Riviera di Levante Overview
- Pastel ports, rocky roads
- Coast life
- Bronzed, bold and beautiful
This exclusive sliver of golden coast is Italy’s very own Côte d’Azur, a ravishing riviera of year-round sunshine, mega-yachts and beautiful people…
The Riviera di Levante is a sea-facing stretch of winding roads on rugged hillsides, rocky coves and hidden beaches. Belle Epoque seaside towns dot the shores, and have attracted literary luminaries over the decades: DH Lawrence, Ezra Pound and Friedrich Nietzsche have all called by to revel in the warmth. Bordered by Emilia Romagna, Tuscany and France, this is the elite’s holiday playground, where you can’t move for super-size sunglasses. Fishing villages have been given a glamorous makeover: expensive Portofino, Camogli and Santa Margherita Ligure all attract a well-heeled crowd come summer. Get away from it all up in the mountains, where the views of the shiny sea come with the scent of olives, lemons and pines.
Remarkably Riviera di LevanteLiguria is the home of pesto, humble paste and now larder staple. The perfumed purée of basil, pine nuts, garlic, parmesan, pecorino, coarse sea salt and a load of local extra-virgin olive oil is perfect with pasta.
- All of the busy seaside towns (Santa Margherita Ligure, Portofino, Camogli) will have taxi ranks; otherwise, order one: in Camogli, try Taxi Autopubbliche (+39 0185 771143).
- Tipping culture
- Leave your change at bars and cafés if you're pleased.
- Siesta and fiesta
- Feel free to linger over a long lunch or sleep in the middle of the day, as everyone except fellow tourists will be snoozing. Shops usually open at 8am, close between 1pm and 5pm, and then finish up again at 8pm. Locals are up and about early, lunching between 1pm and 3pm. Passegiata is from around 6pm, and dinner is around 8pm, but later in summer. Santa Margherita Ligure has the busiest nightlife.
- Packing tips
- Anything with a label to match the super-glam Italians; Sophia Loren-worthy sunglasses; and a new pair of dazzling white jeans for each day.
- Recommended reads
- Pack some Ezra Pound, DH Lawrence and Ernest Hemingway in honour of the literary heroes who've passed through the region; Extra Virgin by Annie Hawes is an expat’s account of settling into life on a Ligurian hillside.
- Fugassa is a soft and chewy focaccia, sprinkled with sea salt and doused in olive oil, served fresh from the oven. No coastal region is complete without seafood stars, and here, it’s swordfish, sardines, mussels and anchovies.
- Regional specialities
- Pesto is usually served with trenette (like linguine) and trofie (short and twisted). In the port of Genoa, try fainà, a chickpea-flour pancake, historically a street-food snack for busy sailors. Deep-fried and served in paper cones are frisceu (vegetable fritters), cuculli (chickpea fritters), fried battered fish and strips of panissa (polenta-like dough). Torte di verdure are vegetable pies, baked with artichokes, zucchini and pumpkin; pasqualina has a paper-thin crust and is stuffed with beet greens.
- Euro (€).
- Time zone
- Dialling codes
- Italy: +39; Genoa: 010; Camogli, Portofino and Santa Margherita Ligure: 0185.
- Do go/don't go
- The jetset settles in for July and August, when the area’s at its busiest. It’s warm from April until October, so avoid the crowds accordingly. A lot of shops and restaurants shut between November and February.
Don't go home without...
...heading to Recco to taste its cheese-filled take on fugassa – a thin slice of oil-drizzled focaccia with a layer of mild, soft stracchino – warm from the oven.