What to see in the Levante Ligure
Liguria is a lovely region, and the area called Levante offers countless options for unforgettable vacations.
Read on for insider’s tips on what to see in the area comprised between the eastern part of Genoa, La Spezia, and the Tuscan border.
Places to visit between Genoa and La Spezia
Recco, Camogli, Sestri Levante, La Spezia, Portovenere or Portofino? They’re all beautiful little towns located between Genoa and La Spezia!
Find a complete list of eastern Liguria’s cant-miss destinations below.
The area comprised between Genoa and La Spezia can be ideally “divided” into four different sections:
- La Spezia, and its surroundings
- The Tigullio
- Golfo Paradiso (i.e. Paradise Gulf)
- Eastern Genoa
Those staying in or traveling through the area between Portovenere and eastern Genoa will not want to miss seeing the following:
1. La Spezia and its surroundings
The Gulf of Poets
The Gulf of Poets (Golfo dei Poeti, or Gulf of La Spezia) is an extremely picturesque yet still scarcely known stretch of coastline that extends from Portovenere, located on the extreme northwestern tip, to Lerici, the town that caps the Gulf to the southeast.
Located just below the Cinque Terre this area of the Ligurian Riviera is as much worth a visit as the Cinque Terre themselves! Click here to find out more about the villages near La Spezia, or check out the page dedicated to the Portovenere Parco Naturale Regionale.
The Cinque Terre
The Cinque Terre, five scenic villages magnificently carved into the distinctive local harsh and steep natural environment, rise along a mesmerizing rugged six-mile-long strip of the Italian Riviera, between Genoa and Pisa. There aren’t any world-class museums or bustling roads here, all you’ll find is the sunshine, blue sea, and wave-lapped pebble beaches, alongside churches, local landmarks, and a tranquil, simple lifestyle.
The Cinque Terre Park villages are:
- Riomaggiore, 42 minutes from Portovenere by car
- Manarola, 45 minutes from Portovenere by car
- Corniglia, about 1 hour from Portovenere by car
- Vernazza, 37 km from Portovenere, about 1 hour by car
- Monterosso al Mare, 44 km from Portovenere
Needless to say, traveling by boat, in this area, is much more time-effective.
The Montemarcello-Magra-Vara Regional Nature Park
The area that extends south of La Spezia is rich and diverse from all points of view: natural, historical, and cultural. Here, alongside the Portovenere Regional Nature Park, one can explore the Montemarcello Regional Nature Park: it encompasses 18 municipalities, among which charming towns and villages such as Sarzana, Lerici, Tellaro, and San Terenzo.
2. Golfo del Tigullio
The Golfo del Tigullio (Tigullio Gulf) is located within the Genoa metropolitan area and includes the municipalities of Portofino, Santa Margherita Ligure, Rapallo, Sestri Levante, Zoagli, Chiavari, and Lavagna.
Sestri Levante is a picturesque town and popular holiday resort that rises in the center of the Riviera di Levante; Portovenere is 73 km away (approximately 1 hour and 12 minutes by car).
Sestri Levante is called “the city of two seas,” but would be more accurately described by the phrase “the city of two bays”, seeing as it lies in between the Baia del Silenzio and the Baia delle Favole.
Sestri Levante’s buildings are among the town’s most fascinating features: most are painted and decorated with a technique similar to trompe-l’œil, in keeping with a typical Ligurian 15th-century trend.
Chiavari rises in the Levante Ligure, about 1 hour and 15 minutes from Portovenere.
The center features charming, perfectly maintained medieval arcades lined by quaint shops.
What to see in Chiavari
– The Villa Rocca Botanical Park, created in the early 20th century, comprises man-made caves, bridges, and ponds
– Palazzo Rocca, the seat of the Archaeological Museum of Prehistory and Early History of Tigullio
– the Civic Gallery of Palazzo Rocca
Major events held in Chiavari include the Palio Marinaro del Tigullio, a sort of regatta aboard the typical local gozzi boats, and the feast of the Madonna dell’Orto, the town’s patron saint, which takes place at the beginning of July.
Driving along the shoreline road that runs from Chiavari to Zoagli you’ll come across the Sem Benelli Castle, and, continuing further for about 700 meters to the west, you’ll be right in the center of Zoagli. This imposing building stands on a rocky spur overlooking the sea and dominates the entire gulf. It is one of Zoagli’s must-see landmarks.
Zoagli is a diver’s paradise: Our Lady of the Sea, the famed underwater statue created by sculptor Marian Hastianatte, lies in the sea in front of the village. There’s an evocative ceremony called the Madonna del Mare Festival, held every year on August 5th.
