Holidays are coming and you don’t know where to go? Here are some of the Ligurian towns that you absolutely cannot miss!
Did you know that 26 of the most beautiful villages in Italy are located in Liguria? That’s right! In fact, the conformation of the territory, which is predominantly mountainous, has allowed the formation of small urban centres, gathered on the mountains overlooking the sea. In this region you can find from breathtaking waters to incredible natural landscapes, immersed in the green of the mountains, and you can admire scenery and sunsets that are impossible not to photograph.
Famous for its sea, mountains and landscapes, Liguria can also offer its tourists a lot of history, art, culture and, above all, gastronomy. This makes it suitable for everyone, for couples and families, Italians or foreigners. Recently, the villages of Liguria have been consecrated in the minds of tourists, young and old, thanks to the Pixar film “Luca”, which took inspiration from the evocative locations scattered around the Riviera.
In this guide, you will find some of the most beautiful towns in Liguria, those to be seen at least once in a lifetime! We will pass through ancient medieval villages, built on the rocks of the cliffs and overlooking the sea, to get to the splendid inland towns, travelling around the whole region.
Follow me and you’ll find lots of suggestions and advice for your visit among the best villages of Liguria, whether it’s for a day, a weekend or a longer period. 👇
Discover all the towns to visit in Liguria:
Built following the shape of the coast, Alassio is one of the most lively towns in the region: full of restaurants, boutiques, trendy shops and bars. In fact, right here, in front of the Caffè Roma, is the Muretto di Alassio, also known as the wall of celebrities. With its colourful tiles, it collects all the signatures of celebrities who, over the years, have passed through the alleys of the village and fallen in love with it. You too can stroll its streets in search of relaxation and enjoy the excellent local cuisine. Definitely try the baci di Alassio, small biscuits, similar to the better known “baci di dama”, made with hazelnut flour and chocolate ganache!
The village of Albenga, built in Roman times, still has one of the best-preserved historic centres on the Riviera. With its walls, palaces and churches, the town is a veritable open-air museum, and not only that: in its seas, at a depth of 40 metres, there is a shipwreck from the first century BC. Moreover, precisely because of its well-preserved historical architecture, Albenga is nicknamed “the city of 100 towers”.
With a name that literally means “sunny”, the town of Apricale lends itself well to walks in the streets of the historic centre, which can only be covered on foot and is dominated by the unmissable Lizard Castle, the village’s symbol. Immersed in the greenery of the Ligurian hinterland, its surroundings have several paths, once trodden by mule caravans, that connect the small village to various localities and make it a perfect destination for nature excursions.
4. Corniglia, Vernazza, Monterosso al mare, Manarola and Riomaggiore
Compared by Dante to the Purgatory Mountain, these five villages, all located along the coast, make up one of Italy’s most attractive tourist resorts: the Cinque Terre. Beloved by Italians and foreigners alike, they have been celebrated by various writers and are now protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The national park is a fixed stop on any trip to Liguria and contains beaches, nature trails and picturesque landscapes made of colourful houses overlooking the sea. It is also home to the literary theme park dedicated to Eugenio Montale, an itinerary that winds through landscapes and poetry.
With its evocative name, Porto Venere is named in honour of the Roman goddess born from the foam of the sea, which is very present in the waters that break against the rocks of this Ligurian town. Located in the Gulf of Poets, this location has been admired by several famous people, including Lord Byron, who gave his name to a rocky bay from which he drew inspiration. Among the things you absolutely cannot miss are the remains of the Doria Castle, an old fortress overlooking the town and from which you can admire a splendid view of the whole of Porto Venere. In particular, you can admire the church of San Pietro, perched on the Bocche promontory and depicting all the magic of this ancient Ligurian village.
Among the top towns to visit in Liguria, you cannot miss Portofino, a famous seaside destination that can be enjoyed even on mild autumn and spring days. To admire it at its best, I recommend a visit to the Brown Castle, located just above the bay of Portofino, which, with its terrace and gardens, will allow you to admire its tall colourful houses. Then, continue your walk to the Faro -the lighthouse-, where you can enjoy an excellent aperitif at the top of the promontory. Visit this quaint village and try not to fall in love with it.
7. Lerici and Tellaro
Both villages, the first a municipality and the second his hamlet, have been inhabited by prominent figures, such as exponents of English romanticism and Mario Soldati himself. Tellaro is also the scene of a fascinating legend: the giant octopus, a sea monster that saved the town from the attack of some Saracen pirates by waking the inhabitants ringing the bells of the Church of San Giorgio. These legends, again about sea monsters and typical of the maritime republic of Genoa, are the material that inspired the plot of the famous Pixar film “Luca”.
