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Last updated : Nov 2009
Liguria
Liguria - TravelPuppy.com
This Italian region of 320km (200 miles) of rocky, wooded coastline running from France to Tuscany is where the Italian ‘boot’ begins. This is the Riviera, Italy’s answer to the Côte d’Azur, and there are excellent facilities for tourists even in the smallest of the ports. The coastal hills tend to be less developed.

Genoa

Genoa is the capital of Liguria, has long been an important commercial and military port. Ferries depart daily from the port for Sardinia. The Medieval district of Genoa holds many treasures including the Church of Sant’Agostino (next to the Museo dell’Architettura e Scultura Ligure), the beautiful Church of San Donato, the 12th-century Church of Santa Maria di Castello, the Gothic Cathedral of San Lorenzo and the Porta Soprana (the old stone entrance gate to the city).

Outside the Medieval district the Via Garibaldi is where many of the city’s richest inhabitants built their palaces and is a beautiful walk, with Palazzo Bianco (now an art gallery with paintings by Rubens and Van Dyck), Palazzo Podesta and the magnificently decorated Palazzo Rosso (adjacent to the Palazzo Bianco and housing paintings by Caravaggio, Dürer and Titian). The Acquario (Aquarium) presents underwater ocean life, with over 1000 species housed in fifty vast tanks, making it one of the largest centre of its kind in Europe.

The Riviera

This narrow strip of coastline is divided into two, the Riviera di Ponente (to the west), from Ventimiglia to Genoa, and the Riviera di Levante (to the east), from Genoa to La Spezia. The former includes wide sandy beaches and the rather commercial seaside resorts of San Remo and Bordighera, while the latter boasts small bays backed by rocky cliffs and more exclusive retreats such as Portofino and Cinque Terre.

Portofino is the best known, with its small picturesque harbour full of sleek yachts, luxury clothes shops, romantic villas owned by the rich and famous perched on the hillside and the Castello di San Giorgio, sitting high up on a promontory with magnificent views of the Portofino harbour and bay. The beach at Santa Margherita Ligure, just 5km (3 miles) south of Portofino, is an excellent place to swim, with a magical view of the surrounding cliffs and villas from the warm and crystal-clear aquamarine water.

Rapallo, 8km (5 miles) south of Portofino, is less fashionable and subsequently a little less expensive. At the southern tip of the Riviera di Levante lie Cinque Terre, a series of five picturesque fishing villages linked by scenic mountainside paths and surrounded by vineyards and olive groves. Here one finds the region’s least exploited beaches.