Welcome to the Italian Riviera.
Liguria has some of the most stunning stretches of coastline in the Mediterranean. Nowhere is this more evident than around the five tiny towns of the Cinque Terre: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. Painted in the colours for which Liguria is famous – faded mustard, ochre, pink and rust – these colourful villages cling like limpets to the sides of steep cliffs, which drop dramatically away into exceptionally deep water that’s rich in marine wildlife.
One of the loveliest ways to explore them is on foot. The towns are linked by a 14km-long footpath called the Sentiero Azzurro, which takes anywhere between two and a half and five hours to walk. In between villages you’ll pass farms and vineyards, lemon and orange groves, and enjoy unsurpassed views of the Ligurian Sea.
Boat trips are another great way to explore the Ligurian coast, and can get you to places inaccessible by car, like the wonderful tiny cove of San Fruttuoso, where great swimming can be had in front of the 10th-century abbey that sits on the beach.
If San Fruttuoso offers relative peace and quiet, the other end of the scale must surely be Portofino, said to be the most photographed village in the world. A haunt of Hollywood stars since the 1950s, Portofino is the poster child for the Italian Riviera, its perfect little harbour now lined with super yachts and designer boutiques.
The town sits at the end of an unspoiled peninsula where wooded hills conceal luxury villas with uninterrupted views of Portofino down below. They’re the perfect base from which to explore all that this wonderful region of northern Italy has to offer.