ITALIAN RIVIERA

Italian Riviera

Geographically, the term ‘Riviera’ refers to the long narrow stretch of coastal land peacefully nestled between the Alps and the Mediterranean Sea extending from southeast France to northwest Italy. Although its French counterpart, the French Riviera, holds much of the praise and renown, travellers who have had the good fortune of experiencing the luxurious warmth and crystal clear blue waters of the Italian Riviera attest that it is equally, if not more beautiful, than its famous neighbour.

This is due in part to the absence of massive tourist crowds. The beautiful coastal region of Liguria, more popularly known as the Italian Riviera, invokes the term ‘picture perfect’ which finds its true meaning in the 340 kilometres of attractive and eye-catching stretch of coastline located in the northern part of Italy. Located in the region of Liguria, the Italian Riviera coastline stretches from Ventimiglia in the west near the French border to Genoa at the centre, and ending just beyond Cinque Terre in the east at Portovenere. This coastline paradise is well known for its mild weather, crystalline blue waters, soft sandy beaches and magnificent craggy hillsides overlooking the ocean.
At the centre of the Italian Riviera sits the Ligurian capital, Genoa, the largest commercial port in Italy. Genoa divides the region further into two sections; the Riviera di Ponente or “Riviera of the Setting Sun”, which extends westward from the French border all the way eastward to Genoa at the centre, and the Riviera di Levante or “Riviera of the Rising Sun”, that spans eastward from Genoa to Portovenere.

The port city of Genoa stands right at the centre of the narrow stretch of the Ligurian coastline. The biggest commercial port of Italy, Genoa is the capital of Liguria and the birthplace of Christopher Columbus.
At the centre of the Italian Riviera sits the Ligurian capital, Genoa, the largest commercial port in Italy. Genoa divides the region further into two sections; the Riviera di Ponente or “Riviera of the Setting Sun”, which extends westward from the French border all the way eastward to Genoa at the centre, and the Riviera di Levante or “Riviera of the Rising Sun”, that spans eastward from Genoa to Portovenere.

The port city of Genoa stands right at the centre of the narrow stretch of the Ligurian coastline. The biggest commercial port of Italy, Genoa is the capital of Liguria and the birthplace of Christopher Columbus.

During the time of the Romans, Genoa served as an important maritime centre for the empire, and, during the period of the Renaissance, it was known as one of the richest cities of Renaissance Europe. An old port city, Genoa is a mixture of the old and the new, the elegant and the squalid, the historic and the modern. Remnants of the Roman Empire are still apparent within the town’s medieval walls right next to the tenement homes. Stretching for several miles from the hills to the coast, Genoa lives up to its reputation as the cultural capital of Europe, a title it won in 2004 and which it most likely will be able to continually hold via its theatres, museums, restaurants, cafes, shopping centres and Europe’s largest aquarium.

The Cinque Terre or region of the Five Lands, as it has been known since the 15th century, is a series of five small villages sitting on the cliffs above the Mediterranean Sea. These tiny villages, which are accessible mainly by train or by foot using the paths that connect them with one another are brightly coloured and create a mountain cliff setting that is overwhelmingly beautiful.

The five small villages — Corniglia, Manarola, Monterosso al Mare, Riomaggiore, and Vernazza — are individually lovely and possess personalities all of their own. Corniglia is built in the higher part of the mountain, which allows it to offer magnificent views and an even more secluded beach. Manarola is a fishing village whose colourful houses are perched on a rock above the port. Monterosso al Mare was founded in 643 and boasts the most famous beach in the region, a 16th century Capuchin monastery, and an ancient castle. Riomaggiore is a picturesque village with pastel coloured houses crawling down the cliff to the sea. Vernazza juts out over the sea and houses a medieval tower.

Although the train only travels nine kilometres from the first village to the last, the most exhilarating and fulfilling way to visit these villages is to go by foot, following the paths that intertwine and connect the villages. Depending on how far you would like to travel a walk along the Cinque Terre can take anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours. While the complete walk may seem overwhelming at first, those who have walked through these tiny villages speak only of having a lovely time.
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