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The Italian Riviera is beautiful everywhere you go — from the most glamorous towns of Portofino and Santa Margherita Ligure to the quieter Portovenere on the eastern portion of the coast. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s picks for the five best things to see and do in the Italian Riviera:
1. Anchor yourself in Portofino. This picturesque former fishing village, featuring ports dotted with luxury yachts, is an international tourist destination. Walk its old streets and then sit in the piazzetta to soak in the atmosphere. Make sure you take the 20-minute boat trip to the tiny island of San Fruttuoso, an isolated village of fishermen with a small beach and a Benedictine abbey.
2. Drive along the coast of the Gulf of Tigullio. This stretch of the Italian Riviera is spectacular, with its coastal views and thriving vegetation. Drive the old coastal road Via Aurelia, starting from Nervi and proceeding through the delightful villages of Camogli, Portofino, Santa Margherita Ligure, Rapallo, Chiavari and Sestri Levante.
3. Hike the Cinque Terre National Park. This steep and rugged stretch of the Italian Riviera comprises the five fishing towns of Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore, perched on the mountains terraced with vineyards and olive groves. A panoramic walking trail known as the Sentiero Azzurro (the Blue Path) connects all five.
4. Relax in the Gulf of La Spezia (Gulf of Poets). The stretch of coast closest to Tuscany, it takes its nickname from the many writers who chose it as their residence, including British poets Byron and Shelley. Its highlights are Portovenere and the two islands, which are rich with marine caves; Lerici, which boasts a castle; and the unique village of Tellaro, widely considered one of the most beautiful villages in Italy.
5. Discover the Riviera dei Fiori (the Coast of Flowers). This stretch of coast to the west of Genoa is well known among Italians but often overlooked by international tourists. It’s best visited by driving along the old coastal Via Aurelia. Explore Albenga, known for its towers and historic monuments; Alassio, with a little church that has a prime view of the town below; Taggia, where you can admire the houses dating back to the 14th and 15th centuries; Sanremo with its elegant Corso Imperatrice promenade, a casino and medieval neighborhood of La Pigna; and Bordighera, which has a magnificent seafront promenade and old town area.