Santa Margherita, Italy

When one thinks of Italy a number of different images come to mind, such as gelato piled high in a bowl, gorgeous beaches crowded with people, or perhaps even the beautiful countryside laden with wineries. Santa Margherita is no different but instead of it being the overcrowded tourist destination one would expect from such a beautiful and quaint location, Santa Margherita actually offers a reprieve from the hustle and bustle normally associated with two of its closets towns: Rapollo and Portofino. Even better, visitors to Santa Margherita can expect to pay a significant amount less to stay in the town's grand hotels and gorgeous garden villas then they would if they stayed in its two neighboring towns. It is also just a few short hours to Rome, Florence and Venice, all of which are some of Italy's most popular tourist destinations.

Santa Margherita Ligure, Liguria, ItalyThe glittering bay that winds its way through the picturesque town of Santa Margherita makes it ideal for visitors interested in fishing or those who simply want the opportunity to admire the water from the safety of the shore. During the day, young and old alike walk the streets and explore the countryside on foot. The town is comprised of narrow lanes and cobble stone streets, reminding visitors of a time long past.

Santa Margherita has a rather colorful and exciting history dating back to ancient times. The town was founded during Roman times and later became a part of the Genoa republic. During the Middle Ages, the bay was divided into two smaller bays: Pescino and Corte. Today, the town is known as Santa Margherita Ligure, Liguria and is filled with lush Mediterranean vegetation. Its hills are dotted with the Genoese summer homes that were constructed during the 17th century. Visitors can expect breathtaking views from the balconies of the villas that face bay's crystal clear water.

But visitors can expect to see more than stunning homes and perfectly manicured gardens. Santa Margherita is also home to a number of historic landmarks such as the Basilica of Santa Margherita di Antiochia that was constructed in the 1700s. The Chiesa dei Cappuccini was built during the 1600s and contains quite a view remarkable religious artifacts that date back as early as the 1100s. With just the right mixture of old and new, Santa Margherita is the ideal vacation spot for anybody looking for an escape from their usual routine.


Dolceacqua, Italy

In the province of Imperia nestled in the Liguria region of Italy is Dolceacqua, a picturesque village complete with an old world castle that has been beautifully renovated over the last few centuries. Dolceacqua's ancient castle is the main attraction in the area making it a must-see piece of history when visiting the area.

Conveniently located near Imperia, Genoa, and Savona, Dolceacqua is easily accessible from either city and the village is navigable by foot making for a truly interesting experience.

Dolceacqua can be reached by car or bus after traveling to Imperia or Genoa via train or plane. Buses frequently depart from stations in both main cities along with others in the province. Visitors also have the option of driving to the tiny village spanning a mere 20 square kilometers with a population of roughly 2,000 people.

Dolceacqua, Liguria, ItalyOriginally intended to be a fortified village safe from invaders with a castle built in the 11th century, Dolceacqua, meaning "sweet water," is divided into two sections. On the right of the river Nervia is "Terra," the older section, and to the left, "Borgo," which formed in the 15th century. Both sections of the village are connected by the Ponte Vecchio, a breathtaking medieval bridge once painted by artist Claude Monet.

In addition to the bridge and castle, visitors will want to explore the various nooks and crannies hidden within Dolceacqua taking a relaxing stroll down the few cobblestoned streets in front of the quaint houses made of stone.

Visitors have their choice of accommodations when staying in or near Dolceacqua. Choose from the few old villas in town that have been converted into hotels, rent a farmhouse, or stay in a larger hotel in a neighboring city. And when it comes to dining, local hotels also feature restaurants with fare such as barbagiuai, brandacuin, fugasun, and pasta cun bath. Be sure to visit the nearby bakeries which are known for their variety of sweet, savory treats.

The Liguria region is also known for its delectable, high quality olives used to create the finest extra virgin olive oil. The village mills stay busy pressing the olives and visitors will also be able to purchase an array of delicious local wines.

Spring and summer bring favorable weather in Dolceacqua with mild temperatures in the 70s and 80s with plenty of sunshine while fall and winter temperatures are usually in the 40s and 50s.



Portofino, Italy

 Portofino, Italy is the smallest municipality in the province of Genoa in the western part of the Tiguilian Gulf in the Mediterranean Sea. However, despite its size, this small seaside fishing village is a glamorous and popular destination for the rich and famous yachting and “jet set” visitors and is part of the Italian Riviera. Colorful pastel buildings lining the harbor attract the eye immediately upon arrival at the resort and give the look of a picture postcard.

