Best Food & Hotels in the Scenic Italian Riviera
Food & Wine
The Riviera Ligure, or the Italian Riveria, is a beautiful destination where you can enjoy spending time in the water during the day when it's hot and sightseeing later in the afternoon when it's cooler to check out the beautiful architecture, the churches, the little boutiques and finally have an Aperol Spritz like all Italians do when it is aperitif time. This part of Italy doesn't have long, sandy beaches but you will find smaller places perfectly equipped with umbrellas, chairs, bathrooms and a restaurant. In some places all of this is built on rocks, in other places, it's on a smaller beach made of tiny stones.
The scenery in front of you from the water is stunning. You can see beautiful monuments & churches as well as the cliffs of the coast. This is a very romantic place as well as very family-friendly. There is much less American tourism compared to Cinque Terre and more European tourism. This is the land of pesto. The typical bavette with pesto is an absolute must and that alone will make your trip totally worth it.
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Where to stay in the Italian Riviera
Grand Hotel Miramare
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Hotel Cenobio dei Dogi
Peaceful hotel overlooking the Camogli Gulf with airy rooms and three restaurants.
Family-run hotel with classic rooms overlooking the Gulf of Santa Margherita.
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Things to do in the Italian Riviera
The water is beautiful so I highly recommend checking out snorkeling or scuba diving tours. Another must is renting a boat for the day and visiting the other towns by sea. San Virtuoso is a very small beach that has an abbey on it. The view is spectacular but if you go there by ferry it can get very crowded. A private boat makes the experience a lot more special. The other attraction is the statue of Christ under the water. You can easily see it just by doing simple snorkeling. You don't need to scuba dive.
There are no cars on land, it is a very isolated and romantic spot. You feel like miles away from the rest of the world and you are in a stunning setting under the stars. I would spend one night if you have the time. There are just a couple of restaurants and when all of the visitors are gone in the afternoon you have that corner of heaven all to yourself. Santa Margherita and Camogli have a beautiful cathedral that deserves to be visited.
If you like hiking there is a beautiful walk that goes from Santa Margherita to Portofino. That takes about two hours and it has specular views. Santa Margherita has beautiful little boutiques. In summer they are open until late so it is nice to walk around when the air is a bit more fresh.
You can't go wrong with the food, it is great everywhere. Pesto was created here so you will have to have at least a meal with that. Another local specialty is the focaccia. In particular, the focaccia di Recco is a paper-thin dough that is crunchy on the outside and gooey in the middle stuffed with soft stracchino cheese sandwiched between two layers of dough. Topped with olive oil and salt, it is pure heaven.
The aperitifs are also not to be missed. They serve them in the afternoon before dinner and they bring along so much finger food with it that you may have to skip dinner so pace yourself! Aperitif in the Riviera is also a great time for people-watching!
Places to eat & drink in the Italian Riviera
Pasticceria Arte Dolce in Santa Margherita - A beautiful patisserie with the freshest brioches, great espresso and fabulous sweet treats in a very friendly and relaxing atmosphere. The perfect way to start the day.
Try Focacceria Cose Buone in Camogli where you can have all the local specialties (different types of pizza and focaccia).
In the afternoon Gelateria Gepi is a must to savor the best gelato in front of a stunning view.
Another wonderful Gelateria is Gelateria Centrale in Santa Margherita. Their gelato is delicious but their granita absolutely stands out.
If you want to have dinner with an amazing view try La Loggia in Camogli. Authentic Ligurian cuisine with the freshest ingredients and very friendly service.
You can't leave the Riviera Ligure without having tried the focaccia di Recco.
Manuelina is the best place to go for it. They have one casual focacceria in Santa Margherita and a more formal restaurant in Recco. Another highly recommended restaurant for Ligurian specialties (including the focaccia di Recco) is Da O Vittorio in Recco.
Un aperitivo in summer is an absolute must. Italians love their Aperol Spritz but you can get any drink you like and they bring so much finger food with it that you can easily skip dinner. The most popular place for it is Sabot in Santa Margherita. It gets super crowder in summer so it is best to get there not after 5:30pm to be sure they have a seat for you.
Another great location for an aperitivo is Villa Porticciolo in Rapallo. This is a fabulous restaurant right on the sea. It is very elegant and if you feel like the formality can be overwhelming I still recommend going there at least for a drink to enjoy the beautiful view.
If you want to enjoy some authentic Ligurian cuisine, Trattoria O Bansin in Rapallo is one of the oldest restaurants. You can enjoy the most typical Ligurian specialties served by a very friendly and warm staff. This isn't a fancy place however it is very cute and picturesque and the food is incredible.
Need to Know
I loved staying in Santa Margherita because it is a bigger town with more to do. But if you look for a romantic and more intimate getaway the fisherman village of Camogli is probably your best choice. The best way to explore all these little towns is to rent a boat. They will take you to the most beautiful sites: San Fruttuoso (an Abbey right on the beach), Camogli and Porto Fino without dealing with the crowd on a ferry. They'll also take you to swim near protected areas with deep blue water. This is a popular destination for scuba diving as well. I went there with my boyfriend last summer and it was an unforgettable experience. I will go again this summer to take my son with us. I can't recommend this part of Italy enough!
For more travel tips, check out this guide by Fora Advisor Tia Santoro: Guide to Luxury in Italy’s Amalfi Coast.
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