The Italian Riviera is Bellissimo! Especially when the weather is in a happy sunny mood and not being too hot. Best season to travel is mid-end of April. Strolling along the colourful villages on the northern west coastline of Italy, hiking in the national park of Cinque Terre (UNESCO World Heritage site) and enjoying the local food & wine. Just a perfect getaway in finding your zen and in enjoying life!
In total I travelled 8 days. Arriving in Genoa Colombo airport heading straight to Santa Margherita Ligure & Portofino. Why not making a stop in Genoa city? I am not really a museum kind and they were closed with Easter.
How to get away from Genoa airport?
By taxi or take the Volabus to Genoa city to transit to other locations nearby. The bus stop is located in front of the arrival hall. Buy the ticket on the bus or tourist office for €6 (8min ride). Hop off at train station ‘Principe’ (a giant station especially when the escalators and elevators don’t work you will have to carry your luggage all the way down/up) or stop at station ‘Brignole’. A train ticket to St. Margherita Ligure costs €3,60 one way into the direction of Sestri Levante (1hr ride). Please bear in mind you have to validate your ticket in the machine before embarking on the bus and/or train.
Tip: take a seat on the right-side of the train moving forwards. You will see the beautiful scenery along the coastline.
Santa Margherita & Portofino (1 night)
In front of the station you can take the taxi or local bus to the city centre. If your hotel is nearby, take the road ‘Via Roma’ on the right-side of the station when you get out (back facing to station). At some point turn left on ‘Via Dell Arco’, you will be heading into the direction of the harbor square roundabout. The walk takes ~10min, this road is easier when you carry luggage because the other option is taking a long journey on steps. Bus ticket cost €1,80 within St Margherita area or €3 into the direction of Portofino (bus no. 82/882). Ticket is valid for 75min.
Food: recommended by a friend who is from here to go to Osteria No.7 on ‘Via Jacopo Ruffini’. A nice eatery place having a small menu but very delicious! It opens at 7pm and gets full around 7.30pm. They don’t take reservations, it’s on a first come first serve basis. Prices are good, a primi or secondi cost around €10 per dish. Typical local dishes are Pasta al Pesto (basil) or Pansoti con salsa di Noci (pasta with creamy nut sauce).
After breakfast, I started with a morning walk along the coastline heading to Portofino. There is a pedestrian track but sometimes you have to walk down on the road. The hike takes ~1,5 hrs. On your way back, you can take the bus/€3 or the boat/€7 (15min ride).
Personally, I find the beaches here not tempting. They are gray/black accompanied with lots of stones. While you walk along the coastline to Portofino, there are nice cliffs and small beaches where you can sunbathe in a peaceful surrounding.
Cinque Terre (4 nights)
Cinque Terre means five lands, five historical villages connected along the coastline between mountains, vineyards and citrus trees. Travelling here is an exquisite adventure in the National Park, a retreat in nature. Especially staying overnight in a private home on the mountain outside the villages. You can hear the birds singing, the wind blowing in your hair, the smell of orange and citrus trees, and all day long sunshine on your patio. A superb view looking over vineyards and the sea, it’s just a wonderful experience.
Staying on a mountain house means also, you will have to hike to get food & drinks. I travelled by public transport with a big suitcase and luckily my host arranged a pickup from the station. The villa house was located halfway between the villages Corniglia and Vernazza. The hike to the villa from Corniglia station to the centre takes ~20min (up hill) and to the villa plus ~30min. A lot of exercise but a perfect balance to get rid off all the carbohydrates after pasta dinner’s and ice creams 😉 Drop me a msg if you need more info on this accommodation.
Hiking route and distances
- Corniglia – Vernazza, 4km, takes 1 to 2 hours. Starting from Corniglia is easier. The other way around you will encounter high steep steps uphill.
- Vernazza – Monterosso, 4km, takes 1:30 to 2 hours. Starting from Vernazza is easier.
- Corniglia – Manarola, 1km, takes 30min. This route is closed until further notice.
- Manarola – Riomaggiore, 1km, takes 1hour via route 531. This route is very steep and rocky. Starting from Manarola is easier. There is a shorter route which takes 30min but is closed until further notice.