The Romans gave Portofino the name “Portus Delphini” which means “Port of the Dolphin”, because so many dolphins inhabit the area. A good place to see dolphins and starfish along with other species and a spectacular view of the area is at the Lighthouse of Portofino, where the green gardens give a feel of ancient times.

Portifino, Liguria, ItalyWater sports are very popular. This is a magnificent destination for diving, boating, sailing, swimming, scuba diving, and fishing. The wide variety of restaurants feature seafood, more particularly lobster, prawns, and scampi recipes. Also popular is a large selection of wines.

The Castello Brown is a medieval castle located on a hill above the village which was originally built as a military fortress around the 10th century to fight off invading Turks. The lush garden and the spectacular views of the harbor and town are a key feature. Furnishings of Yeats Brown from the 1800′s, modern art, and photos of famous visitors are included in this museum.

The San Giorgio Church is simple but beautiful and has unusual swirl design tiles leading up to the door. You can either climb steep steps up from the harbor or take a gentler path up from the square. Enjoy having lunch by the water (there is the Mediterranean on one side and the harbor on the other side) and taking a walk around including the cemetery which is covered with flowers (mostly orchids and cyclamen).

The Portofino Regional Natural Park was established in 1935 and has the Mediterranean’s biggest concentration of flora and fauna.

The scenery is breathtaking, and the number of opportunities to take unbelievable pictures is practically endless with all that this quaint area has to offer.


Apricale, Italy

Apricale, Italy is commonly known as “The Place in the Sun” because its name means “visible to the sun”. This is especially dominant when sunset illuminates the colored houses. This small hilltop village in Western Liguria, Northern Italy, is close to the Italian Riviera in the foothills of the Alps Maritime on the border of Italy and France. It is 1,000 feet above sea level as it clings to the hillside. There are only a reported 570 to 700 permanent residents.

This town is an example of well-preserved medieval architecture which goes back to approximately 1200 A.D., so you feel like you are taking a walk back into history when you stroll the original narrow streets that are cut off from vehicle traffic. Because the village has banned cars due to the alleys and walkways being inaccessible, Apricale is also the Village of Cats where the cats have taken over.

Apricale, Liguria, ItalyFamous painters from all over the world come to Apricale to paint the spectacular landscape, and many artists have established showrooms and studios in this well-known arts and crafts center. There are many paintings and murals that were painted back in the 1960s and 1970s. The Renaissance-style Town Square (Piazza) is the heart of Apricale and is a natural amphitheater where festivals, classical and jazz festivals, concerts and other staging events are held.

The Apricale Historical Center has museums, beautiful botanical gardens, a public fountain, a lovely town hall, a Parish Church that dates back to the Middle Ages, the remains of Doria Castle, and the Castle of the Lizard which dates back to 1092 when it was owned by counts.

As small as this hamlet is, there are many accommodations that range from luxury to budget prices. These include homes, hotels, cottages, apartments, and bed and breakfast inns.

Restaurants serve local delights such as fish and meat dishes, pizza, pasta, rabbit stew, and desserts.

Apricale is also a shopper’s paradise where you can purchase local wines, cheeses, breads, ham, sausages, olive oil, fresh figs and peaches, chestnuts, wild boar, and sun dried items.

Apricale is a treasure that is often undiscovered and yet offers so much to view and enjoy.


San Remo, Italy

Sam Remo, set on the Mediterranean coast of northwestern Italy in the Ligurian province, is part of the Italian Riviera between the French border and Genoa. It is called the Riviera dei Fiori, translated the Riviera of flowers. San Remo is a tourist center of multi-cultural events including the Milan-San Remo cycling event and the San Remo Music Festival.

San Remo’s history began with Roman settlement and developed further in the Middle Ages when the town moved to higher elevation with the building of a castle and village with walls to withstand Saracen invasion. After domination by several families, the city was free in the later 1400s with the original village remains still maintained. The fort at Santa Tecla, which is now used as a museum, was built on the beach to stop invasion. The city tourist trade which began in the 1700s, led to the growth of the town along the coast economy and the construction of impressive hotels.

San Remo, Liguria, ItalyThe area benefits from the weather along the Mediterranean Sea and the Maritime Alps at the rear of the town. The town has a year-round spring of warm, comfortable days and cooler nights. The temperature is constant. As a result, San Remo is one of the most popular tourist spots of the Italian Riviera with attractions being open all year.

