Stretching from the south of France to Tuscany, the Italian Riviera is popular among travelers, thanks to its colorful hillside houses, stunning sea views, and beautiful beaches. The coastal strip is also home to rustic villages and beautiful towns, from rocky hillside havens to harbor-side fishing communities. In no particular order, here are seven of the cutest villages and towns on the Italian Riviera.
Ah, Cinque Terre -- the jewel of the Italian Riviera. Of the five villages that make up Cinque Terre National Park, Manarola is arguably the most picturesque. One look at its pastel-hued houses stacked upon the steep hillside will explain why over two-and-a-half million people visit the region every year. Manarola is the oldest of Cinque Terre’s villages, dating back to the Romans, and wandering the tight streets that wind down to the ancient harbor offers the perfect route to enjoy its timeless beauty.
Our Manarola Hotel Pick:
While we could add all the Cinque Terre villages to this list, their close proximity to each other means that visiting all in one day is achievable. That being said, we’ll stick to just one more. Riomaggiore gives visitors a sense of local life in Cinque Terre, depending on when you visit, given the huge swell of tourists in the high season. The main street, Via Colombo, provides plenty of restaurants and shops to explore. If you can tear yourself away from the views of the colorful houses overlooking the water, head to the picturesque Fossola Beach for a dip. Or, hike up the hill and onto the Cinque Terre Trail (visitors can usually do the 30-minute hike to Manarola, but the trail is currently closed and expected to open again in 2021).
Our Riomaggiore Hotel Pick:
Located near Cinque Terre, the seaside town of Lerici blends medieval history (witness the hilltop castle that looms over the harbor) with quintessential Italian Riviera charm (picture steep pastel houses and winding streets stretching uphill from the water). Beyond the beauty of the town itself, the coast has plenty going for it, and visitors should head to the beach in nearby San Terenzo village, where they can paddle and sunbathe in a picture-perfect scene.
Our Lerici Hotel Pick:
4. Sestri Levante
Quaint, cute, and full of life, Sestri Levante combines nature, architecture, and culture. Explore the town’s churches, take in the colorful harbor, get involved in the cultural events that take place throughout the summer (like the Andersen Festival or the Vogalonga Regatta), and hike Punta Manara for views across the water. If you don’t want to journey up into the hills, the best views of the town can be had from Baia del Silenzio, the crescent bay whose sandy shore is met by pink, yellow, and orange buildings.
Our Sestri Levante Hotel Pick:
5. Santa Margherita Ligure
A quaint fishing village turned chic vacation spot, the town of Santa Margherita Ligure may have grown over the years, but its cuteness has only increased with its size. The town’s popularity stems from its lively atmosphere and stunning promenade that frames the pretty views of the hillside homes of its wealthy locals. Far less see-and-be-seen than the nearby town of Portofino, Santa Margherita Ligure might have its fair share of upmarket hotels, but it supplements the luxury on offer with lots of artisanal businesses and rugged landscapes worth exploring.
Our Santa Margherita Ligure Hotel Pick:
Arguably the chicest spot on the Italian Riviera, Portofino is a super-cute seaside town that lures well-heeled travelers with its azure waters, yellow and terra-cotta hillside houses, and lush green landscape. In addition to admiring the views and exploring the trails that lead from the town to the lighthouse and Castello Brown, visitors can indulge in the high-end restaurants and bars (tip: order a spritz). Even more beauty can be found in the nearby Baia di Paraggi, whose beach is extortionately expensive, but also one of the Italian Riviera’s most beautiful places to swim in.
Our Portofino Hotel Pick:
The pebble beach in the fishing village of Camogli provides the perfect contrast to the orange houses that loom above it, looping around the bay in a wave of color. Life here is focused on the water, and there are plenty of places to sit and enjoy views of the waves lapping the stony shore. Visitors can also hit the beach and recline under one of the umbrellas. Nearby, San Fruttuoso is a small bay accessible only by sea or on foot. Swim here and enjoy the views of Abbazia di San Fruttuoso, an old abbey that stands on the shore above the water.
Our Camogli Hotel Pick:
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