Where Is the Italian Riviera (And What Is It?)

June 27, 2013

With its spectacular seaside and scenery, the Italian Riviera makes for one of the best destinations in Italy. But where exactly is the Italian Riviera—and what does it include? Here’s what you need to know to plan a trip to this gorgeous stretch of coastline

What is the Italian Riviera?

The Cinque Terre, on the Italian Riviera in Liguria

Vernazza, a gem of the Cinque Terre—and of the Italian Riviera. Photo by Peter Stewart Photography

In short, the Italian Riviera is a stretch of coastline. It’s also an enchanting mix of history, pristine beaches, panoramic views, vibrantly colored homes and mouthwatering regional cuisine.

In fact, lovers of la dolce vita and artists, writers, celebrities and royalty have been flocking to this glamorous destination since the 1800s—and it’s easy to see why! There’s something for everyone: picturesque hiking along the Cinque Terre, music and glitz in Sanremo, open air markets in Ventimiglia, parks in Portofino, and dozens of quaint waterfront towns along miles of clear blue water. The list goes on and on!

The most popular time to visit the Italian Riviera is during the summer to enjoy the beaches. But there’s plenty to do in the offseason, too. Winters are usually mild, and perfect for exploring the Italian Riviera’s stunning parks and museums. (In fact, the above photo of the beach in Cogoleto was taken in the winter!).

Where is the Italian Riviera?

If we’ve sold you on the beauty of this spectacular corner of Italy, the next question is… where is it, exactly?

The Italian Riviera lies in the northwestern corner of Italy, in the region of Liguria. It stretches along the Ligurian sea from the Italian-French border to the Tuscan border. (Want to know more about regions like Liguria and Tuscany? Don’t miss our guide to the regions of Italy!)

Italian riviera map

A map of the Italian Riviera, from the French border in the west to La Spezia in the east

The Italian Riviera itself is divided into two parts. East of Liguria’s capital city of Genoa, it’s called the Riviera di Levante (“the coast of the rising sun”). West of Genoa, it’s the Riviera di Ponente (“the coast of the setting sun”).

Genoa in Liguria Italy

The port of Genoa, the area’s capital. Photo by mariejirousek (Flickr)

Luckily, depending on where your travels in Italy take you, getting to the Italian Riviera can be pretty easy. Genoa has an international airport, central train station (with lots of trains coming in from Milan, Florence, Rome, and Venice), and port, with cruise ships docking from all over the world. And Genoa makes a great jumping-off point for exploring the rest of the area. (If you’re planning on taking public transport in the region, don’t miss our how-to guide to the Cinque Terre train!).

Ready to start the journey? Popular destinations along the Italian Riviera, starting from the Italian-French border and working east, include Ventimiglia, Sanremo, Alassio, Savona, Genoa, Portofino, Santa Margherita Ligure, Sestri Levante, and, of course, the incredibly popular Cinque Terre. Beauty can be found on just about every inch of this coast, but what makes it so fascinating is that every town, large or small, is unique and characteristic.

Savona, a town on the Italian Riviera

Savona, a gorgeous town on the Italian Riviera. Photo by Tiziano Caviglia

Have you ever been to the Italian Riviera? What did you think? Let us know in the comments!

Show Comments

14 responses to “Where Is the Italian Riviera (And What Is It?)”

  1. rose says:

    i’ve been in cinque terre and i’m in love with this place.

  2. lee laurino says:

    can you tell me which towns can be visited by boat? a ferry or even the small commuter boats I have seen here?

    • Hi Lee,
      Just about every town on the Riviera can be visited by boat (locals use them daily). The larger ferries are in the bigger cities like the Cinque Terre, Camogli, Genova, Alassio and Sanremo. Some of these ferries make stops at some of the smaller cities too. You can find more information on ferries here.
      Let us know if we can help with anything else!

  3. This is certainly a beautiful place to go being that I know this area and have been there. My Family and I went there when I was a teenager and actually stayed in San Remo. What a wonderful place to be. Look forward in going back. Especially the fact that both my grandparents are from Italy.

  4. jolie says:

    Hi, my husband and I would love to visit cinque terre but we can only travel between mid-june to mid-july and were hoping to visit in early july…I understand that its summer and it can get hot and crowded and we all have different thresholds for this, but from your experience, is it really unpleasant during this period? thanks for your help, we really hope to visit this beautiful place soon!

    • Hi Jolie,
      The CT is hot and crowded that time of year, but many people still love it. The views, of course, remain spectacular! So it’s really up to personal preference.
      Let us know if we can help with anything else!

  5. Jacqueline Lee says:

    Are there any day tour from florence in late November? Are there any ferries transporting within the villages by then? We are a party of 3 and would like to visit Cinque Terre.

  6. Hany says:

    My wife and I would like to make a trip to the italyn rivera on Sumer 2018 for 2 weeks
    We will be traveling from Egypt and we are American citizens 62and 55 years old.
    What kind of route you recommend for us to see the most of the Riviera.
    Also can you recommend a travel agent for us .

    • Walks of Italy says:

      Hi Hany,

      The best towns to see on the Italian Riviera are right along the coast. If you want to see all of them, we suggest starting from the furthest town and following the coast the entire way! That said, it’s probably best to choose some top towns. Consider starting in a bigger town like Genova and taking the train down to gems like Portofino, Sestri Levante and down to Cinque Terre. We’re sure you’ll enjoy it!

  7. jamie K levine says:

    hi –
    we are heading to the Riviera october 5. I booked a hotel in santa margharita for the week as the “base” for visiting the best towns. Our main focus will be on Cinque Terra- is that wise to stay in Santa Margarita and take the train for the day to CT? What other towns are recommended for the best hiking/walking around towns. Also are boats in service in October?

    • Walks of Italy says:

      Hi Jamie, Boats should be in service in October, it all depends on the weather. Santa Margherita is an ok base to visit Cinque Terre, just realize there will be an hour-long train to Monterosso each time, or close to 2 hours to Riomaggiore. We like Monterosso, Vernazza, and Manarola best. You should also make sure to hop into Portofino since you’re up there, and perhaps Camogli.

  8. Sally Ashby says:

    I loved loved cinque terre when I was travelling in Italy for 3weeks this last spring. I would be interested in returning and spending some actual time in these amazing places as the tour I was on (although fabulous) hit all those places in one day so you could not spend much time in any of them.

    You said Genoa takes international flights? I ask as I am coming from Canada and would love to explore this area more in depth.


    • Walks of Italy says:

      Hi Sally,

      There are flights from Canada into Genoa, but also remember that Italy’s train system is really quite efficient, so if you find cheaper flights to a nearby city such as Pisa, Florence or Milan, you can easily take a train into Liguria to tour the area! Have a great trip!

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