San Remo hosts sports features including a riding facility and golf. Tourists can sail their boats into the harbors of Porte Sole and Porto Vecchio, shop in the center of town, and visit the market in Piazza Eroi Sanremesi on Tuesday and Saturday.

In addition, travelers can visit the Municipal Casino, or attend plays and concerts at the Ariston Theatre. The Symphony Orchestra presents concerts at the Opera Theater in the Municipal Casino.

San Remo’s Music Festival has been held by the Ariston Theater since 1951 in conjunction with the Eurovision Song Contest. The city’s other events are the Flowers Parade in January and February, a fall song festival, and Fireworks International Contest in July.

While San Remo is well known for its casino, it offers more. The Madonna Della Costa Sanctuary is located above La Pigna and the pedestrian walkway connects to center of the medieval part of the town. The charming harbor has seafood cafes.

San Remo is home to a cycling classic, the Milan – San Remo cycling race, which is part of the major Italian event. The race, which usually occurs in March, is the opening event of the cycling race.

San Remo is easily accessible by several means of transportation. The Cote d’Azur International Airport in Nice is approximately 75 minutes from San Remo by train or car. The railroad connects San Remo to other cities in Liguria and to Rome, Turin, Nice, and Milan. The A10 Motor way joins San Remo to Genoa and Ventimiglia, which is on the border with France. The A10 also connects with the French A8 Autoway. All of these roads are included in the European route E80.

Visit San Remo for a variety of reasons. Relax on the Italian Riviera or take a chance at the casino. Visit the medieval city of La Pigna, participate I the cities festivals or watch the Milan – San Remo cycling race.


Genoa, Italy

In 61 A.D., Roman poet Marcus Annaeus Lucanus, better known as Lucan, wrote of the Ligures, the first inhabitants of Genoa: “First of the long-haired nations, on whose necks once flowed the auburn locks in pride supreme.”

The ancient Ligures were only the first of many peoples who have occupied the city now known as Genoa. Situated in northwest Italy on the Ligurian Sea, an arm of the Mediterranean, Genoa has been a strategic port for millennia, subject to invasion and occupation. The port’s prominence makes Genoa an appropriate birthplace for its most famous mariner, Christopher Columbus.

Genoa, Liguria, ItalyGreeks, Etruscans, Phoenicians and Carthaginians successively dominated Genoa’s harbor until the early 3rd century, when the city became part of the Roman Empire. Ostrogoths, Byzantines, and Lombards occupied the area after the empire’s fall. Genoa’s medieval gates are a rare survivor on the city’s tumultuous beginnings, and also one of Genoa’s most famous landmarks.

In the heart of Genoa stands the Cathedral of San Lorenzo, built by monies earned during the Crusades. Genoa built her own mini-empire as a partner in the Crusades, entering into a fierce rivalry with Venice for dominance over the seas, a rivalry that continued well into the 14th century.

The cathedral’s distinctive horizontal striped façade is another city landmark. For centuries, the Cathedral’s prized possession was the an “emerald chalice,” obtained during the crusades and said to the Holy Grail. An accident later revealed the “emerald” to be green glass. During World War II, Genoa fell under shelling from a British battleship. A shell fell into a nave of the cathedral but did not explode. It remains there to this day.

Genoa is still an important seaport, and in modern times, the commercial aspect of the city led visitors to view Genoa as not much more than a stop along the way to the tourist favorite, Cinque Terre, five popular towns along the Italian Riviera. In 2004, the Italian government poured millions into Genoa for city-wide renovations. An infusion of youthful entrepreneurs followed, opening new cafés and bars.

Porto Antico, the port of Genoa, now features wide promenades along new shops and restaurants. The port boasts one of Europe’s largest aquariums, a biosphere suspended over the harbor and the Galata Maritime Museum. The museum features artifacts that date back to the time of Columbus, as well as a reconstruction of a 17th century galleon. The museum’s rooftop Galata Café offers scenic views of the city and harbor.

The long, varied history of Genoa is reflected by the city’s walls. Portions of the walls date from the 9th century to the 17th century, with fortresses along or near the perimeter. Wandering the streets of Genoa can feel like stepping back into time, with narrow, cobblestone alleyways that make it easy to imagine life during the Middle Ages.

Most attractions in the city can easily be reached on foot. Cabs are also widely available. Genoa’s recently modernized Cristoforo Colombo Airport features non-stop flights to major European cities.


