While Liguria might be Italy’s third-smallest region in terms of total area, one cannot gush enough over its variety. Framed by the Apennines and the Alps in the north-east, the territory bordering on the Ligurian Sea is known for its fascinating smorgasbord of inspiring places and spectacles of nature. The capital Genoa has always been – and remains – an important seaport. Along the Ligurian coast on the Italian Riviera, one of the most popular touristic recreational areas attracts flocks of visitors every year. The influence of Roman culture can still be felt to this day. You can’t wait to visit this region? We’ve compiled the top 10 sights of Liguria for you!
Cinque Terre National Park
One of Italy’s most beautiful national parks stretches along the Ligurian coast, only a few kilometres from the border to Tuscany. Cinque Terre was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites for good reason, as you will see for yourself. La Spezia, Liguria’s second-largest city, is part of the 3,860 hectare large park. Learn interesting facts about traditional forms of living and farming in seven visitors’ centres. It’s even more beautiful to enjoy the pleasant climate and glorious nature on one of the many hiking trails.
Aquarium of Genoa
Europe’s second-largest aquarium is located in the touristic port Porto Antico of the regional capital Genoa. Set aside some time for a round tour through the generously dimensioned compound – at least 2.5 hours! See a multitude of animals from all around the world in 39 basins. There’s even a special area dedicated to the Cinque Terre region! Among the highlights are the basis with seals, sharks and dolphins. You can even touch some fish in the open basins!
Church of St. Peter in Portovenere
Many, many centuries ago there was a temple dedicated to the goddess Venus on this ledge above the open sea in Portovenere. It later became San Pietro, the Church of St. Peter. Built in the mid-13th century, there are still remnants of the old temple and other transitional constructions to be found at this picturesque spot, such as the fascinating marble floor to the right of the front gate. The glowing white altar, also made from marble, is a true eye-catcher.
San Fruttuoso Abbey
The picturesque setting of this convent alone brings sunshine to your heart. San Fruttuoso Abbey, dedicated to the Christian martyr Fructuosos of Tarragona – can only be reached by taking a ship to the bay of the same name or via hiking trail from Camogli to the peninsula Portofino. Having arrived at the bay, the statue of Christ “Cristo degli abissi” welcomes you – a fascinating sight and the perfect place to contemplate.
Giardini Botanici Hanbury
Located at the French border in Ventimiglia, there’s a botanical garden named after a British merchant. Thomas Hanbury bought approx. 18 hectares of land and a villa in 1867. Together with his brother and a German gardener he made good use of the favourable climatic protection zone and set up a glorious, indeciduous area. Traditional Mediterranean olive and pine groves meet Australian eucalyptus, a forest of bananas and a Japanese garden. Hanbury’s tomb is located amidst this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A severe earthquake on Ash Wednesday 1887 destroyed most of the medieval village Bussana Vecchia leading the survivors to relocate into the valley. During the 1960s some artists decided to settle in this ghost village, even receiving right of residence against all odds. Visiting this place, you stroll through original medieval architecture – partially destroyed, partially lovingly renovated. The charm of this small commune and its hospitality beyond compare needs to be experienced – the same goes for the clear view across the bay of Sanremo.
One of Liguria’s oldest villages is located directly at the sea. Tellaro, which was named one of Italy’s most beautiful villages (“I borghi più belli d’Italia”), probably already existed during the times of the Etruscans and has retained many of its ancient traditions, its most famous being the underwater Christmas. A group of divers retrieves a statue of baby Jesus, which had been placed beneath the water surface, accompanied by more than 8,000 candles and spectacular fireworks. Tellaro is also worth visiting throughout the entire year with its old, colourful houses leading down to the sea across terraced slopes.
In the late 19th century a system of caves and grottos was discovered at the end of Vallone del Vero, the “Valley of Truth”, above the village Toirano in Liguria. The Toirano Caves have been open for viewing since 1953. Fascinating rock formations and remains of civilisations long gone can be discovered during guided tours, which are also offered in English during certain times of the day. Stone Age life, Roman burial rites and remnants of a cave bear invite you to go on a fascinating journey through time.
Piazza de Ferrari in Genoa
Piazza de Ferrari, the central meeting and market place with an enormous fountain, is located at the heart of the regional capital Genoa. From here the most important transport connections and posh roads branch off into every directions. There are also some of Genoa’s most important buildings located around the Piazza. You must take a look inside Palazzo Ducale, the city’s former centre of power. You also need to see the legendary opera Teatro Carlo Felice with an equestrian statue of famous Risorgimento fighter Giuseppe Garibaldi.
Whale watching in Savona
Make sure to be well-rested when visiting Liguria between March and October, because a very special trip starts at 10 am. Set six to seven hours aside, if you want to watch a few very special creatures of the sea. See various whales, such as finbacks and pot whales, but also dolphins and bottlenoses around 15-20 km outside the coast of Savona. A marine biologist accompanies you on this boat tour answering all of your questions about whales and dolphins.
The breathtaking, seemingly endless nature of Liguria with its stark contrast of colourful park areas, typical vegetation, craggy mountain formations and the never-ending sea gives this region its distinctive charm. If you take the combination of nature with fascinating architecture and unusual places into account, it’s a miracle that you haven’t already booked your holiday. Find even more information all about your next holiday in Italy on ZAINOO.