Liguria is a long strip of land which stretches like an arch over the Tyrrhenian Sea, enclosed by the Apennines and Maritime Alps. Its 340 km coast, better known as the Italian Riviera, is a continuous line of long beaches and cliffs which form coves. Its capital Genoa divides the coast into two parts: the Riviera di Ponente, lies between the city and the French border and is characterized by long sandy beaches; the stretch that extends towards Tuscany is called Riviera di Levante, here the mountains hang over the coast with high cliffs which give way to spectacular coves in some spots. Cities and beach resorts are located along the entire coast, with names that have become famous throughout the world.
Places and charm
Liguria is a garden overlooking the sea, a landscape painted of palms, blooming seafronts, fishing boats and colorful houses. Liguria also means historical cities and small medieval towns, places of international fame with names which recall the notes and colors of the Dolce Vita.
Genoa, the capital of the Region, is a large port but also a fascinating and little known historical city. The city has a glorious past (Christopher Columbus was born here), the great sights of which still remain and with a particular charm all its own.
The Riviera di Ponente is a succession of pretty resorts, many of which contain important historical centers. For example Albenga, the city of towers and Noli and Alassio on the Riviera delle Palme. Continuing towards France is the so-called Riviera dei Fiori, named after the extensive flower cultivation climbing up the hills. Here lie enchanting cities like Cervo, a medieval town dominated by its great Baroque church, and Bordighera, the most exotic town of the Riviera di Ponente. The queen of the Ponente is Sanremo, one of the best loved spots of Liguria. The city is Italy's flower capital, but its owes its fame mainly to the Festival della Canzone (Italian music competition). Sanremo's inland area has been discovered recently: beautiful towns unchanged by time sit in the valleys, like Bussana Vecchia, an abandoned town repopulated by artists, Dolceacqua, Apricale and Triora, the town of witches and watermills.
The Riviera di Levante is home to cities whose names are internationally famous. The Tigullio Gulf is a succession of renown spots, including Camogli, Rapallo, Sestri and Portofino, the pearl of the gulf. Further south lies the incredible magic of the Cinque Terre, five small towns handing on cliffs where time stands still. At the tip of the Riviera is the Golfo dei Poeti (Poets Gulf), with the towns of Lerici and Portovenere. Places full of charm and popular with many European aristocrats and literati who vacationed here in the nineteenth century.
Nature and leisure
The entire arch of the Ligurian coast is a stretch of sand and pebble beaches alternating with cliffs overhanging the sea, enclosing small coves. The Alps and Apennines stand behind the coast with their great mountain environments.
Liguria's climate is pleasant and mild year round. Thanks to the influence of the sea, the average temperatures are 10 C° in winter and 24 C° in summer. This climate makes it possible to practice many sports almost all year long. Water sports reign along the coast: sailing, windsurfing, kitesurfing, kayaking, scuba diving and water skiing. Both the coast and inland area offer excellent conditions for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding.
Liguria is home to seventeen protected areas. Travelplan recommends the Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre, which offers landscapes and routes overhanging the sea and a priceless protected marine area. Not far off is the promontory of Portofino, with one of the highest concentrations of flora in the Mediterranean and some of the most famous scenery in the world. The park also contains the famous Marine Reserve, which attracts 5000 scuba divers to its waters every year. The inland area is home to the Parco Naturale dell'Aveto. This park contains a wide variety of rich environments, including the Mines of Gambatesa, still in business, which can be visited by special train.
For hiking fans we recommend the Alta Via dei Monti Liguri, a trail more than 400 km long which runs along the ridges from Ventimiglia to La Spezia. The routes of the Alta Via are suitable for everyone and can be done on foot, horseback or mountain bike, with grandiose views and interesting remains of peasant life.
Food and wine
Ligurian cuisine is basic and traditionally Mediterranean. Very simple ingredients are used, which alone seem insignificant, but mixed together bring out a final taste of great harmony. The basis of all recipes is Ligurian olive oil, sweet and delicate and herbs. The most famous specialty in the world is pesto, a sauce made from olive oil, basil, pine nuts, garlic and parmesan, used as a sauce on various types of pasta like troffie and trenette. There is a wide variety of ravioli, the most original are pansotti, larger ravioli filled with vegetables and herbs, delicious with walnut sauce. To complete the list of first courses, a hearty soup from La Spezia: mes'ciua, made with boiled chickpeas, beans and spelt. A typically Ligurian prerogative are the focaccias and savory pies: from the simple focaccia with oil to those filled with cheese, you won't be able to resist the fragrance and aroma of this specialty. Among its many savory pies the torta pasqualina, is famous: layers of puff pastry filled with chard, ricotta cheese, herbs and egg.
Meat dishes of Ligurian cuisine include tomaselle, veal roulades filled with meat, egg and herbs, and cima, veal stomach stuffed with a mixture of meat, vegetables and cheese.
Fish holds a place of honor in Ligurian cuisine. There is a wide range of recipes: mixed fried fish, fish salad, triglie (mullet) alla genovese and sweetsour stockfish. Muscles are everywhere, either alla marinara or stuffed. However, the true queen of Liguria's sea is the anchovy, eaten fresh, fried or stuffed, but it is also good for canning.
Wine: from the vineyards on the cliffs overlooking the sea of the Riviera di Levante come excellent white wines including Cinque Terre DOC, dry with a delicate bouquet and the rare Sciacchetrà, a great after dinner wine. Colli di Luni, both white and red, is also worthy of note. The other Ligurian wines come from the Riviera di Ponente, the whites Pigato and Vermentino, and Rossese di Dolceacqua, a pleasant and delicate red wine.