Levanto, Italy

Situated on the stunning Ligurian coast a bit north of Cinque Terre, Levanto is an attractive area of Italy with unique characteristics and a mild climate. Because of its family-friendly beaches and engaging festivals and events, Levanto is a travel destination almost anyone can enjoy. It is also easily accessible by train, which adds to its appeal for many families. The town is located at the end of a beautiful thickly wooded valley featuring pine and olive trees.

Levanto was Malaspina’s feudal stronghold before passing to the Republic of Genoa in 1229. In Medieval times, the town became a center of commerce, and benefited greatly from maritime communications. The major development of the town began after the Middle Ages with the construction of several commercial buildings, the most interesting of which were built in the 1600s and 1700s. The Corso Roma and Corso Italia, two thoroughfares which were completed in the early 20th century, marked the modernization of Levanto.

Levanto, ItalyLevanto reminds many travelers of an old-fashioned town, and features a city park and village square. Traditional shops can be found in the city, as well as establishments that cater to tourists. Local residents are friendly and helpful, and many of the town’s hotels are modest in size and owned and operated by local families. The town has its own gelato shop where reasonably priced gelato can be purchased seven days a week.

Levanto boasts one of the best surfing beaches in Italy due to its impressive waves. However, many visitors find swimming at the beach just as enjoyable as surfing. Levanto Beach is long and the water is clean, making it a great place to enjoy the day and view an outstanding sunset at night. Each November, world famous surfing events take place at Levanto Beach.

There is a vast array of landmarks and attractions in the town of Levanto and the surrounding area, one of which is an almost perfectly preserved Medieval-era castle that was originally built to defend the village from marauders and foreign armies. The Church of Saint Andrew is a spectacular example of 13th century architecture, with its Gothic facade and magnificent stained glass windows. The Church of Saint Mary of the Coast is another landmark that has survived since the Middle ages. The Gardens of Villa Agnelli were designed in the early 1900s, and this attraction offers visitors and their families a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. Here, Levanto’s rich foliage is beautifully showcased on impeccably maintained grounds.

Levanto’s weather is part of the reason it has become a favorite vacation spot for so many individuals. The town features a very mild climate throughout most of the year, where frost is practically non-existent. However, Levanto can experience significant rainfall, especially in the spring, but this creates the lush, healthy foliage that is characteristic of the area. The coldest month in Levanto is January when the average temperature is approximately 50 degrees Fahrenheit.


La Spezia, Italy

Italy. From the heights of the Alps to the stunning ruins of Rome, there is much to see and enjoy in this beautiful country. One of the loveliest places to visit in Italy is La Spezia. Nestled at the head of the Gulf of Le Spezia in the Liguria region of Italy, it is a quaint and distinctly Italian region. It is a northern city, and is a part of the capital city of Le Spezia. It also sits right between Pisa and Genoa on the Ligurian Sea. As a gateway to the ocean, it is one of the most well known commercial and industrial harbors in Italy. As well as hosting commercial industries in the harbor, it also holds Italy’s biggest military producer, OTO Melara.

La Spezia Harbor, Ligurian Coast, ItalyThe history of La Spezia dates back for nearly a millennia. It was settled during Medieval Times, but the height of its popularity and productivity came during the golden age of prosperity for the Roman Empire. It was the capital of the Niccoli Fieschi Signora between the years of 1256 and 1273. Obviously it was a short lived title. It was a part of the Genoese vicissitudes until the fall of the Geneon Empire, after which point it developed and changed into the Ligurian Capital. Today the Ligurian influence can be seen in the architecture and culture of the La Spezia area. During the late half of the 19th century, the military commissioned a naval base to be built under the Savoys. At the end of World War II, La Spezia became an important departure point for Jews who had survived the Nazi concentration camps. Many Jews were able to depart for Palestine from here without being detected.

La Spezia is a large and beautiful Italian province that draws visitors every year. Although it is not as famous as Rome, Almafi or Pisa, there is much to explore in this region. Because of the ancient history, there are many historical sites and sounds to experience when you visit. The climate of La Spezia is typical of a Mediterranean region, with hot, dry summers and springs and rainy falls and winters. Although there is no snow during the winter, sometimes an exception occurs and the village is dusted with a fine layer of white. The chief economic export of the region is their naval station and arsenal and their school of navigation, as well as their industrial and commercial sea ports.

