the region stretches from the northern border of Tuscany to southern France, with Emilia-Romagna on its eastern side. The sliver of land encompasses 350 km (218 miles) of western coastline flanked by the azure waters of the Ligurian Sea. 

When to go 

Holiday goers flock to Liguria during the beach-weather months of July and August. To avoid the throngs, consider visiting during shoulder season (around November to mid-June). Days tend to be warmer — maybe not enough for swimming — while evenings are pleasantly cool. If planning a trip to Liguria in late-August to the end of September, you’ll enjoy thinning crowds and bright, sunny days.

How to get to Liguria

porto venere

Church of San Pietro, Porto Venere / Photo: Shutterstock

By air

Liguria’s main airport, L’Aeroporto di Genova “Cristoforo Colombo” (GOA), is centrally located halfway between La Spezia and Imperia. Just 6 km (4 miles) from the Genoa town center, there’s a convenient Airlink rail service that connects directly to the Sestri Ponente railway station. Other transport options into the city include shuttle buses, coaches, taxis and rental cars. 

If you’re headed to Cinque Terre, Pisa Airport is a good alternative. If traveling to the northernmost reaches of the Italian Riviera, Milan’s Linate and Malpensa are less than a two-hour car ride, and from France’s Nice Airport (NCE), hourlong trains leave for Ventimiglia throughout the day. 

By rail

Genoa, the capital, has 26 rail stations, but Genova Piazza Principe is the hub. From here, it’s easy to connect with most of the region’s larger towns and with much of the rest of Italy. La Spezia Centrale is another of Liguria’s rail hubs. For a spectacular seaside journey, take the “Cinque Terre Express,” which stops at each of the five charming towns ending in the town of Levanto. Transfer here for Ligurian points northward.

By sea

Genoa is an important port of call for Mediterranean and transatlantic passenger ships and cargo, as well as a destination for car ferries between Corsica, Sardinia and Sicily. 

By car

To get to Liguria via Italy’s national network of motorways, from Milan take the A7. From Bologna get on E45 to A1/E35 to A21/E70, then merge onto A7/E62 to SS45 in Genoa. From Rome, it’s a straight shot north on SS1. Near Genoa, follow E80 to SS45 inside the city limits.

Getting around Liguria

By rail

The fastest and easiest way to travel around Liguria is by train. Take the unforgettable scenic route that runs along the entire western coast from Genoa to the border of France, passing through Savona, Imperia and Ventimiglia. 

By bus

Though rail is preferable, buses can be an affordable and practical way to reach some of the more remote areas.

In Imperia the main bus agency is Riviera Trasporti, in Savona it’s ACTS, and in La Spezia it’s ATC. In the largest city of Genoa, Azienda Mobilitá e Trasporti (AMT) offers 138 bus lines within the city and between other municipalities along the Ligurian coast, including Sanremo. Bus tickets can be purchased at newsstands and should be validated onboard.

By sea

All up and down the coast of Liguria are smaller ports that allow docking of pleasure vessels.

By car

Remember that large cities have ZTL (traffic limited) zones which prohibit driving in certain areas at certain times. The towns of Cinque Terre are car-free. Driving only makes sense if you’re planning to tour rural areas or reach very remote villages. 

Things to do and see

palazzo spinola, genova

Palazzo Spinola, Genoa / Photo: Paolo Gallo via Shutterstock

In and around Genoa

Enjoying commercial and maritime domination for centuries, the Ligurian capital of Genoa is a maze of narrow medieval streets and alleys known as caruggi. In the 16th and 17th centuries, grand palaces and elegant piazzas were built by Genoa’s rich merchant families, while in the 19th century, modern apartment blocks climb the steep hillsides and made accessible via a series of stairs, funiculars, cable cars and elevators.

Highlights not to be missed are Genoa’s old town and its magnificent fountain in Piazza de Ferrari; the 12th-century Cathedral of San Lorenzo; and the Palazzi dei Rolli, Renaissance and Baroque palaces that are wonderful examples of the city’s grandeur. Be sure to take a stroll to the Porto Antico (old port), home to Acquario di Genova (Aquarium of Genoa), among the largest in Europe, designed by famed architect Renzo Piano. Nearby you’ll find the waterfront’s mast-inspired Il Bigo — a “panoramic elevator” — and futuristic Biosfera, a glass sphere with a small tropical rainforest inside.

The Genoa province is also home to the Portofino peninsula, a glitzy resort area that is fabled as a summer playground for the rich and famous. However, don’t just stick to the namesake town: Neighboring towns of Santa Margherita Ligure and Rapallo have all of the natural beauty and much of the glamour with lower price tags and thinner crowds.

In and around La Spezia

The southern province of La Spezia, part of the rocky coastline of Riviera de Levante or “coast of the rising sun,” is most famous these days for being home to the Cinque Terre, or the quintet of UNESCO-designated coastal villages of Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore To the south of Cinque Terre are the towns of Porto Venere, Lerici, and San Terenzo; the area is known as the Golfo dei Poeti (Gulf of Poets) and is associated with the  likes of Percy and Mary Shelley, Lord Byron and D.H. Lawrence, all of whom are known to have sojourned there. 

