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Riviera di Levante
While the western Riviera is lovely, the eastern Riviera is really, really amazingly beautiful and has many of the towns that are the best known outside of Liguria. In addition to Genoa – which some will love and some will hate but which is poised to be the Prague of Italian tourism – you'll find the gorgeous coastal cities of Camogli, Santa Margherita Ligure, Sestri Levante, and Portovenere, plus the enchanting Cinque Terre and the Eden that is Portofino. There are some interesting inland towns as well, but the coast is so magnificent you'll have a difficult time tearing yourself away.

It's not really the beaches that make the coastal villages of the Riviera di Levante so spectacular – they're generally pebbly or (as in the case of the Cinque Terre) nonexistent. Instead, it's the general environment; a combination of the village architecture and ambiance, the lush verdure of the hillsides, and the savage beauty of the shoreline where rocky cliffs plunge into turquoise water. The Portofino Promontory is the Beverly Hills of Liguria, and the presence of the beautiful people and their splendid toys help make it a standout.

The Ligurian provinces of the eastern Riviera are Genoa and La Spezia, but the nicknaming doesn't so neatly follow the provinces as it does on the western Riviera. The province of Genoa spans from Cogoleto to Moneglia, but only the stretch from Genoa to Mongelia is called the Riviera di Tigulio (for the Bay of Tigulio that wraps around the eastern section of the Portofino Promontory).

Don't Miss on the Riviera di Tigulio
• Genoa (becoming a destination for hip travelers, plus loaded with history and culture)
• Portofino (exclusive and gorgeous)
• Santa Margherita Ligure (more laid-back than Portofino, but still sophisticated)
• Sestri Levante (deserving of its fairy tale reputation)

The last stretch of the Riviera di Levante, from Deiva Marina to the Tuscan border, coincides with the province of La Spezia and goes by the moniker Cinque Terre and the Riviera dei Poeti. As the name implies, this part is largely dominated by the Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre nestled within which are the "Five Lands" (Cinque Terre) of Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.

Little visited before the 1990s, Cinque Terre is now one of the most popular spots in Liguria for American tourists. To a degree this diminishes their charm, as in summer you hear more English on the trails and the piazza than you do Italian. But there's no denying the uniqueness of the towns, which perfectly preserve their fishing village layout, style, and ambiance, and that are surrounded by hillsides artfully and painstakingly terraced with dry-stone walls over the course of millennia.

Hiking the trails between the villages is a wonderful experience, and it's hard to believe that anyone could leave the Cinque Terre disappointed. Beyond the Cinque Terre, the Bay of La Spezia earned the name Bay of Poets thanks to Byron and Shelley, who lived and wrote here in the 19th century (and in the case of Shelley, died here). Lined with small villages and the large town of La Spezia, it's an azure pool popular with boaters and windsurfers. What shouldn't you miss on this part of the Riviera?

Don't Miss on the Cinque Terre & Riviera dei Poeti

• The hiking trail between Monterosso and Vernazza
• Vernazza (for its tiny beach and lively piazza)
• Portovenere (for posh shopping and dining and Byron's Grotto)
• Montemarcello (for seclusion and the Parco Naturale Regionale di Montemarcello-Magra)
• Sarzana (for antique shopping)
About the Author
Hunter Publishing is a travel guide publisher with several hundred guidebooks to destinations around the world.
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