More pictures from the Italian Riviera & Cinque Terre, visit my Instagram.
For hiking in Cinque Terre you need to buy tickets to get into the National Park as there are check points. You can buy a day(s) pass in combination with the local train rides at each station of Cinque Terre or in La Spezia. A regular train ticket cost €4 one way between the five villages and travelling from La Spezia Centrale. More info about Cinque Terre please go to their website.
Tip 1: Staying in a private home in Cinque Terre provides you free pass hiking in the National Park. Just show the home stay card at the checkpoints.
Tip 2: Accommodation prices in La Spezia are lower and very convenient as base station travelling to Cinque Terrre. The town is far from charming but offers good restaurants and a short trip to a charming bay named Porto Venere. The ride takes ~20min by bus and cost €2,50 one way.
Food at Monterosso: “Da Eraldo” at Piazza Matteotti. I walked in by coincidence because it looks so lovely inside. Staff is humbled and friendly but you have to get their attention in taking your order. I think the moment I was there, their English speaking staff didn’t start his duty yet and the other employees might be to shy to engage in English. I ordered a glass of prosecco which taste sour and I didn’t like it. The chef came to me and recommended me another local sparkling wine and tried to be helpful. The dishes look very nice on every table. The ‘pita’ bread and the Spaghetti di Mare were delicious!
Food at La Spezia: My most favorite place is “Vitolo Intherno” at Via della Canonica 20. It’s a cosy place in the city centre and serves outstanding dishes. What I most like, they serve a large variety of Italian wine that you can take by glass. They will just open the bottle and let you taste before you decide if you like it or not. It is heaven! The dinner sommelier is very helpful and friendly 🙂 Price range per dish ~€10-20. Reservation is recommended for dinner (closed on Monday). “Trattoria la Nuova Spezia” at Viale Amendola 56. A nice old school friendliness and is specialized in seafood. The owner runs this place with full of Italian passion (closed on Tuesday). “Trattoria Inferno” at Via Lorenzo Costa 3. I haven’t tried this place but was highly recommended by my host.
Pisa & Florence
Just stroll around in the old historical centre, visit museums, enjoy the architecture, the good food & wine 🙂
Food in Florence: “Ino Bottega di Alimentari e Vini” at Via del Georgofili 3R. This delicatesse shop sells crunchy panino, bruschetta or small platters e.g. salad and charcuterie. You can make your order and pay at the counter. At rush hours, they note down your name to call out for picking it up at the counter. Menu billboard is in Italian, hopefully you know some Italian words because this is definitely a place to experience the local food & wine spirit. Waiting time can be quite long and prices are not cheap. All panino and platters cost around €9, wine is €4 per glass (house wine). They have a few bar tables and seats available with loungy music on the background. Open from 11 – 17 pm, ino-firenze.com. “San Michele All ‘Arco” at Via dell’ Oriuolo 1R. Organic ingredients straight from the farm to your table. They have Cinta Senese Dop pork, a typical Tuscan pig variety having quality of animal life. The meat tasted delicious! I tried the carpaccio and grilled pork steak with seasonal vegetables. To my shocking surprise, the steak was served medium rare! Never ate rare pork meat and I must say it tasted full of flavour. The staff even said, having it rare would even be better. Their honey is also a must try, it has a floral flavour and its so honey yummy! I bought a jar of 500 gram for €8 back home to dip it on anything that would make your food taste extra delicious. sanmichelleallarco.it. “Perche No!” at Via dei Tavolini. Ice cream artigianale since 1939. They make their ice cream with less cream and doesn’t taste oversweet. Just delicious!
How to go to Florence airport?
By taxi or the take the airport bus “Volainbus” for €6. The bus stop is located next to Firenze Santa Maria Novella Station building just right under covered roof bus terminal. Bus goes at every hour and half hour.
Having your vacation in Italy is just a wonderful and charming adventure. I love the sun, I love the countryside, I love the nature, I love the humbled locals, I love the food & wine, and I enjoyed my adventure in The Italian Riviera very much!