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Home Base in Italian Riviera

Hello!

Thank you in advance for taking time to read our post and consider replying. From our experience, we have received valuable insight into travel in Italy! My husband and I have traveled to Italy several times and have spent time in most of the major cities and several smaller towns. Last winter we stayed in Modica, Sicily for 7 weeks and additional time in Ortigia and Roma (always Roma).

Next May-June we plan to return to Italy for several weeks and want to explore a different area. We have identified the Italian Riviera area as our base. After some preliminary research, some cities/towns we are considering are St Margherita Ligure, Bordighera, Bonassola, and maybe Forte dei Marmi (further south). We spent a couple of days in CT when we stayed in Tuscany two years ago.

It would probably help you to know some of our parameters. Thankfully, we are both healthy and mobile. We love exploring, history, music, art, cuisine/cooking, wine, living as much like a local as possible. We tend to base ourselves in a mid-sized town and take side-trips to expand our experience into major cities, small villages, etc.. We usually only rent a car for these side-trips but otherwise walk every day and/or use public transportation.

So, what are your thoughts about these locations? What other towns do you recommend as our base? Do you have any "not-to-be-missed" recommendations?

Thank you!

Posted by
5687 posts

I stayed in Camogli in May for three nights and loved it - a charming town with very few tourists in May (and as I understand it, mostly Italians visit in the busy summer). Easy train connections up and down the riviera. It's one train stop north of Santa Margherita Ligure.

Of the towns you mention, I visited only Santa Margherita Ligure. It too is a really nice town but seemingly much bigger (and more touristy) than Camogli. I would have no problem staying in Santa Margherita Ligure, either, though. But, I don't think you will see the sunset from there in May-June because the town faces south/southwest into the ocean, for what it's worth. I loved seeing the sunset into the ocean from my room (Hotel Casmona) or from the beach right below in Camogli.

I doubt you would regret staying in Santa Margherita Ligure or Camogli, and you can get to the other towns quite easily by train, as I said.

You can take a passenger ferry from Camogli to the abbey at San Fruttuoso and on to Portofino and Santa Margherita Ligure and to other towns. I walked from Camogli up the hill to the town of San Rocco (great views down from the top) then did a difficult hike (with breathtaking views!) a few hours to San Fruttuoso and then took the boat from there on to Santa Margherita Ligure. There is apparently an easier, less scary hike from San Rocco to San Fruttuoso (without the great views) than the one I took (the "batterie" hike is the hard one!). And it seems you can hike from Portofino to/from Santa Margherita Ligure - that one's an easy hike as I understand it. (There's also bus service in addition to the boat.)

Posted by
1689 posts

Bonassola and Forte are too small. SML is nice. I think Chiavari is super and very underrated.

Posted by
32198 posts

You might also consider staying in Monterosso or Levanto as those seem more central to the "Italian Riviera". My favourite town in that area is Monterosso although it can be flooded by cruise ship hordes at times.

I stayed in Bonassola last September and was frankly "underwhelmed". It's very picturesque but too small for my liking. I find Santa Margherita too large and too far from the places I want to tour, so I haven't stayed there.

Posted by
2169 posts

We've stayed in Bonassola and Camogli on different trips and I would choose Camogli from that pair. Next month we are going to spend three nights in Lerici, which has come highly recommended. However, it is not on the train line as the other two are - and we will not have a car but feel there is plenty for us to see from there with walking and buses.

Posted by
2169 posts

Interestingly, when I just googled Chiavari, a photo of Portofino came up...

Posted by
2 posts

I would say try Rappallo, we stayed there for a week a couple of years ago and loved it. It is well connected to all the places of interest both by ferry from the main promenade and by train from the local station.

Posted by
15141 posts

This is too broad. The Italian riviera goes from Ventimiglia, on the French border to the gulf of La Spezia. West of Genoa it is called Riviera di Ponente (western) while East of it it is called Riviera di Levante (East). Forte dei Marmi is in Versilia, an area in the Northern Tuscan Coast. Tuscany ends at Bocca di Magra, south of La Spezia, beyond that you are in Liguria, another region.

Which base you should choose depends on what you want to visit on day trips. If you'd like to visit Lucca, Pisa, Carrara marble quarries, etc., Bordighera is not good, Il Forte is. But if you want to visit Menton, Montecarlo, etc. then Bordighera is better, everywhere else is not.

So plot your intended destinations, then you can decide a place that is central to those. Just be aware that the Riviera is long at it takes at least 3 hours of fast freeway driving from La Spezia to the French border. If you take the train, add at least one hour. West of Genoa it's a slow rail line.

Posted by
3580 posts

Of the places I've visited, Santa Margerita fits best. Numerous restaurants, hiking, ferries, many other towns within an hour by train, etc. The train station is reasonably close to hotels, the beach and ferries.

Posted by
13 posts

Roberto da Firenze,

Thank you for sharing your wisdom. I appreciate your suggestion that we are thinking too broadly at this stage of our planning.

We have spent quite a bit of time exploring Italy and hope to continue in the future, so we understand on any given trip we need to be thankful for what we do get to experience, knowing we cannot possibly fit everything in we would like to do. That's the point at which we are right now, making a priority list of what's most important for us to do/see. That feeds directly into your point ... where in the gorgeous (but lengthy) Italian Riviera should we base ourselves? We are very thankful for all of the replies we have received and have taken note of all. Please keep your ideas flowing to us!

Posted by
32198 posts

"where in the gorgeous (but lengthy) Italian Riviera should we base ourselves?"

As Roberto mentioned, which place to use as a home base will depend on which places you'll be touring in that area. If you could provide more information on the sightseeing you're planning in the Italian Riviera, it would sure help!