Best Day Trips on the Italian Rivieria

Board a boat or a train, and head into the areas surrounding Genoa along the Ligurian coast, between the mountains and the sea.

15 Calata Cattaneo
Board a boat in the old harbor of Porto Antico and spend the day in the Italian sunshine observing the natural habitat of the International Cetacean Sanctuary. In four hours, and with the help of the onboard marine biologist, you are likely to spot families of dolphins, larger whales, and even migrating sea turtles.
Via Cappuccini, 16039 Sestri Levante GE, Italy
If you are looking for a place to escape from it all, pack your overnight bag and follow the Capuchin monks to the Bay of Silence in Sestri Levante. With their long brown robes, you can easily spot the monks from this 17th century monastery preforming their daily rituals along the rocky seashore of this beautiful beach town. With one of the most lovely beaches along this coastline, Sestri Levante is quite popular in the summer months, but walk along the shoreline under the abandoned abbey, and you can find a semi-private rock outcropping to place your towel. Just know that there may already be someone there, and they just might be topless!
16038 Santa Margherita Ligure, Metropolitan City of Genoa, Italy
Catch the train from Genova Brignole station to Santa Margherita Ligure (about a 30-minute ride, leaving every ~30 minutes) and walk down to the large dockside pedestrian area. You will see the bike rental station just a few steps away from the bus ticket kiosk. For ~5 euros, you can have a bike for the whole day—a perfect option for exploring the fantastic surroundings! While the roads are all paved, they are incredibly narrow, and cars tend to drive quickly. Just be aware and stay very close to the edge for your own safety. Portofino (a 15-minute ride) is a gorgeous town frequented by international tourists and stunning yachts in the summer months. Originally named for the schools of dolphins (Port’Delfino) that often pass this cove, the landscape around the village is breathtaking. If you come in the spring, you can ditch your bike to spend the day hiking the paths up to the perched fort and church, or simply enjoy a gelato while gazing at the quaint fishing boats in the marina.
16032 San Fruttuoso GE, Italy
The tiny Abbey of San Fruttuoso is nestled in a cove between Camogli and Portofino, and accessible solely by foot or boat. If you want to hike it, find the trail at the far end of Camogli, and be ready for a steep, but gorgeous, two hour hike up and over the mountain. If you would prefer a quick 15 minute boat ride, catch the boat for a few euro in the harbor of Camogli and ride to San Fruttuoso in style. The abbey itself is beautiful, but it is also nice to simply sit and have a cocktail at the beachside restaurant (look closely - their kitchen is upstairs, so they send the food down in a small wicker basket when it’s ready!).
Getting to Portofino from Genoa is quite easy. Take the train from Genoa’s Brignole Station to Santa Margherita Ligure, and then catch the 82 bus to Portofino (a 12-minute trip around the bay). While I’m not a huge bus person, this is one of the most gorgeous bus rides I’ve ever experienced. A tiny fishing village with a very posh clientele, Portofino is a wonderful day trip—perfect for walking around, shopping at high-end boutiques, and enjoying an apertivo dockside before heading back to town. Yet Portofino is also covered with trekking trails, so another option is to wear walking gear and come for the breathtaking hikes!
Lungomare Raffaele Rossetti, 1, 16038 Santa Margherita Ligure GE, Italy
With amazingly clear emerald waters, the calm sea off of Santa Margherita and Portofino is perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving (May-September is the best season, although it has been known to stretch!). Il Grande Blu provides all you need to enjoy the waters - instructors, equipment, even towels! And if you prefer to stay on top of the water, they have kayaks for rent, as well as a beautiful full-service beach. (If you are up for even more of an adventure - head even further around the bay to San Fruttuoso to scuba dive - there is a sunken Christ figure just a few meters out into the bay that is really gorgeous to view up close!)
While the climb is quite literally breathtaking (900 steps), the Church of San Rocco, perched on the very edge of the Ligurian Sea, is a gorgeous spot to spend the day. Taking the train to Camogli, you can then spend the morning hiking up to the church and enjoying the beautiful altar piece and frescoes. Coming back down into town, make sure you stop by one of the many seaside restaurants for a celebratory lunch, and grab a gelato from one of the boardwalk stands on your way back to the train station!
Passeggiata Anita Garibaldi, 16167 Genova GE, Italy
The beautiful “suburb” of Genoa, Nervi boasts a lovely series of green parks (something Genoa lacks overall) and a well-tended passeggiata path that runs directly along the rocky shore. Especially popular with families on the weekend, the path is easily accessible from the Nervi train station (a 10-minute ride from Brignole Station in central Genoa). Spend the day escaping the bustle of central Genoa by walking along the shore, enjoying the museums tucked into centuries-old palaces in the parks, and having dinner at a small fish restaurant along the coast.
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