The Italian Riviera is located in Italy’s northern region. It’s synonymous with the Ligurian coast, a crescent-shaped strip of Mediterranean coastline.
The towns in the Riviera are characterized by a beautifully rugged coastline, pristine waters, and colorful buildings. Each offers its own unique charm and allure. Here’s our list of the top Italian Riviera Towns.
10 Best Italian Riviera Towns to See
Wondering which towns to include in your Italian Riviera itinerary? I would say include them all, but I know that your time here might be limited, so hopefully, this post of the best places in Liguria to see will help you figure out which appeal to you the most.
The quaint fishing village of Portofino is located in the middle of the Italian Riviera. Pastel-colored houses, stylish boutiques, and seafood eateries line the Piazzetta.
There are a number of hiking trails, both along the coast and inland, that offer spectacular views in all directions. The imposing fortress of Castello Brown sits atop a hill overlooking the village. This castle offers panoramic views of the village and the sea, where super-yachts fill the harbor.
Portofino has a luxurious appeal and charming coastal aesthetic that makes it a popular vacation destination for the rich and the famous.
Click here to see a guide with a list of the best hotels in Portofino.
Manarola is one of the five Cinque Terre villages. These five centuries-old seaside villages lie within the Italian Riviera. Surrounded by vineyards, Manarola is renowned for its white wine varieties. The sweet Sciacchetra wine is especially popular.
Brightly colored houses contrast perfectly with the shining turquoise waters. Hiking trails snake the hills and vineyards above the town and look down onto a tiny picturesque harbor. There are plenty of restaurants, gelaterias, and little shops that fill the town center.
The cornerstone of Manarola is San Lorenzo, a gothic-style church that dates back to 1338.
Vernazza is yet another picturesque village along the Cinque Terre coast. This lively Italian town is surrounded by steep hills dotted with olive groves, which are said to produce the finest olive oil in Italy.
Vernazza is considered one of the truest “fishing villages” on the Italian Riviera. It is the only natural port of Cinque Terre.
The town’s 15th century Doria castle contains an original watchtower, used to protect the village from pirates. The Church of Santa Margherita di Antiochia is built on a rock overlooking the crystal blue waters. Elegant and subtle pastel-colored houses characterize this small village.
The exceptional simplicity and beauty of the town’s structure make it stand out among the other Italian Riviera towns.
Riomaggiore is the easternmost Cinque Terre village. This small town has a lot to offer; an old castle, beautiful churches, and a lovely main street bustling with shops and cafes.
The town dates back to the 13th century. It is filled with tall, colorful houses and mazes of narrow and steep alleys. There is no beach in Riomaggiore itself, but the harbor has wonderful views of the sea. Tourists can take advantage of sunbathing on the large rocks that surround the water.
Riomaggiore is an exceptional village with a great deal of character, color, and history.
Corniglia is nestled in the middle of the Cinque Terre villages. This quiet town sits atop a rocky promontory. It’s surrounded by vineyards on three sides, the fourth side descends dramatically into the ocean.
This Italian Riviera city offers no direct sea access. This makes it slightly harder to get to as there is no harbor to provide boat service. The only way to get to Corniglia is by train or on foot.
Don’t let that put you off, though, Corniglia is the quiet heart of the Cinque Terre, and has a more laid-back and local feel to it.
6. Monterosso al Mare
Monterosso al Mare is the most western of the Cinque Terre villages. Surrounded by lemon trees and a wide sandy beach, this is one of the more popular Italian Riviera cities.
Compared to the other villages of the Cinque Terre, there are more hotels, restaurants and nightlife options. The town is divided into two sections by a single tunnel that caters to pedestrians and cars. These sections are known as the Old Town and New Town.
Visitors will have plenty of attractions to choose from to fill their day. Hike up San Cristoforo Hill for the best views of the scenic coastline. Pursue the historic center, filled with beautiful alleyways, pastel houses, and small shops.
Set in scenic splendor on the Ligurian coast, Camogli is a fishing town with rustic charm. The harbor is filled with more fishing boats than yachts, so you know the seafood is fresh and in high abundance. The local Italian cuisine is mouth-watering and the focaccia is like you’ve never tasted before!
Camogli offers all the color and charm of the more touristy Italian Riviera towns but with fewer hordes of tourists. You’ll find plenty of outdoor activities, both on land and in the sea. There are diving spots, boating opportunities, and gorgeous hiking trails.
Portovenere is a hidden gem in the Italian Riviera Coast. The picturesque harbor is lined with pastel-hued buildings that lead to crystal blue waters.
This small town has many caves to explore and beaches to relax on. You can take a short boat trip to the nearby islands of Palmaria, Tino or Tinetto.
The Church of Saint Peter is one of the town's most notable structures. This historic church dates back to 1198 and is located on a rocky point facing the Bay of Poets. Head to the top for fantastic views of the endless ocean horizon.
9. Santa Margherita Ligure
The seaside town of Santa Margherita Ligure infuses classic Italian charm in its modern luxuries. Resorts cling to the coastline while the harbor sits busy with fishing boats bringing in the fresh catch of the day.
Located just 4 miles from the more pricey town of Portofino, it offers similar charms and attractions but is considerably less expensive. Stylish Art-Deco buildings surround the harbor while the seaboard offers a relaxing beach reprieve. Coastal Italy is exemplified in Santa Margherita Ligure
With endless ocean views, multicolored architecture, and a laid-back atmosphere, Santa Margherita Ligure has everything you need for a classic Italian Riviera vacation!
Lerici is another beautiful Italian Riviera town. Located in the scenic inlet of Golfo di Poeti, it’s also referred to as The Pearl of The Gulf.
Lerici is still a little under the radar, compared to the nearby coastal cities in Italy. The gentle rhythm of life found here is perfect for a relaxing reprieve.
This picture-perfect town has a small marina and a historic 13th-century church and castle.
If you’re looking for a quiet romantic escape, this Italian Riviera town is the place for you!
Conclusion of Must-See Italian Riviera Towns
The pragmatic beauty and romantic ambiance of the Italian Riviera has been enchanting visitors for centuries. We hope you enjoyed our picks for the top must-see Italian Riviera towns. A trip to any of these locations in Italy will provide you with ample relaxation, seafood, and fun!
Over to You:
- Which of these Liguria destinations are you planning to include in your Italian Riviera itinerary?
- Do you have any more questions before you head off on your Italian Riviera holidays?