Whether you are driving or catching the train, for ease I will refer to this journey as the ultimate Ligurian Coast road trip!
Italy is one of the most fascinating countries in the world with one of the most famous cultures and ways of life. It’s no surprise Italy is one of the top 10 most visited countries in the world, but if it’s new to you, how are you supposed to know where to go? The Ligurian Coast stretches its way from Monaco down to Tuscany, it is home to incredible historic cities, beautiful coastal villages, dramatic mountains and unspoilt beaches.
Whether you have 5 days, 7 days, or 10+, you can portion up this road trip into parts to suit your time frame! You can also flip it the other way around and start where I have ended.
Day 1-3 – Genoa
I just booked a flight to Genoa for €33, yes you saw that right. Genoa is an important maritime town situated on the breathtaking Ligurian Coast, despite its importance, it still isn’t one of the most well-known trips to take, thus the cheapness of the flights!
You can book and compare flights using Skyscanner to find the best prices.
Genoa is Italy’s most important port and the birthplace of the very well-known explorer, Christopher Columbus. Genoa was once ruled by powerful Doges for 500 years and its legacy has left behind an incredible historic centre with breathtaking architecture and palaces.
Narrow alleyways known as carruggi weave their way through the city, lined with trattorias, boutique shops and cafes.
Where to stay
Downtown Apartment Air Bnb
A historic residence in the centre of Genoa’s breathtaking old town, this Air Bnb offers a comfortable bedroom, living area and book nook. It has a well equipped kitchen, a smart TV, laundry area with a washer and dryer, and a bathroom with a spacious shower.
The house is located on the second floor in a building without an elevator so it is not recommended for those with mobility issues.
Prices start at £99 per night
Day 3-5 – Portofino
Portofino is one of the prettiest, and most exclusive, fishing towns in the Mediterranean. The good things in life don’t come cheap and Portofino is a fine example of that, a plate of chips will set you back atleast €8 but when you are sat back dining al fresco with a view over the small but busy harbour, you will realise the experience is worth every penny spent.
Admire some of the Mediterranean’s biggest super yachts from Castello Brown, a museum mansion house that offers the best views of the harbour. Restaurants are open until the early hours and this is the perfect opportunity to spot people you would normally only see on the silver-screen, for Portofino is as glamorous and exclusive as it has been since the 1960s.
Located close by and well worth a half day trip on the train is Camogli, a down to earth fishing town similar to those in Cinque Terre and Portofino in looks, but filled more with locals than tourists, for this is one of Italy’s best kept secrets.
Where to stay
Splendido Al Mare, A Blemond Hotel
The most iconic hotel in Italy, perhaps in the Mediterranean, the Splendido Al Mare is perched high on a hill with incredible panoramic views over Portofino’s glistening harbour. The hotel has a fascinating history, once being a Benedictine monastery, then a nobleman’s summer residence before opening opening as a hotel in 1901.
Over the years it has seen its fair share of glamorous guests, including Winston Churchill, Madonna and Steven Spielbeg.
Prices start at £690 per night
Grand Hotel Miramare
There are only two main hotels located in Portofino and if I am being honest, they are not for every budget. The Grand Hotel Miramare is located nearby in Santa Margherita Ligure, this is the gateway into Portofino and home to the local rail station, you can catch a bus direct to Portofino from here also.
With gracious rooms and dreamy views, the Grand Hotel Miramare is home to a fine restaurant, outdoor pool, spa and its own private beach.
Prices start at £255 per night
Day 5-7 – Cinque Terre
Take a ferry to Cinque Terre or opt for the train! Cinque Terre is a designated national park meaning ‘Five Villages’, these beautiful rainbow coloured villages are closely set next to each other along the beautiful rugged coastline between Portofino and La Spezia.
Each of the five villages are serviced by a regular train service so it is easy to explore, however, if you are fit enough there are some steep hiking trails around the rocky cliffs that link one village to the next. The views are fantastic and what better way to be able to enjoy the perfect Italian lunch after a 2 hour hike!
