Day-Tripping Through Liguria: From Genoa to Cinqueterre and Beyond

by Marisa Williams

Our very own Erica Berman has just landed in Genoa for her yearly stint in Liguria, her favorite region of Italy. This still relatively untouched corner of Italy is one of our favorite spots for experiencing authentic Italian living in a gorgeous, seaside setting. Until the rest of us are able to make it there ourselves, we can live vicariously through Marisa’s gorgeous photography… -Geneviève

Sarzana details

I’ll just put it right out there: I love Liguria, and centrally situated Genoa is the perfect home base from which to delve into and savor Liguria’s many enchanting qualities and seaside cities. A maritime marvel, La Superba (the proud or the haughty, as it was once known) rivaled Venice as a powerful city-state for over 500 years. And while the splendor of its storied past as a seafaring legend is evident in the magnificent UNESCO-protected Strade Nuove and Palazzi dei Rolli, Genoa’s real charm is its present-day incarnation as a working port city.


This is a city that doesn’t bend over backwards to market itself to tourists. The result is an authentic Italian metropolis, more accustomed to the visiting Milanese than Manhattanite. As a traveler who thrives on finding and experiencing those places that aren’t (yet) teeming with fellow Americans, Genoa is a joy for me. Plus, I’m a sucker for labyrinthine medieval lanes, which Genoa has in spades.

A statue in Genoa

Genoa is a unique pleasure to explore.

I have fond memories of wandering Genoa’s intriguing medieval old town by day, the largest in Europe. Just as one must get lost in Venice to properly know and love it, losing yourself in the Genovese alleyways or “carrugi” is key to becoming familiar with the city and its character. In this way I happened upon both silent squares and those bursting with the bustle of daily life, tiny Chiesa di San Matteo and grand Cattedrale di San Lorenzo, unspeakable architectural beauty, and artisans of all kinds. Best of all were the palaces.


By chance I was in town over Rolli Days, when the city opens the doors to many of its priceless palazzi for free to the public. Oh. My. Palazzo. And I thought Venetian palaces were grand. Some of the Rolli mansions I meandered through put Venice’s grandest of dames to shame, the latter winning only by a canal!


The beauty of rooting yourself in Genoa for a Ligurian sojourn is that you enjoy the best of both worlds: a big city with all the corresponding perks, and proximity to the smallest and most delightful seaside towns that one could possibly imagine. Really. It doesn’t get any cuter than Liguria, as cute Italian towns go.

The beach at Cinqueterre; students in Portovenere

And don’t just limit yourself to the (rightly) celebrated Cinque Terre. I love the Five Lands, but so does every other American tourist with a dog-eared Rick Steves guidebook in hand. The same goes for glitzy Portofino. See it, but make sure you see other less touristy towns as well.


And now to the Rivierahhh …

A thin, crescent-shaped sliver of terra firma, the Ligurian Riviera extends in one direction from Genoa toward France along the Riviera di Ponente (“the coast of the setting sun”) and in the other direction along the Riviera di Levante (“the coast of the rising sun”) to Capo Corvo and the Tuscan border.


On this particular trip I focused on digging into the Levante, with day trips by boat, train, and bus to places that most Americans have never heard of, even if they’ve been to the nearby Cinque Terre or pretty Portofino: Bonassola, Camogli, Lerici, Tellaro, Portovenere, Sarzana, and Sori, to name a few.


Best of these sensational day trips was the reigning peace and quiet characteristic of each town. Portovenere can get a bit clogged with fellow day-trippers (mostly Europeans), but everywhere else I went was enchantingly empty when it came to tourists. I enjoyed candid conversations about food, life, and trompe-l’oeil with laidback locals who were as tickled to talk with an American as I was to chat with them. More than anything I look forward to returning, and continuing the conversation.

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Written by Marisa Williams for the HiP Paris Blog. All images by Marisa Williams. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, London, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.

Written By

Marisa Williams

A self-taught photographer, Marisa was born in the San Francisco Bay Area where she continues to live, work, and plan annual escapes from. Her travel images have appeared in advertising, print and online publications, and grace the walls of high-end hotels and private homes around the world. View Marisa Williams's Website

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16 comments on “Day-Tripping Through Liguria: From Genoa to Cinqueterre and Beyond

i was in five lands and it was amazing

Residence Cinque Terre

Our residence had some problems after the flood devastation in the area and few visitors, but now the situation is back to normal and we are even better than before!

Hi Michelle. I would suggest the following:

Caffe degli Specchi in Genova:

La Piazzetta in Genova:

La Barcaccia in Genova:

And if you hike to Punta Chiappa (a must) from Camogli, I highly recommend for amazing fish:

Enjoy!! Let us know how it goes and if you find some of your own great spots.


Marisa Allegra Williams (aka Risamay)

Hi Michelle! Admittedly, I’m the worst when it comes to remembering and recommending places to eat afar. So I defer to Erica on the best places for pesto and other divine Ligurian dishes in Genoa and the region at large. I can tell you that in the seaside town of Bonassola (easily accessible by train) there is a fantastic focacceria di Marisa. Of course I only remember this because Marisa is my name, too. If you get there, buy a couple of squares of focaccia (the pesto was tops) and ask a local how to hike up to the top of the town to the little church overlooking the sea and a paved path down to the beach. There are benches there, just in front of the church. Great place for an impromptu picnic.

Michelle Thomas

Can you recommend any places to eat both in Genoa and around Liguria — headed there in mid-September this year. LOVE your photos, too!!! (p.s. my husband is crazy for pesto – I know we’re in the right region)

Inspiring post! I do not know too much about this area of Italy so it was great to learn more about it and get some great future travel ideas.

Great photos! You’re really captured the beauty of Liguria 🙂

Haven in Paris

I am so happy to be in Genoa now and able to explore some more of Liguria. So far my all time favorite spot is Punta Chiappa a hike from Camogli. If ever you can do it, I highly recommend it. Favorite sandy beach is Finale Ligure.

Marisa Allegra Williams (aka Risamay)

Mille grazie, all! Glad you enjoyed the article and the images. If you are headed to Liguria now or in the future, buon viaggio! You’ll love it.

I would love to be going there right now… xv

Irene & Millica

this is such a lovely post!!

thank you so much for suggest our blog too!

Very well chosen, and beautifully shot group of pictures showcasing a wonderful part of Italy.

I have been so fortunate to have been in this area just 18 months ago…..what a BEAUTIFUL part of the world, this area is a MUST for anyone visiting Italy!!

I am so grateful when people share their tips on places to not linger, and places to not miss. Both important elements on any trip.
We are planning a month long trip to Italy at some point in the next two years. So your suggestions will get tucked with my notes for decision making time. Thank you.

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