The Italian Riviera

We’ve compiled the best of the best in The Italian Riviera - browse our top choices for the top things to see or do during your stay.

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  • 1. Giardini Botanici Hanbury

    Mortola Inferiore is the site of the world-famous Hanbury Botanical Gardens, one of the largest and most beautiful in Italy. Planned and planted in 1867 by a wealthy English merchant, Sir Thomas Hanbury, and his botanist brother, Daniel, the terraced gardens contain species from five continents, including many palms and succulents.

    Corso Montecarlo 43, Ventimiglia, Liguria, 18039, Italy

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €9, Closed Mon. Nov.–Feb.
  • 2. Palazzo Reale


    Lavish rococo rooms provide sumptuous display space for paintings, sculptures, tapestries, and Asian ceramics. The 17th-century palace—also known as Palazzo Balbi Durazzo—was built by the Balbi family, enormously wealthy Genovese merchants. Its regal pretensions were not lost on the Savoy, who bought the palace and turned it into a royal residence in the early 19th century. The gallery of mirrors and the ballroom on the upper floor are particularly decadent. The formal gardens provide a welcome respite from the bustle of the city, as well as great views of the harbor.

    Via Balbi 10, Genoa, Liguria, 16123, Italy

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €10 with Galleria Nazionale di Palazzo Spinola, Closed Sun.–Tues. (except 1st Sun. of month when it\'s free entry)
  • 3. San Pietro

    With its black-and-white-striped exterior, this 13th-century Gothic church is a spectacular landmark recognizable from far out at sea and upon entering the village. It is built on the site of an ancient pagan shrine, on a formidable solid mass of rock above the Grotto Arpaia. There's a fantastic view of the Cinque Terre coastline from the front porch of the church.

    Waterfront promenade, Portovenere, Liguria, 19025, Italy
  • 4. Abbazia di San Fruttuoso

    A medieval stronghold built by the Benedictines of Monte Cassino protects a minuscule fishing village that can be reached only on foot or by water—a 20-minute boat ride from Portofino and also reachable from Camogli, Santa Margherita Ligure, and Rapallo. The restored abbey is now the property of a national conservation fund (FAI) and occasionally hosts temporary exhibitions; it also contains the tombs of some illustrious members of the Doria family. Plan on spending a few hours enjoying the abbey and grounds, and perhaps lunching at one of the modest beachfront trattorias nearby (open only in summer). Boatloads of visitors can make this place very crowded very fast; you might appreciate it most off-season.

    Portofino, Liguria, 16032, Italy

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €8.50, Closed Mon. Nov.–Feb., Reservations essential
  • 5. Acquario di Genova

    Porto Vecchio

    Europe's biggest aquarium is the third-most-visited museum in Italy and a must for children. Fifty tanks of marine species, including sea turtles, dolphins, seals, eels, penguins, jellyfish, and sharks, share space with educational displays, touch pools, and re-creations of marine ecosystems, among them a tank of coral from the Indian Ocean, and a wall that replicates a forest in Madagascar. The Aquarium Village complex (additional cost) includes two biospheres with tropical plants and birds, as well as a virtual reality room. Buy tickets online in advance for the lowest prices. If arriving by car, take the Genova Ovest exit from the autostrada.

    Ponte Spinola, Genoa, Liguria, 16128, Italy

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: From €22
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  • 6. Baia del Silenzio

    The Bay of Silence is a sandy cove east of the pedestrian-only street in the old town, with pastel-color bars and restaurants edging the sand and bobbing boats dotting the horizon. It's a picture-postcard public beach and an idyllic setting for a dip in the Mediterranean, frequented mostly by locals and some visiting crowds in summer. You can also take a short walk up to the Convento dei Cappuccini, a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The monastery was built at the end of the 17th century and offers a spectacular panoramic view. Amenities: food and drink. Best for: solitude, walking. 

    Sestri Levante, Liguria, 16039, Italy
  • 7. Bussana Vecchia

    In the hills where flowers are cultivated for export, this self-consciously picturesque former ghost town is a flourishing artists' colony. The town was largely destroyed by an earthquake in 1877, when the inhabitants packed up and left en masse. For almost a century the houses, church, and crumbling bell tower were empty shells, overgrown by weeds and wildflowers. Since the 1960s, painters, sculptors, artisans, and bric-a-brac dealers have restored the dwellings as houses and studios. You need a car to visit the town.

    8 km (5 miles) east of San Remo, San Remo, Liguria, 18038, Italy
  • 8. Castelletto


    To reach this charming neighborhood high above the city center, you take one of Genoa's historical municipal elevators that whisk you skyward from Piazza del Portello, at the end of Galleria Garibaldi, for a spectacular view of the old city.

    Piazza del Portello, Genoa, Liguria, 16124, Italy

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free
  • 9. Castello Brown

    From the harbor, follow the signs for the climb to Castello Brown—the most worthwhile sight in Portofino—with its medieval relics, impeccable gardens, and sweeping views, as well as a video room that recounts the village's history. The castle was founded in the Middle Ages but restored in the 16th through 18th centuries. In true Portofino form, it was owned by Genoa's English consul from 1870 until it opened to the public in 1961.

    Via alla Penisola 1, Portofino, Liguria, 16034, Italy

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €5, Closed Mon.–Fri. Nov.–mid Mar.
  • 10. Castello di Lerici

    The promontory is dominated by this 13th-century Pisan castle, which now houses a museum of art and paleontology, a superb location for weddings—it overlooks the entire Gulf of Poets.

