Many avid and armchair travelers know that the Italian Riviera is home to such marquee yachting destinations as the globally famous Portofino and Cinque Terre. With luxury yachts and palatial estates dotting the landscape, these picture-perfect towns are reminiscent of idyllic postcard photos. But did you know that there are many Italian Riviera towns that are blissfully off the beaten track? Look closely and you will find a handful of colorful seaside escapes and beautiful islands along or not far from the idyllic Ligurian coastline. Here you’ll enjoy long days of sunshine, quaint fishing villages, and UNESCO-protected Old Towns steeped in history and character. And did we mention the lush hiking trails, ferries that transport you seamlessly to remote islands, and the snorkeling and scuba opportunities along this stretch of the Mediterranean coast?
This tiny medieval town in Liguria is just minutes from the famous Cinque Terre yet still under the radar for those traveling to the Riviera. Despite its seafront location, it is not an actual beach resort like other towns in Liguria, making it one of the more charming destinations along this stretch of the coast. Portovenere enjoys UNESCO World Heritage site status and a beauty seldom seen elsewhere along the Ligurian Coast. Visit the 12th-century castle and 13th-century church of San Pietro. Walk along the cliffs to discover narrow streets filled with cafés, gelaterias, and boutiques. Stroll one of its lovely beaches, accessible via pebbly coves, where you can sunbathe from either land or yacht. Off the coast at Portovenere lies the island of Palmaria, abundant in natural beauty and accessible by ferry if time permits.
The name Portoferraio, meaning “Iron Port” in Italian, comes from the iron mills that prospered the small town during the 19th century. Due to Napoleon’s exile to Elba in 1814, the entire island enjoyed an age of glory and soon blossomed into a melting pot of different cultures. There are several memories of the past worthy of exploration—from the archaeological findings in Portoferraio’s museums to the impressive fortresses and military constructions such as the Castello del Volterraio and Napoleonic residences. Today Elba’s main attractions include the tranquil beauty of its rugged hills and the crystal-clear blue waters of its bays.
Porto Ercole, Italy
Porto Ercole (“Port Hercules”) sits pretty in the municipality of Monte Argentario, in the Province of Grosseto, Tuscany—one of two towns that form the township, along with Porto Santo Stefano located on the opposite side of this unique peninsula. Stroll their picturesque marinas with sidewalk boutiques, cafés, and restaurants. Travel to Montalcino for the tasting of fantastic Brunello in one of the most celebrated Italian wine regions. Hike to the few castellos (castles) located on top of the three hills surrounding the port or take in a round of golf with one of the most picturesque backdrops in the Mediterranean.
The Italian port city on the west coast of Tuscany is celebrated for its seafood cafés, Renaissance-era fortifications and modern harbor. Its access to Florence and Pisa makes Livorno the perfect gateway to two of Italy’s finest locales. Its very strollable Terrazza Mascagni, a waterside promenade with checkerboard paving, is Livorno’s main gathering place, and the perfect place to spend an afternoon. The bastions of the 16th-century Fortezza Vecchia face the yacht-dotted harbor and open onto Livorno’s Venezia Nuova quarter, comprised of multiple islands interlaced with canals.
Porto Santo Stefano, Italy
Crystal-clear azure waters, quiet coves, and terracotta roofs are a familiar description for towns along Italy’s southern Tuscany coastline, and though it applies to Porto Santo Stefano, this town is so special. Perched on the slope of Mt. Argentario, it enjoys a deep history with the Romans, Austrians, and French, adding to its cultural and architectural richness. Three notable landmarks include the Spanish Fortress, the Roman Villa Domizi Enobarbi, and the Monastery of Padri Passionisti and Punta Telegrafo, perched high on a summit that affords breathtaking views of Monte Cristo Island. In Porto Santo Stefano, quaint seafood restaurants and gelato abound. Take a leisurely stroll along the passeggiata, where this stone path borders the sea and offers views of both the horizon and the town.
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