Pastel-hued perfection contrasts with dramatic mountains and the sparking Mediterranean Sea — you’ve arrived at the Italian Riviera.
The Liguria region is a crescent-shaped strip of Mediterranean coastline straddling between the South of France and Tuscany. This spell-binding region has an abundance of natural beauty and the various names given to it such as “Paradise Gulf”, “Siren bay”, “Bay of fairy tales”, “Sea’s echo”, are all tributes to the alluring qualities of these marine landscapes. When it comes to fine-dining, the Italians are unquestionably the masters and Liguria is testimony to this, with its quintessential fat anchovies, fragrant lemons, olive oil-rich focaccia bread and the birthplace of the world renowned pesto sauce.
From the sands of Ponente to the cliffs of Levante, an endless promenade runs alongside the Ligurian Sea. The breathtaking views of the Italian Riviera have been admired and celebrated by painters, poets and writers of all ages, from Lord Byron to Shelley to Ernest Hemingway. The Italian Riviera unveils its gems one by one, starting from the east with the globally famous Cinque Terre and the enchanting villages of Portofino, Santa Margherita and Rapallo. As you progress to the west you will find the historic province of Genoa and the city of flowers, Sanremo, famous its flower-filled promenade. Wherever you choose to celebrate your wedding in Liguria, you can be assured that it will be an excellent start to your happy ending.
Legendary Cinque Terre
A destination with timeless appeal. Along a beautifully isolated six-mile stretch of the most seductive corner of the northern Italian coast lies Cinque Terre or ‘Five Lands’. Set like jewels in the Ligurian Coast, discover Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore — the five villages that make up this diamond destination.
The unsurpassed charm of Cinque Terre and famous Via dell’Amore panoramic footpath (Path of Love) beckons young lovers from all over the world. Be drawn in to this enchanting trail at sunrise or sunset and seal your love forever with a lock. The passion extends beyond a padlock, with declarations of love written on walls, boulders, benches and even scratched in to the cactus plants which grow out of the cliffs.
Crowned a UNESCO World Heritage site, Cinque Terre is an unmissable stop for newlyweds with its candy-coloured homes, narrow stone walkways and sweeping Ligurian Sea vistas. It is the kind of place that rewards taking it slow, whether you’re kicking back at a waterfront café sipping an expresso with a traditional biscotti, or simply indulging in each other’s company with a glass of Sciacchetrà dessert wine (native to the region) on your private balcony.
Beaming style, elegance, sophistication and splendour, with the likes of Humphrey Bogart, Sophia Loren and Princess Grace of Monaco frequenting this chic town. Everywhere you walk your eyes will take in superb views of the Mediterranean Sea and the mountains of Corsica can be enjoyed with your sweetheart from the summit of Monte Portofino, which stands tall over the village. Journey through the secret coves and serene sights of Portofino and walk to the Punta del Capo and the Castello Brown, which sits above the village and provides the perfect opportunity for exploring the Botanical Gardens. Another great walk is towards the medieval Castello di San Giorgio, one of the most outstanding marvels in Portofino along with its panoramic gardens and exclusive views!
Portofino has a pretty, picture-perfect harbour with great restaurants and boutiques selling Italian lace are beautifully strung along the waterfront. One of the greatest pleasures of Portofino is simply relaxing as newlyweds with a bottle of prosecco, in the beautiful surroundings and enjoying the lovely Mediterranean climate. A wedding in Portofino is undoubtedly the height of glamour.
Top recommendation: Belmond Splendido Hotel
Set in lush terraced gardens on a steep, verdant hillside just outside the picture-perfect (and uber-chic) village of Portofino, the Splendido offers an excellent location for both lounging by the sea and sightseeing activities. Housed in a 16th-century monastery, the hotel opened its doors to guests in 1902 and became popular with the Dolce Vita set in the 1960s, and still today retains an air of old-world glamour. Trips into the mountains to visit wine, olive oil and cheese-producers and excursions to Cinque Terre or lovely Portovenere can be arranged. If you want to live it up, why not reserve the hotel’s 36-ft boat for a sunset champagne cruise. Equally romantic is a private dinner at the Portofino lighthouse with magnificent views over the Golfo di Tigullio.
