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Ligurian coast for hiking, beaches, cute towns & not too crowded late June

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The topic really says it all. We'd like to hike, spend some time at the beach (though I wouldn't say this is a beach holiday), and putter around some cute little towns on the Ligurian coast for 5-6 days in late June next year. This is a family trip with 3 generations, including a 4 year old and 1 year old. The 4 year old would love ferries, too. We were thinking Santa Margherita, where we could hike in Portofino park, take the ferry to different little towns, & go kayaking, but I think this area might get pretty crowded.

What would be a good base town for us to stay in for these activities?

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    Camogli, which was also mentioned in your other thread, is a good choice as well, for the town itself and its proximity to Portofino national park, which has many shaded trails. Some might even be suitable for the children (not the coastal trail with the chains obviously, but the interior trails were wide).
    SML probably has a nicer beach, but the beach at Camogli looked fairly child friendly.
    If you are open to renting a car, allow me to suggest the wonderful place I stayed in a hamlet above Camogli, San Rocco: It is mere steps from the park entrance.
    There is one excellent restaurant in town that is walkable, and there is a bus to Camogli and SML.

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    I don't think think Santa Margherita Ligure will be "crowded" at that time of year, although if your 5 days include a nice weekend, then beachtowel space on the pebble/rock beach will be at a premium. Santa Margherita Ligure is more of a small town than a village, and a good chunk of its waterfront is consumed by a pleasure craft harbor. it is a favorite of young professionals from Milan and Torino, so it has loads of cafes and restaurants. I'm not sure it has kayaking (but Camogli is only 4 minutes away by train, and it does as well as snorkeling). It runs ferries to Portofino and beyond, including to a trail head in the Portofino Park. You can find a few hiking trails right from the town into Portofino Park, or take a bus ride to others. There is a train station in town.

    Camogli is much smaller and more like a village. It is great for small kids, though, because the entire beachfront is pedestrianzed 24/7, and the upper village is too in the afternoons. There is a train station in town, plus a ferry that can take you to hiking trainheads, and to where you can connect for a ferry to Portofino if you like. You can also hike, via staircases, straight up into the Portofino park, or you can take a bus halfway up to trail heads. It also has a pebble/rock beach.

    Sestri Levante is popular with Italian families because of its two sand beaches and curving bays, one with waveless water. There are usually carousels and paddle boats and other holiday treats for kids. Not sure if there are ferries or kayaking. The town is full of inexpensive places to eat and food in Sestri Levante is better than other places. There is less English spoken here than in the other towns and biggest downside may be that if you want to hike, you need to get on a train and head elsewhere (20 minutes on the train in either direction.

    Rapallo is just a little bit different from everyplace else I've mentioned. It's mainly Italian families like Sestri Levante, and it is lively market town, but it doesn't have the upscale gloss of neighboring Santa Margherita Ligure. Much more down to earth and democratic, but that means it bustles more too. It has ferries to Portofino and bus rides to trail heads. It also has a cable car that takes you to some very high trail heads with pretty views.

    Just so you know, with rare exception, were you to look at a map of the coastal stretch from Genova to La Spezia, just about every single town has charm and pretty views, plus a train station, plus good restaurants serving the local food. Moneglia is quite attractive, and practically unknown. Levanto has great access to le Cinque Terre and therefore gets many more tourists (but I think its waves might be too rough for a 4 year old). Only Recco (which was bombed in WW2) is less than picturesque (and it makes up for it by having great food). Chiavari is a fantastic, atmospheric town but isn't ideal when it comes to hiking, kayaking or ferries, and while it has nice beaches, all the action in town takes place away from them.

    So what it might finally come down to is where you find the best accommodations for your family. Be careful renting apartments (if you want one) that you get enough real beds and also that you are not too far up into the hills. Always make sure you know exactly how far you are from the nearest train station and the sea. Bus service stops early along the coast and roads have no sidewalks, so you want to be in town. There are very few luxury accommodations along that stretch of the Riviera, and even fewer luxury apartments or villas.

    Have a nice time choosing!

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    Thank you! Camogli and Rapallo sound best to me. I look forward to taking ferries to explore other towns, too.

    Any suggestions of places to stay? We want to be in town, but no where too noisy since the kids go to sleep early. Also, my mom would appreciate not having to walk far uphill or up many steps to get to the hotel.

    Grazie mille!

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    You really should look at and read recent reviews for hotels in your target budget. This is a pretty good time to look at reviews because a lot of June travelers will now be posting after their trips, but I would continue to look over the next few months as the summer reviews trickle in.

    If your kids are light sleepers you will definitely want a place with air conditioning and double glazed windows. It sounds to me like your mom would be happiest in Rapallo, which is a flat walk from the seaside to the train station. Most hotels in Rapallo will have elevators, and ones closest to the seafront are quietest. Camogli is vertical, and it is fairly impossible to avoid stairs going to restaurants, taking the train, etc.

    If you plan to get around by train, be aware that along that train line the distance between the train station platforms and the train carriages can be steep. If your mom would have a hard time getting on and off trains even with a strong arm assisting her, then taking buses and boats is the better way to go (and scenic!) You can reach Camogli by bus and ferry from Rapallo. Likewise Santa Margherita Ligure and Portofino.

    Rapallo has got lots of good food in its shops, so don't just confine yourselves to restaurant eating. Bring the kind of bag with you that you can take on picnics. (Definitely bring your own food to Portofino.) Rapallo has the single best gelateria in the area, called Frigidarium, opposite the castle on the waterfront. Fruit flavors like melon are incredible.

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