It’s a great destination for hiking enthusiasts, too. With its wide selection of hilly trails, among which the popular “Five Bell Towers”, Zoagli is perfect for those looking to discover the area’s natural and architectural beauty.
A crescent-shaped beach, a small harbor, and a 16th-century castle built to protect the inhabitants from pirate attacks. Rapallo, 1 hour and 30 minutes from Portovenere and half an hour from Genoa, is a Ligurian town in the heart of the Tigullio Gulf. Nestled between the mountains and the sea, it boasts quaint colorful little houses built one alongside the other and has been known for at least two centuries for its mild climate and rich flora.
What to see in Rapallo?
Marvelous beaches, a fascinating historical center, and faa fairytale-like castle. The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Montallegro is also nearby.
Possibly Liguria’s most coveted town! Portofino’s popularity started in the 1950s, when it became a favorite among Hollywood stars, and starred in hit pop songs.
Over the years the likes of Liz Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Madonna, and Leonardo Di Caprio have indulged and enjoyed Portofino.
What to see in Portofino? This elegant village on the Ligurian coast offers beautiful sights, including the Castello Brown and the lighthouse. You can also enjoy spectacular views from the square in front of the lighthouse.
Santa Margherita Ligure
But there’s more than just Portofino! Santa Margherita Ligure, a small town located on the coast, about 1 hour and 30 minutes from Portovenere by car, is also worth a visit!
What to see in Santa Margherita Ligure
The typical pastel-colored houses, Villa Durazzo, the Fortress, the Convent of the Capuchin Friars, and, needless to say, the sea.
Santa Margherita Ligure’s beaches are no less stunning than those in nearby Portofino!
3. Golfo Paradiso (Bogliasco, Pieve Ligure, Sori, Recco, Camogli)
Easy to reach from both Genoa and Portovenere, Golfo Paradiso (literally Paradise Gulf) is one of the most beautiful stretches of the Italian and Ligurian Riviera. The gulf comprises five seaside towns and offers splendid views.
Each of the five small towns has its distinctive character, charm, and cuisine.
Recco: flavorful and fascinating
Located at a mere 19 km from Genoa, and 99 from Portovenere, Recco is the most popular and well-known town of the Golfo Paradiso, at least among Ligurians and Italians! This pretty village is the birthplace of one of Liguria’s most famous specialties: focaccia di Recco. Beware of frauds: authentic focaccia di Recco is made by these authorized retailers only.
But there’s more to Recco than its typical specialty!
The historic center houses the Nostra Signora del Suffragio Sanctuary, a lovely neoclassical church located in a pretty square, with frescoes and crystal chandeliers inside. Nostra Signora del Suffragio is Recco’s patron saint, and a great feast called the Sagra del Fuoco is held in her honor every year, on September 7 and 8. During the festivities, the town’s seven neighborhoods put on seven different fireworks displays.
Other must-see landmarks in town include the Churches of San Michele and the Santissimo Crocifisso, both part of a complex connected to the Church of San Francesco.
Camogli: another Ligurian gem
Where is Camogli located? This village rises at 23 km from Genoa and 101 km from Portovenere.
In addition to the sea and pretty historic center, Camogli offers two fascinating annual events: the Fish Festival and the Stella Maris Festival.
The former is an amazing deep-fried fish bash that is held every year on the second Sunday in March. Locals gather around a huge frying pan (almost 4 meters in diameter!) and enjoy tasting the finest catch of the day.
The latter takes place on the first Sunday in August and is inspired by a mosaic that portrays the Madonna, traditionally considered the patron saint of seafarers, which dates back to 400 A.D.and is housed within the church of San Nicolò di Capodimonte. The event begins with a cannon blast: it “announces” that Dragun (a famous pirate ship) and his pirates have departed. Later on, when night falls, the locals place hundreds of lanterns in the water, thus lighting up the dark sea for the sailors. It’s an incredible sight!
Nature lover? Make sure you visit Pieve Ligure, the greenest, most luxuriant, and flower-filled of the five villages of the Golfo Paradiso!
Once you’ve seen the town and its surroundings, it will come as no surprise that it has a flower as its symbol. Yellow mimosa represents Pieve Ligure, and every year, on the second weekend in February, visitors flock to participate in the Mimosa Festival and enjoy the themed parade.
11 km from Genoa: Bogliasco mare
Bogliasco is a small, traditional village near Genoa (approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes from Portovenere by car). Boasting crystal-clear waters, it is a popular destination for spending leisurely seafront days, fishing, and surfing. If you’re a surfer or want to learn, visit Bogliasco: it offers ideal surfing conditions year-round, even in winter!