The Italian Riviera offers a stunning 340km-long coastline indented with glamorous resorts, picturesque fishing villages, historic towns and belle époque villas framed by soaring pine trees and rugged cliffs overlooking aquamarine bays.
Here, you can find all the ingredients you need for the perfect European beach honeymoon or romantic getaway.
Commonly known as the Italian Riviera, this continuous strip of beaches and rugged cliffs sits on a narrow coastal plain beneath the towering mountains of the Maritime Alps and the Apennines in the northern Italian province of Liguria.
Centred on the port of Genoa, the Italian Riviera is divided into two sections.
The first section – known as the Riviera di Ponente – stretches from the French Riviera (or Côte d'Azur) at Ventimiglia to Genoa.
From Ventimiglia to Genoa, the Riviera di Ponente offers a string of sand and pebble beaches punctuated mainly by low, rocky headlands and breakwaters.
The second section to the east – the Riviera di Levante – stretches to the border of Tuscany and is best known for pristine coves framed by rocky promontories and soaring pine trees.
From Genoa to Tuscany, the Riviera di Levante offers a more rugged coastline of soaring cliffs and rugged pine-covered headlands indented with tiny coves and pristine golden-sand beaches. Here you can find great hiking between picturesque villages.
Rub shoulders with the rich and famous on the palm-fringed promenades of glamorous San Remo and Portofino.
Stroll picture-perfect harbours lined with million-dollar motor yachts. Browse chic boutiques and savour gourmet meals in fine dining restaurants.
Explore the stone-paved alleyways of historic Genoa.
Hike ancient coastal trails between scenic hilltop villages in the Cinque Terre and discover secluded golden-sand beaches in the shimmering Golfo dei Poeti (Gulf of Poets), famous for its links to writers and poets such as Petrarch, D.H. Lawrence, Byron and Shelley, who all lived (and in Shelley's case, died) here.
Away from the coast, Liguria offers dramatic mountains, rolling countryside and medieval hilltop villages to explore on foot, by bicycle and in a four-wheel drive.
Roam narrow alleyways in the picturesque village of Dolceacqua (above Ventimiglia), visit the hilltop remains of Doria Castle and admire 15th century frescoes in the Chapel of San Bernardo.
The best beaches along the Italian Riviera, where water sports are mainly limited to snorkelling, kayaking, windsurfing and peddle boats, include the following beaches…
This famous beach resort is fringed by a string of small pebble and sand beaches that are separated by low rocky headlands.
The best of the private beaches offer soft white sand to dig your toes into and facilities such as sun lounges, umbrellas, showers, changing rooms and snack bars.
A short walk away lie palm-fringed promenades and exotic gardens surrounded by a wide choice of hotels, fashion boutiques, bustling cafés, bars and restaurants.
San Remo is located 17km east of Ventimiglia and 140km west of Genoa.
Pick your own spot to sunbathe on this 4km-long golden-sand beach framed by rolling hills. Facilities include sun lounges and umbrellas.
Just behind the beach lies a maze of streets boasting a choice of hotels, restaurants and bars.
Alassio faces the Isola Gallinara island nature reserve, home to one of the largest colonies of herring gulls in the Mediterranean.
Forty minutes away, along mule trails set between olive groves and pine trees, sit the remains of Castello di Andora and the 13th century church of SS Giacomo and Filippo, considered to be one of the most important medieval monuments of the Riviera.
Alassio is located 55km east of San Remo.
Dig your toes into the mainly soft golden sand of this long beach that sits between calm turquoise waters and a palm-fringed promenade lined with restaurants, bars, a seafront fairground and open-air cinema. Facilities include sun lounges and umbrellas.
Inland, the well-preserved medieval walled town of Finalborgo offers several 12th to 17th century buildings and pleasant walks amid deep, lush valleys.
Finale Ligure is popular with Italian families and is located 80km east of San Remo.
This pebble and sand beach sits beneath the Abbazia di San Fruttuoso and gently shelves into a picture-perfect azure bay framed by pine-covered mountains and high cliffs.
Sunbathe on the beach, go swimming in the calm waters and dive or snorkel above the famous ‘Christ of Abysses’, a 2.5m-high statue that sits on the seabed in 17m of water just in front of the monastery. Tour the monastery then unwind with a cold drink and fresh fish at one of the beachside bars and restaurants.
San Fruttuoso Beach is reached by boat (30 minutes from Camogli, 20 minutes from Portofino) or by foot along a cliff-hugging trail from either Camogli or Portofino. Note: If hiking, allow three hours.