Together with Finale Pia and Finale Marina, it is now part of the municipality of Finale Ligure. It is one of the medieval villages of Liguria and has also been included in the list of the most beautiful towns in Italy. Here you can admire the architecture dating back to Spanish rule and enjoy the view of the coast from the Castle of San Giovanni.
It is said that every Genoese family that provided the republic with an armed galley was entitled to build a tower in Noli. As a result, the town came to number as many as 72 during the 14th century. The town is dominated by the ruins of the Ursino Castle, from which walls, towers and walkways branch off. The area of the Ligurian village of Noli is, in fact, surrounded by excellent nature trails, such as the Dante walk, immersed in olive groves, vineyards and scented by jasmines.
This charming medieval town, made up of small, terraced houses, is famous for having been embellished thanks to coral fishing, a widespread practice among the inhabitants. The proceeds from the flourishing activity enabled the construction of the Church of San Giovanni Battista, also known as “dei corallini” and located in the centre of village.
Also, not to be missed is pestun di fave, a typical Cervo dish made with pecorino cheese, garlic, mint and, of course, broad beans, boiled and hulled. Strictly prepared with a mortar, it pairs well with boiled meat, blue fish and vegetables, but it is also great to try plain, with a slice of toasted bread.
Among the villages of the Ligurian hinterland, you cannot fail to pass by Dolceacqua, a small town shrouded in a more than evocative legend. The village is presided over by the Doria Castle, where the ghost of Lucrezia, a young girl who starved to death for her values, is said to appear. Here, in 1300, the Marquis reintroduced the obligation that any bride should lie with him first on her wedding night.
When it was Lucrezia’s turn, she refused and was therefore imprisoned and left without food until she yielded: she did not yield and starved to death in prison. Her husband managed to enter the castle and threatened the Marquis, who put an end to this cruel practice. The women of the village thus decided to create a pastry product made of eggs, sugar and oil in memory of Lucrezia and called it “michetta”. Don’t miss the chance to learn the full legend and taste this typical recipe shrouded in myth.
Located in the province of Imperia, this ancient Ligurian village is also known as Principato di Seborga. The municipality has a crown council, a currency called “luigino” and, of course, a princess elected by the citizens. This small micronation, although not internationally recognised, has always aroused much interest and its coins are now worth a good six dollars!
13. Castelnuovo Magra
This ancient Ligurian village, located on Mount Bastione, is easily visible from the valley thanks to the presence of the Bishops’ Palace and its Torre Magna, the most evident architectural work in the historic centre. Here you can also taste a typical product that not everyone knows: prosciutta. This “happy wife” of the great charcuterie product -the prosciutto- is obtained after months of curing and “plastering” over the product, where it is massaged with fat and spices to better penetrate the aromas.
14. Sestri Levante
The Gulf of Sestri was defined by H.C. Andersen, the Danish poet famous for his stories, as the “Gulf of Fairy Tales” and this appellation alone may be worth a visit to this municipality. In fact, this bay is located on a sandy isthmus and right behind it there is another one, called “Bay of Silence”. Both make up the historic centre of Sestri Levante, expanding into the alluvial plain behind it. Here you can taste the typical “Bagnun d’acciughe”, the old sailors’ breakfast, today excellent as an appetiser.
Rapallo is today the largest and best equipped resort on the entire Riviera di Levante. Although the economic boom of the 1960s has left little of the old town centre, you can still admire its castle, situated on a rock directly in the sea and symbol of the town.
The name of this Ligurian town derives from its long maritime tradition. In fact, the village was once permanently inhabited only by women, known as “neither widows nor brides”, precisely because they were always waiting for their husbands when they travelled by sea: thus it took the name “house of wives”.
Built on the Gulf of Paradise, it is known for its tall, narrow houses with polychrome façades, all overlooking the ancient harbour.
Don’t miss the Dragonara Castle, overlooking the sea, and the Maritime Museum, formed thanks to heirlooms and mementos donated by Camogliese families.
Triora is included in the list of the most beautiful towns in Italy, but it is mainly known by the name of “borgo delle streghe” (witches’ village). This is because it was here that one of the first witch-hunting trials was held, which ended with five death sentences. The whole village seems linked to this history: from the municipal coat of arms – a three-headed dog – to the ethnographic and witchcraft museum.