There are many old historical sites to visit. The first and most famous is the Christ the King of Centuries Cathedral. Although not historical – it was consecrated in 1975 – it is an architectural feat and a popular center for worship in the area. The Santa Maria Assunta is an Abbey Church that was erected during the 13th century, thus holding much historical value. There are many museums, ruins and ancient sites of villages and churches in La Spezia, as well. The Castle of San Giorgio was built by Niccolo Fieschi in 1262.


Corniglia, Italy

Corniglia, Italy is the smallest of the five villages located in the Cinque Terre region in northern Italy. This village is well-known for its beautiful Mediterranean landscape and its tourist-friendly local restaurants and bars. Motorized travel is not permitted within the village, and the area is small enough that visitors may travel comfortably by foot or by bike. Parking locations are available just outside the city limits, and there is also a train station that brings visitors close enough to walk into the town from the station.

Corniglia, Cinque Terre, ItalyMost visitors come to Corniglia in the spring and summer months, although the temperature remains in the 50s and 60s almost year-round, with a short winter period between December and January. The town provides a nice relaxing location for vacations with family or friends or just to get away from busy city life. Some of the most popular activities in Corniglia include visiting the village’s old churches, including St. Peter’s Church, which was built between 1334 and 1351 and is an excellent example of local architecture constructed with sandstone from the region. This church is a great place to visit if you are interested in learning about the history of this village.

Another popular destination is the Cinque Terre National Marine Park, which is home to a wide array of sea creatures in the area. These animals are allowed to enjoy the freedom of life without interference from boats or jet skis, making their habitat as natural and comfortable as possible.

Many visitors also enjoying spending their days in Corniglia relaxing on the white sandy beaches that surround the village. These beaches are just a hike away and are great places to enjoy the Mediterranean Sea. The landscape in this area is beautiful, with its rocky coastline and white sand near the water. Whether you are looking to relax for the day with a picnic on the beach or if you are looking for a great photo opportunity in Corniglia, this is the place to go.

Corniglia’s small community provides a welcoming environment for visitors of all types. The local art and architecture, as well as the rich marine life and the enclosed community, make sightseeing a great pastime in this village. With beautiful weather ten months out of the year, anytime is a good time to take a trip to visit this Italian village.


Vernazza, Italy

Vernazza is a picturesque fishing village in the Cinque Terre region of the Italian Riviera. Founded in 1000AD and ruled by Genoa for centuries, the wealth created from trade is still evident in the town’s architecture. This elegant style is exemplified by elaborate doorways, open gallerias and sophisticated arcades. The surrounding terraced olive groves only add to the tranquil ambiance. Vernazza is a collection of colorful and antique homes that cling to a cliff that overlooks a small harbor nestled under the remains of medieval Doria castle, a breathtaking seaside church and the 16th century Belforte Tower.

Vernazza, ItalyYou journey to this charming Italian village by train. The international  Galileo Galile Airport in Pisa is eighty kilometers away. The route provides panoramic vistas as you travel along cliffs overlooking turquoise water and the olive trees that produce the regions renowned oils. The train station is a ten minute walk from the harbor. Your stroll into town is along a cobble stone street that is lined with shops and cafes. The ferry is a fun option in the summer months. The village also closed to vehicle traffic with a parking lot outside of town. With a population of approximately one thousand, is easily accessible on foot.

Visitors should take the trails that lead out of town and into the countryside. The picture postcard scenery will easily confirm why the Cinque Terre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Guests will also feel the steep hike worthwhile once they see the Shrine of Our Lady of Reggio on the cliff overlooking the town. For those looking to enjoy a little sun, the small pebble stone beach sits on the only natural harbor in the Cinque Terre region. After a day of sun or sightseeing, enjoy one of the highly recommended therapeutic massages or a mouthwatering gelato. Of course, no visit to Vernazza would be complete without trying a pesto pizza because pesto was created in the Cinque Terre.

The surrounding cliff structures not only enhance the natural beauty of the region, but help create the near constant climatic conditions. There is very little difference between the cool, damp winter months and the warm, dry summer days in Vernazza. With winter lows around 50F and summer highs near 70F, the spring and fall provide the best weather for travelers to the area.

Vernazza is the second most northerly town of the Cinque Terre or “Five Lands”. The town’s colorful history, painted houses, quaint restaurants and the clear waters of the Mediterranean Sea combine to make Vernazza a favorite destination for tourists.