Sunbathe on this white-sand beach that nestles in font of a long turquoise bay framed by steep tree-covered headlands.
Behind the beach sits a range of bars and hotels. Facilities include sun lounges and umbrellas.
Paraggi is just a few minutes drive along the coast from the millionaire’s playground of Portofino and the pretty harbour resort of Santa Margherita Ligure (neither of which have beaches).
Unwind on one of two golden-sand beaches sitting on either side of an isthmus that is home to the elegant town of Sestri Levante.
Admire the cream, yellow and orange pastel-shaded buildings of this picturesque town and enjoy a gelato on the grand palazzi overlooking the beach, which shelves into the azure limpid waters of the Baia del Silenzio.
Facilities include sun lounges, umbrellas and rowboats for hire. Sestri Levante is located 50km east of Genoa.
Cool off with a swim at this long, golden-sand beach sitting beneath dramatic mountains, rolling hills and the small pastel-shaded town of Monterosso, the largest of the Cinque Terre towns. Facilities include pay-to-use sun beds and umbrellas.
This golden sand beach sits between the limpid waters of the Golfo dei Poeti and the charming pastel-shaded town of San Terenzo, which is dominated by an impressive hilltop castle.
Beachside facilities include umbrellas and sun beds for hire.
Just around the eastern headland, discover a picturesque golden-sand beach that nestles in a tiny cove surrounded by steep and dramatic tree-covered headlands.
This long crescent of golden sand faces the picturesque Golfo dei Poeti and lies in the shadow of a hilltop castle that offers panoramic views across to Portovénere.
Behind the beach is the pleasant resort town of Lerici, with a selection of beachfront bars, restaurants, shops and hotels. Facilities on the beach include sun beds and umbrellas.
This stunning golden-sand beach gently shelves into the calm turquoise waters of a sheltered cove that is surrounded by cliffs and steep tree-covered headlands.
Come for the day or stay longer at the charming beachfront Eco del Mare hotel, wich offers accommodation options as well as food and beverages.
Eco del Mare is located just a few minutes drive south of Lerici, along a 5km stretch of coastline indented with tiny inlets, quiet coves and secluded pristine beaches that continue until Tellaro – a stunning pastel-coloured medieval town crammed with narrow alleyways that sits perched on rocks overlooking the sea.
This narrow strip of golden sand faces a picturesque cove framed by soaring pine trees and the small pastel-shaded town of Fiascherino.
Fiascherino Beach lies just minutes away from picture-perfect Tellaro.
The Italian Riviera boasts an enormous range of accommodation options to suit all honeymoon budgets. However, if you want to really splurge on deluxe lodging, try the legendary Hotel Splendido in Portofino. This former Benedictine monastery sits on a steep terraced hillside amid colourful gardens overlooking the stunning bay of Portofino.
The best time to visit the Italian Riviera for a beach holiday is in summer, from late-June through to early-September.
However, anytime during spring and early summer, from mid-April to mid-June is also good.
If you wish to avoid the crowds, traffic jams and high prices of July and August, visit the Italian Riviera in May, June or September.
The Ligurian Riviera (Riviera di Ponente) enjoys a Mediterranean climate, with cold, wet winters and warm, dry and sunny summers.
The Italian Riviera sits on a narrow coastal plain beneath the towering mountains of the Maritime Alps and the Apennines in the northern Italian province of Liguria.
Centred on the port of Genoa, the Italian Riviera is divided into two sections: the first – known as the Riviera di Ponente – stretches from the French Riviera (or Côte d'Azur) at Ventimiglia to Genoa; the second section to the east – the Riviera di Levante – stretches to the border of Tuscany and is best known for pristine coves framed by rocky promontories and soaring pine trees.
The most convenient route to the Italian Riviera is by air to Genoa Airport (GOA), also known as Christopher Columbus Airport, located about 7km (4.6mi) west of Genoa.
Alternatively, you can fly to Milan and connect by fast train, taking 1 hour 52 minutes, with frequent services.
The Italian Riviera is also easily accessed by road and rail. There are two main roads along the Riviera: the very fast 'autostrada' and the slow 'Aurelia', which winds from town to town (excluding those of the Cinque Terre, which is accessed by foot, train and boat).
Trains run frequently and offer a comfortable service to all the main resorts, including to and from Ventimiglia and La Spezia, as well as numerous smaller villages.
Note: If you are planning on hiring a car, just remember that parking is generally difficult to find in summer and the most picturesque regions of the Riviera di Levante are often jammed with traffic during the high season of July and August.
Latest update: Italian Riviera: 27 July, 2022