Riviera Runners Up
While Portofino and the Cinque Terre get their just accolades, it would be a shame to overlook some other lovely seaside destinations that also make a great base for exploring the area. When the Cinque Terre is drowning in tourists (a common occurrence May–Sept), these alternatives offer as much beauty, a bit more breathing room, and more options in terms of accommodations—some better in fact!
Set on opposites sides of the stunning Gulf of Poets lie the quintessential seaside medieval villages of Portovenere (tourist info: www.portovenere.it; (tel) 0187-790-691) and Lerici (tourist office: (tel) 0187-967-164). Once arch rivals, Portovenere belonging to Genoa and Lerici to Pisa, both built imposing fortresses to protect themselves from the enemy (and pirates!). These incredible edifices still remain along with charming colorful homes backing up to olive tree–covered hills. Their beautiful harbors hold local fishing boats and yachts alike. One can easily take the spectacular ferry ride up to the Cinque Terre in less than an hour.
To the north of of the Cinque Terre and only a 5-minute train ride from Monterosso is the sunny seaside town of Levanto (tourist info: www.levanto.com; (tel) 0187-808-125) with its large sand beach, lovely historical center, and lodging options ranging from campsites to 4-star hotels.
A few train stops more, you arrive at Bonassola, Moneglia, and Sestri Levanto (tourist info: www.sestri-levante.net; (tel) 0185-478-530) and its breathtaking “Bay of Silence”; any of these towns offer nice beaches and colorful town centers.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.