In and around Savona

Located northwest of Genoa on the Riviera di Ponente (the coast of the setting sun), the province of Savona, like the three others, has plenty of beaches and coastline for sailing, but also provides visitors a mix of natural beauty and loads of opportunities for hiking, mountain biking and rock climbing. Among the province’s many historic towns are its capital, Savona, with its medieval center and landmarks like the Priamar Fortress above the port whose site dates to pre-Roman times. Other notable towns include the walled Albenga, Finale Ligure, loosely translated from Latin to mean “at the border,” and Celle Ligure, a centuries-old fishing village.

In and around Imperia

Imperia is the northwesternmost of the four Ligurian provinces, extending from the border of the Savona to Ventimiglia (renowned for its captivating botanical gardens, it’s also the last Italian town this side of the French border). Within Imperia is the capital city of the same name, as well as seaside towns such as Cervo, Diano Marina and Sanremo, the latter best known for its world-famous Sanremo Music Festival. In between are charming medieval hilltop towns such as Dolceacqua with its medieval stone bridge spanning the Nervia River, and Triora, voted one of the Borghi più belli d’Italia (most beautiful villages in Italy). All along the coastline are an untold number of white sandy beaches — plus, from here it’s just a hop, skip and a jump from the Principality of Monaco and the French city of Nice.

What to eat and drink in Liguria

pansotti with walnut sauce

Pansotti with walnut sauce / Photo: Antonio S via Shutterstock


What pizza is to Naples, pesto alla genovese is to Liguria. Bright and nutty, this world-famous salsa verde’s non-cook recipe is simple: a blend of fresh basil leaves, pine nuts, olive oil, garlic and pecorino and/or parmesan cheese.

Ligurian focaccia

Instead of sweet brioches like much of the rest of Italy, Ligurians pair their cappuccini with savory focaccia (a flat sheet of bread). The salty baked dough makes a great snack too. Try a special cheesy version in the unassuming town of Recco in the Genoa province.

Acciughe ripiene 

The stuffed (and often fried) anchovies of Monterosso are a local specialty that holds a Protected Designation of Origin status from the European Union. 

Gattafin di Levanto

Originating in the La Spezia province, this dish is made with a collection of wild herbs, beets, spring onions, fresh marjoram and parmesan stuffed into a deep-fried, ravioli-like dough.

Cinque Terre DOC wines

These dry, straw-yellow whites are a Bosco-Albarola-Vermentino blend, all grapes that have long grown on the terraced landscape of Cinque Terre.

Sciacchetrà DOC  

This sweet dessert wine or “passito” is produced using sun dried grapes from the Bosco, Albarola and Vermentino vines.

The Italian Riviera Martini

This fanciful cocktail is said to have been invented at the Excelsior Palace Hotel in Rapallo near Portofino. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor and Bruce Springsteen have been known to sip it. It’s a two-ingredient drink made with Portofino Gin and a splash of dry vermouth.

Top events and festivals in Liguria

past sanremo winner mahmood

Past winner of the Sanremo Music Festival, Mahmood / Photo: Andrea Raffin via Shutterstock

Check out these eagerly awaited events on the Ligurian calendar.

Sanremo Music Festival

Italy’s oldest and most prestigious song contest takes place toward the end of winter. It’s broadcast live from the famed Ariston Theater in Sanremo.  

Festival of Pirates

Each summer between July and August, the Festa dei pirati celebrates Vernazza’s history with “pirates” storming the village, reenacting the marauding Saracens in the 15th century.

Genoa International Poetry Festival

The Parole Spalancate (wide open words) takes place in June and features over 100 performances, public readings, concerts, exhibitions, screenings and multimedia shows. Founded in 1995, it’s Italy’s longest-running event dedicated to the art of poetry.

Festival of the “Stella Maris”

On the first Sunday of August, a procession of small, decorated boats leaves the village of Camogli in celebration of Stella Maris, protector of sailors and fishermen.

Festa dei Gunbi

An historical festival held each August in the town of Toirano is dedicated to extra virgin olive oil and the ancient mills where it was produced for centuries. The village’s streets are lined with stalls serving its traditional and ancient dishes.  

Guide last updated by Toni DeBella, June 2024 / For a deeper dive into Liguria, check out the Summer 2024 issue of Bellissimo.

Liguria Highlights

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Inspired Stays
Italy in Brief
Italy in Brief

What you can't miss in Liguria

Where is Liguria

Top Experiences in Liguria

Recipes From Liguria


A delicious autumn recipe for tender gnocchi made with chestnut flour from Laurel Evan’s cookbook “Liguria the Cookbook: Recipes from the Italian Riviera,”. 


A thick vegetable and legume soup made with chickpeas and chard, perfect for the onset of fall. 


Traditionally, this dish was prepared at the height of the oil-pressing season in Liguria, offered by the olive growers as a gesture of celebration to those who helped with the harvest.


It’s easy to default to thinking of Ligurian cuisine as “green.” But venture into the shaded foothills of the Ligurian Alps in the western part of the region, and you’ll find la cucina bianca, or “white cooking.”

What others are saying about Liguria

@richard123 asks:

Hello I am told that my electricity supplier Servizio  Electtrica  nazionale are no more.

I have a credit of 500 Euros with them and don’t know how to claim it back. Does anyone have experience of claiming back a credit.

@dato18 asks:

Hello, I just purchased a property in Liguria and I'm wondering if anyone has experience here refurbishing their own property. I'd love recommendations for the best DIY stores, any pitfalls to watch out for, and any other tips would be greatly appreciated.

@powerday asks:

I'm looking for an english speaking Geometra in Seborga/Bordighera. I need the planning for a above ground swimming pool.