    Piazza S. Giorgio 1, Lerici, Liguria, 19032, Italy

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €5, Closed Mon. Oct.--May
  • 11. Castello di San Giorgio

    The remains of this massive 13th-century castle, atop a small hill above the modern town, now house a small museum dedicated to local archaeology.

    Via XXVII Marzo, La Spezia, Liguria, 19121, Italy

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €5.50, Closed Mon.
  • 12. Chiesa Russa Ortodossa

    This colorful, multi-onion-domed Russian Orthodox church testifies to a long Russian presence on the Italian Riviera. Russian empress Maria Alexandrovna, wife of Czar Alexander I, built a summerhouse here, and in winter San Remo was a popular destination for other royal Romanovs. The church was consecrated in 1913.

    Via Nuvoloni 2, San Remo, Liguria, 18038, Italy

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €1 donation
  • 13. Childhood Home of Christopher Columbus


    The ivy-covered remains of this fabled medieval house—just a very small portion of it—stand in the gardens below the Porta Soprana. A small collection of objects and reproductions relating to the life and travels of Columbus are on display inside. Just outside the house, take a minute to admire the charming remains of the chiostro di Sant'Andrea, a medieval cloister dating from the 13th century.

    Piazza Dante, Genoa, Liguria, 16121, Italy

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €3, Closed Mon.
  • 14. Cimitero Monumentale di Staglieno

    One of the most famous of Genovese landmarks is this bizarrely beautiful cemetery; its fanciful marble and bronze sculptures sprawl haphazardly across a hillside on the outskirts of town. A pantheon holds indoor tombs and some remarkable works like an 1878 Eve by Villa. Don't miss Rovelli's 1896 Tomba Raggio, which shoots Gothic spires out of the hillside forest. The cemetery began operation in 1851 and has been lauded by such visitors as Mark Twain and Evelyn Waugh. It covers a good deal of ground (allow at least half a day to explore). Take Bus Nos. 13 or 14 from the Stazione Genova Brignole, Bus No. 34 from Stazione Principe, or a taxi.

    Piazzale Resasco 2, Genoa, Liguria, 16137, Italy

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free
  • 15. Consorzio Liguria Via Mare

    Porto Vecchio

    Boat tours of the harbor, operated by the Consorzio Liguria Via Mare, launch from the aquarium pier and last about an hour. The tours include a visit to the breakwater outside the harbor, the Bacino delle Grazie, and the Molo Vecchio (Old Port). There are also daily excursions down the coast as far as Portofino and San Fruttuoso.

    Via Marina d'Italia, Genoa, Liguria, 16126, Italy

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €8
  • 16. Ferrovia Genova–Casella

    Piazza Manin

    The Genova–Casella Railroad is a good way to get a sense of the rugged landscape around Genoa; the train departs about every hour. In operation since 1929, it runs from Piazza Manin in Genoa (follow Via Montaldo from the center of town, or take Bus No. 34 or 36 to the piazza) through the beautiful countryside above the city, arriving in the rural hill town Casella. The tiny train traverses precarious switchbacks that afford sweeping views of the Ligurian hills. In Casella Paese (the last stop) you can hike, eat lunch, or check out the view and ride back. Canova (two stops from the end of the line) is the start of two possible hikes: a two-hour (one-way) trek to a small sanctuary, Santuario della Vittoria, and a grueling four-hour hike to the hill town of Creto. Another worthwhile stop is Sant'Olcese Tullo, where you can take a half-hour (one-way) walk through the Sentiero Botanico di Ciaé, a botanical garden and forest refuge with a tiny medieval castle.

    Genoa, Liguria, 16122, Italy

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €3 one-way
  • 17. Galata Museo del Mare

    Ponte dei Mille

    Devoted to the city's seafaring history, this museum is probably the best way, at least on dry land, to get an idea of the changing shape of Genoa's busy port. Highlighting the displays is a full-size replica of a 17th-century Genovese galleon.

    Calata de Mari 1, Genoa, Liguria, 16128, Italy

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €17, Closed Mon. Nov.--Feb.
  • 18. Galleria Nazionale di Palazzo Spinola


    Housed in the richly adorned Palazzo Spinola north of Piazza Soziglia, this beautiful museum contains masterpieces by Luca Giordano and Guido Reni. The Ecce Homo, by Antonello da Messina (1430–79), is a hauntingly beautiful painting, of historical interest because it was the Sicilian Antonello who first brought Flemish oil paints and techniques to Italy from his sojourns in the Low Countries. Or so some contend.

    Piazza Pellicceria 1, Genoa, Liguria, 16123, Italy

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €10 with Palazzo Reale, Closed Sun.–Tues. (except 1st Sun. of month when it\'s free entry)
  • 19. GAM (Galleria d’Arte Moderna di Genova)

    Beautifully situated in a 16th century villa (with a garden and great views), this collection houses a vast amount of paintings, sculptures, and drawings from the very recent past. The artists are largely not household names, but a visit here is well worth it. (As are their contemporary exhibitions.)

    Via Capolungo 3, Nervi, Liguria, 16167, Italy

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €6, Closed Mon.
  • 20. Granarolo Funicular

    San Teodoro

    Take a cog railway up the steeply rising terrain to another part of the city's fortified walls. It takes 15 minutes to hoist you from Stazione Principe to Porta Granarolo, 1,000 feet above, where the sweeping view gives you a sense of Genoa's size. The funicular departs about every 40 minutes.

    Piazza del Principe, Genoa, Liguria, 16126, Italy

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