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What do you know of the coastline north of Cinque Terre to Nice?

I will confess from the start, this is a bit of a 'pie in the sky' post, but I will be retiring in the next 16 months and would like to travel during winter to avoid my Ottawa frigid temps. I would like to consider Italy. It has been too long since last there and expect to stay put for weeks at a time. I don't have any Italian language skills, but I do tend to try and learn something of a language when I travel.....and where better to gain practice, than smaller towns off the North American radar?

Has anyone traveled this area with any recommendation of a central location to call home, train access and doesn't shut down after beach season? For all I know, some of these may be retirement spots for Europeans, which means facilities will be available.
Ideally, not a lot of ice, though short snows and rains would be okay.
Alternatively, the east coast south of Ravenna?
Would most likely prefer Italy north of Rome, due to international flights, and easy train access from arrival city. Once my feet get wet, I'll head further south for other years....but still prefer no car.

Posted by
204 posts

A couple of years ago, I flew into Nice and stayed for a couple of nights to acclimate to the time change and enjoy the promenade along the beach since I am a beach lover. We had visited Nice, Monaco, and the lovely French towns easily accessible by train from Nice on a previous trip, so on this trip, we took the train directly into Genoa, Italy, which we used as our base. I never rent a car.

Genoa (Genova to Italians) is a non-touristy, gritty, historic, and underrated city IMHO, birthplace of Christopher Columbus, focaccia bread and pesto. I don't recommend it for first timers to Italy since it is not glamorous, but for an authentic, smaller than Rome Italian city, there was much for tourists to do. We loved it for the magnificent palazzos to tour, the medieval winding alleyways called carrugi, and the aquarium designed by Renzo Piano located at the bustling harbor. On the weekend, there was an international market with food vendors showcasing food from all over Europe, but I don't know if our timing was good, or if this is a weekly event.

From the port in Genoa, we took a tour boat that stopped at beautiful Portofino, the lovely seaside town of Camogli with small artist galleries and beachside restaurants, and the abbey at San Fruttuoso, which is only accessible by boat and has a restaurant built into the side of the mountain overlooking the bay. There is a larger, lovely beach town accessible by train from Genoa, called Santa Maria Liguria, which is walkable, and also has boat service to Portofino.

The Cinque Terre is easily accessible from Genoa by train. We just went there as a day trip, and I was totally underwhelmed by the area overrun with tourists and schlocky, tacky shops. Staying in an old private room there was about 50 euros/night more than the luxurious Savoy in Genoa, and I wanted comfort, not someone's rundown converted apartment that I had to climb loads of stairs to get to. I know others wax poetic about the Cinque Terre, but I was not "getting it". More a Portofino kinda gal.

There is so much to see along the coast of Italy. We went in March and the weather was glorious and not overrun by tourists. Congratulations on your upcoming retirement, and happy travels wherever you decide to go.

Posted by
3005 posts

alohalover, thank you for your post. This helps a lot. Genoa is certainly easy to get to by train from Milan. As it, as well as neighbouring Savona, is a port for some of the European cruise lines, if I time it right, I may be able to pick up a cruise last minute...of course, all depending how that industry plays out in the future.
CT has never appealed to me, but then I didn't know about it until after it became popular. Portofino does, however.

I love Rome and Florence, but I have travelled a good number of gritty or developing countries, so don't need pristine or english-only surroundings.

Things to think about.

Also, thanks for the good wishes. First trip is SE Asia, and then we will see.

Posted by
1567 posts

Since you are still fact-finding, I'll throw out a couple of spots. The first is south of where you were seeking, but near Rome, and I just happen to know there is a language school there, plus a train line. It's Orbetello. Every day we would pass the language class having coffee at a cafe, so I've dreamed of returning to take a class there since I adore the area. I'd also look at Grosseto, Pitigliano, Massa Marittima. I visited the latter two.
On the east coast, I would look at Senigallia, Fano, Pesaro, even Ancona. The train line would be perfect, probably a bit better transport-wise than my first suggestion, and with bus I think you could even explore the interior towns.

I'd still consider southern locales because it's easy to get anywhere from Rome. I'd be looking in Puglia for example.
This sounds wonderful and what I hope to do one day too, good luck!

Posted by
175 posts

Santa Margherita Ligure is an excellent hub. Easy train/bus access from Genoa airport...also only 2-2.5 hours by train from Milano. Close to Portofino and Camogli and easy day trips to Cinque Terre.

I haven't been in the winter.

Posted by
3005 posts

Brad, thanks for the alternative town.

Valaphiladelphia, thanks for the suggestion to closer to Rome. A language school would be a great addition. I also have an interest in that Etruscan and Maremma area. Looks to have intriguing things to consider. Close to Orbetello is a reserve area and what look like rice fields, so there would be birdwatching nearby. Certainly open to alternative regions. I have looked into Bari area, perhaps after obtaining some language skills.

Posted by
1567 posts

The Etruscan heritage in the Maremma area was the big draw for me, and there are many fascinating sites.
We did not make it to the WWF area with flamingos, but we enjoyed our view over the Orbetello lagoon. The Maremma park was also really great. I can't wait to get back!

Posted by
204 posts

Thanks for the correction, Brad - you are correct. I meant Santa Margherita Ligure. Would not want to confuse Maria

Posted by
3005 posts

Ah, Brad and alohalover, I had to go back and figure that note out - but I got it now. Thanks.

Posted by
109 posts

Santa Margherita!! Train station..small port..lively restaurants..beUtiful coadtline..great bus line..hiking nearby..5 min by train..ck it out!