Photos: Belmond Splendido Hotel
Capital of Liguria, Genoa is known as “La Superba” (the Superb One) owing to its abounding historical attractions and rich cultural fabric. In the dense network of narrow streets you can breathe in the soul of a multicultural city, Portofino with its quaint shops and restaurants.
The vestiges of the Genoa’s showpiece buildings include the San Lorenzo Cathedral and Piazza de Ferrari, the city’s most famous square boasting cafés, restaurants and a gorgeous fountainin the centre. A land of contrasts that are so harmoniously linked to one another, the coast of Genoa is a marvel with which few places in the world can compete.
Top recommendation: Bristol Palace Hotel
Located a mere few steps from the iconic bronze fountain of Piazza de Ferrari and sophisticated shops on bustling Via XX Settembre, Hotel Bristol Palace epitomizes the timeless elegance of Genoa. The palace retains much of its regal charm, with a stained-glass ceiling, stunning antique furniture and art, and its famous elliptical staircase setting the scene. Enjoy fine dining at Ristorante Giotto, with its original marquetry floor and frescoed ceiling. Unwind in a stately suite decorated with antiques. Indulge in a romantic escape to this chic palace – the stage for many high society parties and banquets in the Belle Époque.
Photos: Bristol Palace Hotel
Translating to the ‘Port of Venus’, this is a cute and colourful town that oozes romance from every harbour. This tiny fishermen’s village dates back to the 12th century and is situated on a small peninsula that wades out into the glistening waters of the Mediterranean Sea and into Gulf of Poets. The town enjoys a panoramic position — particularly the Gothic church of San Pietro, constructed on a massive rock and proudly showing off its striking black and white façade that can be seen from land or sea.
Top Recommendation: Grand Hotel Portovenere
Formally a 17th-century convent, the building has been lovingly restored to create an idyllic seafront escape, perfect for couples and Italian aficionados alike. The Grand Hotel Portovenere occupies the most panoramic point of the Port, giving you sweeping views across the candy-coloured houses and boats from your very own suite. Head down a few steps leading from the hotel to the harbour, where you will be greeted by friendly locals and intimate boats that whisk you over the water to Cinque Terre and the Bay of La Spezia.
Interior design reflects the Italian Riviera’s colours and light, and effortlessly blends contemporary and classic styles. During the day indulge in wellness treatments, tastings and cooking classes, and as the sunset sets, enjoy a candle-lit dinner in the Palmaria restaurant terrace. Perhaps a classic Italian Aperol Spritz in the vaulted Venus Bar afterwards?
Photos: Grand Hotel Portovenere
Sensational Santa Margherita
Offering everything you could wish for in a seafront wedding from lush palm trees, elegant seaside cafes, flower bedecked pathways and an immaculate backdrop for your special day snaps. If you are seeking a honeymoon haven, this is a fabulous place to start. Lovescribe recommends this brightly-coloured town as an ideal base from which to explore the rest of the Italian Riviera, from Portofino to postcard-perfect Cinque Terre.
It is perfect for planning day trips to nearby hotspots and is home to many luxury villas and charming boutique shops. Enjoy strolling through the rustic streets of this area and visiting old buildings that still display elaborate frescoed decorations in the trompe l’oeil style (a particular feature of this part of the Riviera).
Best read….If you need a more in-depth guide around this captivatingly beautiful city then I found Lonely Planet’s Guide to Genoa & Cinque Terre incredibly helpful and even includes a city map (ideal for a digital detox holiday, no google maps!)
If you have already been to the Italian Riviera and think I’ve missed anything out, I would love to hear about your experiences and what treasures you found! If I’ve inspired you to go, feel free to ask me anything in the comments below. Ciao!