Places to visit in the Levante Ligure hinterland
There is more to Liguria than just the coast. In fact, there are plenty of places worth visiting inland. Find a list of some of eastern Liguria’s most charming and evocative inland villages below.
The inland areas of the Levante Ligure are a perfect destination for slow tourism experiences
Variety is what makes Liguria unique: despite its size, by no means huge, the region boasts a wide range of extraordinarily diverse landscapes. Sea and mountains are Liguria’s two souls. Among the two, the region’s mountainous heart is no doubt the least known, but it provides discerning visitors with fulfilling sightseeing options and authentic lifestyle experiences.
Rising at 29 km from Portovenere – about 48 minutes by car – Pignone is the perfect destination for foodies.
Nestled among chestnut woods, the town is surrounded by mountains, valleys, karst landscapes, and streams.
Pignone has recently rediscovered its vocation: high-quality agricultural production that makes good use of the rugged hillside terrains. Local produce includes potatoes, beans, corn, and chestnuts, all of which are yearly showcased, along with cured meats and honey, at the Mostra Mercato “Gli orti di Pignone” that is held at the end of August.
Luni o Ortonovo
The ancient Roman village called Luni rises some 30 km from La Spezia. Despite being inland, it is not far from the sea: it will take you just 15 minutes, by car, to get to Marinella di Sarzana, right on the coast.
Founded in 177 B.C., Luni became a leading trade town, especially famous for the products that left its port directed to other countries. Pliny and Martial both mention Luni, praising the cheese, wine, and fine Apuan marble.
Later in history, the town faced barbarian invasions and was plundered by pirates; these events, together with the silting up of the port, led to its decline, forcing Luni’s inhabitants to move to Sarzana.
Today, Luni is a wonderful open-air museum. The Roman amphitheater is one of the town’s most remarkable features: though it now features two tiers of seats only, it used to accommodate up to 7,000 spectators!
Luni’s National Archaeological Museum also houses an impressive exhibit where one can admire the remnants of the local decumanus, thermae, theater, and several ancient Roman mansions.
Tickets to the archeological area cost €4.00 per person (adults), or €1.00 for the Amphitheater only. Visit this page for group bookings and reservations.
Sarzana is a medieval town located near the Tuscan border, about a one-hour drive from Portovenere. The town is known for The Festival della Mente, an event focusing on creativity that is held in September.
Whether you are interested in the festival or not, the village is well worth a visit! Visit this page to find out what to see in Sarzana.
Brugnato is worth a visit for two different, but not conflicting, reasons; shopping at the outlet and touring the village.
The 5 Terre Outlet Village in Brugnato is the outlet closest to La Spezia (26 km) and can be reached from Portovenere in less than an hour.
After shopping, one can stroll through the town center: very picturesque, it was awarded the Touring Club banner for sustainable tourism.
Brugnato is an exquisite village at its best in summer when it is filled with bright colors. On the occasion of the Feast of Corpus Christ, skilled florists use flower petals to design sacred images and geometric designs on the village streets.
Rocchetta Vara, 1,000 meters above sea level and about one hour from Portovenere by car, offers lovely vistas of the Apuan Riviera, Versilia, the Gulf of Poets, and the Cinque Terre. The Alta Via dei Monti Liguri cuts across the highest part of the town, and some footpaths and trails lead to the coast as well.
You’ll hardly miss the sea: this area is dotted with spectacular forests and bountiful fields that yield lush fresh organic produce. Yes, organic, because Rocchetta Vara is part of the “Biodistretto Val di Vara Biodistrict”, the only organic farming district in Liguria. On the first Sunday in September, visitors and locals can get to know the local milk and meat production chain thanks to the “Stalle aperte” (literally “open barns”) event: the area’s leading farms are open to the public, and you can sample fresh milk, bread, preserves, and other traditional specialties, among which “Vinciguerra” cake.
Castello di Madrignano
A beautiful castle located in a scenic little village in Val di Vara.
The town overlooks the Val di Magra and offers breathtaking views: on the clearest days, you can see the sea, and even catch a glimpse of the Tower of Pisa! A postcard-perfect destination for those who want to relax and meditate.
What to see in Varese Ligure
Located less than 70 km from Portovenere, Varese Ligure is one of the greenest and most extensive villages in inland Liguria. Largely covered by forests, pastures, and groomed fields, it is somewhat reminiscent of the villages one can find in the Alps. And it’s in an outstanding position: between Liguria and Emilia, at a stone’s throw from the province of Parma, so right in the Parmigiano Reggiano area!
Needless to say, this is the ideal destination for a food and wine vacation.
Canate di Marsiglia
Canate di Marsiglia, a semi-abandoned village in the Genoa hinterland, is located further away from Portovenere (138 km).
The only way to get here is on foot, along a hiking route. It will take you at least 2 hours, but the views and tranquility you’ll find are certainly worth the effort.