Posted by
2898 posts

If you choose the Liguria alternative, you should add Dolceaqua to your list as a town to visit. It’s close to Genoa, mostly medieval and picturesque.

N.B. I don’t think you need to be overly concerned about ice or snow anywhere on either Italian coast.

Posted by
3005 posts

Roslyn, thanks for the additional town to visit. Yes, I guess the ocean currents keep things a bit more temperate on the coasts. Now, the rain? Well, as long as it isn't 5 days a week. My SAD kicks in around day 5 of no sun, but I can bring a lamp for that, I guess.

Posted by
8715 posts

I have been in the area a few times.

Between Nice and Genoa, I have only stayed in the northern areas--Turino, Lago Maggiore, Lago di Orta. Between Genoa and the CT, I have stayed in both Levanto and Santa Margherita Ligure. I like them both.

Levanto is just a few minutes by train to the northern part of the CT and if you want to explore the CT is a good place if not staying within it.

Santa Margherita Ligure is different. When I was there, in May a couple of years ago, there were few North American tourists. It was mostly locals and a pleasant town to walk around. There is both boat and bus service to Portofino. (The bus is about 15 minutes.) There is also a train station.

Personally, I was not impressed with Portofino. One little high-end shopping area and not much else. I wouldn't plan to spend more than an afternoon unless you stay on your own yacht anchored in the harbor.

If I went back to the area, I would stay in Santa Margherita Ligure. I don't want to face the crowds of the CT and would probably explore other areas while based there.

However, if you truly want warmth, you might consider going further south. Like Sicily. Or Puglia.

Posted by
4140 posts

Others would know better than me, but isn't the CT pretty much shuttered in the winter? I imagine other touristy areas along the coast will be similarly shut down. It seems to me like the OP would need a mid- to larger size town to ensure that there was adequate open infrastructure.

Posted by
5904 posts

We have spent time in this area on three trips. Nice has an airport and is a great base for that area of France and Italy. There are two sections of Liguria, south of Genoa and west of Genoa.
Santa Margherita Ligure and Camogli are very nice large towns between Genoa and the Cinque Terre. They are on the train routes.
This part ofLiguria is very popular for a reason.
You can walk or take a ferry to Portofino.
There is hiking in the hills nearby.
The western section of Liguria has less appeal except for a few places. Noli is one of these. Nice beach, castle on a hill, medieval quarter and a Michelin started restaurant at a nice hotel. It makes a nice stop when driving to Nice.
We have been to Nice several times. Our last trip there was for two weeks. At the end we moved over to Italy’s Piemonte region and stayed in Alba. Loved the area.

Posted by
5904 posts

In Noli we stayed at Palazzo Vescovile up on the hill with sweeping views of the sea.

Posted by
3005 posts

FrankII, Emily and Suki. Thanks for the additional thoughts. I don't have an interest in CT, and yes, most likely better for a bigger town, though a test look in AirBnB for Jan 2021 is showing prices higher than I would have expected. I would have these considered off season tourist towns, but maybe finding them with heat is upping the price. Santa Margherita Ligure is definitely pricey. Rapello, not so bad. I am having to work with Cdn$. Looks like off the train line is less costly; or more selection of prices in the big cities. Interesting....and the reason to start looking early. Thanks.

Posted by
1567 posts

I think Rapallo would be more what you are looking for. Camogli and SML are likely more seasonal, smaller, etc.
You might also look in the La Spezia area also. Rapallo is more attractive, but La Spezia might make for a good base, and there is plenty of natural beauty just a short bus ride or boat ride away.

Posted by
8715 posts

Before you write off the CT completely, I want to make a suggestion. I think the best part of the CT is from the sea. The coastline is absolutely beautiful. I have twice taken the ferry between Monterosso and Porto Venere. The first time there wasn't a cloud in the sky. The second time was overcast but still beautiful. These was my favorite thing in the CT.

Posted by
3005 posts

Frank II, I am always up for a boat ride, so I only right it off as a place to stay long term. I am open for a day visit or ocean view...but given the time of year, it would need special weather for bobbing around in a boat.

Valadelphia, you may be correct about La Spezia. A bigger option for prices - though it looks like a lot of cut pricing due to covid.

Posted by
740 posts

Our first trip we stayed in Santa Margherita Ligure. Our host begged us not to bother with the CT but we did. He was sort of right ... it was super crowded but it was also very beautiful. I think I would venture back off season though.

Posted by
11981 posts

Most small towns on the Ligurian Riviera are nice.
This is a good list of not so famous locations by the TCI. But you’ll find plenty more with any internet search. Just google Liguria most beautiful places, or in Italian, luoghi più belli, e you’ll find plenty of suggestions.
https://www.touringclub.it/notizie-di-viaggio/liguria-i-piu-bei-borghi-sul-mare

The problem with traveling in winter is that many beach towns will be kind of dead. Tourists will not be there, but restaurants will be largely open for the locals, while some small bed and breakfast may stay close during low season (larger hotels generally stay open). The positive thing will be the lack of crowds typical of July and August.

Liguria is famous for mild temperatures, due to the presence of the sea, therefore the only chance to see snow is to head to much higher altitudes in the nearby mountains.

The Gulf of Genoa, basically the entire Ligurian sea, is also famous for the area of low barometric pressure called the Genoa Low https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genoa_low, which causes intense rain downpours in the region. So carry plenty of sturdy umbrellas.

Posted by
3005 posts

Roberto, thank you for the links.....though the Genoa Low, makes me feel a little low.