ITALY’s RIVIERA is both a historic destination and a fabulously pleasure-seeking one, where you can explore lavish palazzi and simple village churches but also enjoy good food, sample the local wines, do some gorgeous walks, and gaze at the azure sea. The dramatic coastal topography is certainly impressive but so are its charming towns along the way.
Among the Italian Riviera’s culinary delights are a great variety of seafood, fragrant lemons, olive-oil-infused focaccia bread, and most famous of all, that delicious green paste now renowned throughout the world – pesto!
We kick off the week in historic GENOA, which can claim the largest medieval center in Italy. The city was one of the four mighty maritime republics in the Italian Middle Ages (along with rivals Venice, Pisa, and Amalfi). Genoa boasts several eye-popping grand palaces and piazze but also a very extensive jumble of atmospheric, twisting alleys to get lost in. Like all major Italian cities there are also grand churches with lavish art and commendable museums.
We also explore the beautiful promontory that’s named for one of its pretty towns — world-famous and chic PORTOFINO. We’ll circumnavigate the peninsula by boat, stopping in Camogli, Santa Marherita Ligure, and of course Portofino itself.
The CINQUE TERRE stretch of the Riviera has a whole extensive network of popular and spectacular hiking trails — though they can be strenuous. Ours will be more tame walks combined with sightseeing by boat along the stunning coast, poking around a couple of the Cinque Terre villages, and a fun pesto-making session!
We also take in the “Gulf of Poets,” named in honor of the 1820s resident English poets Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, the sweet seaside town of Lerici, and a nearby winery.
Tacked on to this itinerary is a slice of Tuscany, too. Everyone’s heard of the iconic Leaning Tower of PISA, surely, but few are aware that it is just one component of a stunning ensemble of medieval buildings, including the 12th-century cathedral and baptistery.
We end in lovely LUCCA, an urbane and compelling city that stays in large part off the radar of the main tourist circuit yet is host to numerous attractions, not the least of which is the impressive and intact walls surrounding the entire city on which you can walk, run, or cycle while looking out over the city and beyond to the verdant hills.