Even if you’re not a lover of magic and the occult, this village still offers romantic views and sights and knows how to warm everyone up with its Witches’ Filter, an excellent artisanal herbal liqueur.
The town of Valloria is also known as the village of painted doors. The entrances of the houses have been used as canvases by the various artists who have filled the village with handmade works of art. Definitely worth a visit!
The ancient town of Brugnato seems to be entirely built on the faith of its inhabitants: its shape, which embraces the cathedral; the carved heads on the doors, which protect against evil influences; and the crosses in the niches and on the houses. It is precisely because of this strong sentiment that Brugnano hosts one of the most beautiful religious events: the corpus domini “infiorata”, where the streets of the town are covered with countless flower carpets.
Have you ever wondered where the famous Taggiasca olives come from? Yes, they come from this Ligurian village, where this type of grafting was first practised. But these tasty table olives are not the only specialities you will find in town: try the Taggia canestrelli biscuits as well.
In this Ligurian village, listed among the most beautiful in Italy, the glorious maritime past is clearly evident: the old shoals for landing boats are now small squares, uniting the sea with the small colourful houses in the centre. Here, mass tourism has had little effect on the architecture, which makes it possible to admire the splendour of this small fishing village.
Unfortunately, the bombings of World War II left little of the ancient Recco and its seafaring tradition; but, fortunately, many other traditions have survived and have given the town the title of “gastronomic capital of Liguria”. One of these is even protected as a PGI product: I am talking about the unmissable focaccia di Recco (with cheese).
Formed by concentric circles on top of a promontory, this ancient Ligurian village takes its name from its shape, similar to that of a pine cone. Once you have admired its peculiar structure, you can wander through its narrow alleys full of arches and vaults. These are called “chibi”, precisely because they are a bit gloomy. But don’t worry, if these alleys have made you shiver, you can always warm up in the beautiful local thermal baths.
Ilaria del Carretto, a mother who died in childbirth at the beginning of the 15th century and famous for her sarcophagus preserved in Lucca, was born here. In this village, one of the most beautiful in Italy, you can still feel the gaze of Ilaria, nicknamed “the woman who looks”.
You can visit the streets and arcades of the centre, admire the ruins of the castle above the town and walk on the magical Romanesque bridge, one of the best preserved.
25. Castelvecchio di Rocca Barbena
Starting from Zuccarello, you can walk along “Ilaria’s path”, a nature trail connecting the castle to the town of Castelvecchio. It was precisely between these two villages that Ilaria lived her youth, until before her marriage, walking through the countryside and running around the castles. You too can visit this evocative place, where history and nature come together.
26. Borgio Verezzi
The village of theatre, so called because of its annual theatre festival, is full of old stone houses, colourful alleys and a beautiful view of the sea, such as the one you can admire from the arcades of Piazza Sant’Agostino.
27. Colletta di Castel Bianco
This recently restored medieval town is known as the “telematic village”. Its architect’s aim was to blend the convenience of new technologies with the ancient style of stone houses and the tranquillity of the greenery typical of inland Ligurian villages. Today it is included in the list of the most beautiful towns in Italy: you cannot miss it!
It is impossible to talk about Ligurian villages to visit without mentioning Sassello, the town of amaretti biscuits. You absolutely must take some home with you from your trip to this land, but also remember to taste the “torta pasqualina”, typical of the Easter period and excellent here in Sassello.
Known mainly for its tourist development, this waterfront of second homes inspired the poem “In una villa” by Giosué Carducci, who celebrated its nature. In its interior, in fact, there are several canyoning and mountaineering routes, as well as a cycle track built on the old Genoa-Ventimiglia railway line.
30. Cairo Montenotte
Called in the past “the queen of the Langhe”, Cairo Montenotte is a town in the province of Savona that has preserved its history despite the post-war urban and industrial expansion. It is still possible to admire the Porta Sovrana, which marks the beginning of the historic centre, and the ruins of Cairo Castle. You must also try tira, a loaf of bread with sausage paste added, created to hide meat from Napoleon’s soldiers.
And now, are you ready to set out to discover the best Ligurian towns to visit? Whether it’s for a weekend or a longer period, remember that with Italia Delight you can book directly with local food experts and customise your holiday! What are you waiting for? 😉
Cover photo; pixbay, dexmac
Feature photo; pixabay, Pixamio