Monterosso is the largest of the villages and where you will find the majority of accommodation and services. However, there are holiday lets and small boutique properties throughout the rest of the villages so it’s totally up to you where you would like to stay!
Monterosso is ideal for those with mobility issues, it’s more flat and easier to get around, it is also home to the only beach of all the villages. Vernazza is pretty busy but one of the most beautiful, Riomaggiore is perfect for photographers and sunset admirers. Manarola has a gorgeous clifftop restaurant that overlooks the village whilst Corniglia remains more off the beaten track, I definitely wouldn’t recommend this one for those who have limited walking ability.
Where to stay
Hotel Porto Roca
Hotel Porto Roca is the main hotel serving Cinque Terre, with just 43 guest rooms it can book up pretty far in advance. The hotel is embedded into a cliff face overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, it is doused in gorgeous, fragrant flowers and guests can look forward to wake up to the melodic sound of birdsong.
The majority of rooms benefit from large balconies where guests can soak up the afternoon sun and experience beautiful sunsets. The infinity pool is the ultimate way to cool off after exploring for the day and the outdoor panoramic restaurant means no one will be left hungry.
Prices start at £142 per night
Days 7-9 – Lucca
Lucca is actually in tuscany but it is close enough to the border of Liguria that it is well worth adding into a Ligurian Coast road trip itinerary. Lucca is a small but charming Italian city, complete with typical terracotta roofs, overlooked only by bell towers and surrounded by a breathtaking mountainous terrain.
Gourmet shops line Il Fillungo in the heart of the city for those who like a spot of retail therapy, especially those partial to a bottle of wine or on the lookout for some delicious Italian olive oil.
The San Martino cathedral is a must see, as well as the Romanesque church of San Frediano. Afternoons can be spent enjoying alfresco bars and cafés before another wander through the cobbled streets, 4km of pathways allow visitors to explore the city’s ramparts, offering beautiful sweeping views across Lucca.
Wine tours in and around Lucca are excellent, explore the rolling hills of Tuscany on a 4-hour wine tasting tour where you can sample red and white regional wines, before walking among the vines and trying some local olive oil, click here to book.
Where to stay
Hotel Alla Corte degli Angeli
Hotel Alla Corte degli Angeli is in one of the most ideal locations of Lucca for exploring and has been designed in a way to offer its guest the ultimate feeling to well-being and rest.
There are 21 bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms, WiFi and minibars, the decor and furniture reflects a typical Tuscan home. La Parte degli Angeli is the hotel restaurant complete with a winehouse and cocktail bar.
Prices start at £102 per night
Residenza i Pini
An elegant apartment within the city walls, Residenza i Pini was opened in August 2018 in a beautiful courtyard just steps from the centre of Lucca. The accommodation is ideal for families or couples, or friends, as the sofa also opens out into a comfortable double bed.
The home benefits from a kitchenette, living room and upstairs bedroom with a balcony and whirlpool bathroom. WiFi, air conditioning, a smart TV and Nespresso Coffee machine are all available.
Prices start at £80 per night
Day 10 – Pisa
I am ending this itinerary in Pisa rather than Florence, this is because Pisa Airport welcomes the bulk of European flights into Tuscany. Flying into and out of Pisa tends to be mean cheaper than going into Florence, from London alone you can fly from multiple different airports and with different airlines, where as only British Airways and Vueling fly into Florence, which can get pricey!
Pisa is world-famous thanks to the leaning tower, but I will be honest, it isn’t my favourite and it’s not somewhere in particular I would recommend staying the night unless you have an early morning flight.
So why have I added it to the itinerary? Well I do believe we should all visit the Leaning Tower at some point in our lives, it’s beautiful, fascinating and is located on the same site as Pisa Cathedral which is remarkable in its own right.
Pisa is a stylish university town, but was once a great, aristocratic city. It has a vibrant atmosphere and excellent restaurants, so you if you have time to kill before your flight home, I would definitely say go and explore!