Last autumn Chris and I embarked on a mammoth road trip through the Liguria region of northern Italy, reviewing hotels for my day job with i-escape. We flew into Pisa and followed the coast all the way round to the French border and back again, travelling more than 1000km over the course of a week. A packed schedule left little time to explore, but I was so struck with the colours and textures we encountered – velvety-green hills, the endless turquoise sea, crumbling plaster walls in a rainbow of earthy hues – that I couldn’t resist sharing a few photos.
Our first stop was the famous Cinque Terre, a Unesco-listed string of five harbour villages which cling precariously to the cliffs. The drive to reach them was breath-taking – the road twisted and turned in every direction, flanked by terraced vineyards plunging down to the shore. We only had a couple of hours in the area, but we managed to squeeze in lunch in Vernazza (often rated as the prettiest of the five), where we feasted on seafood linguine as an approaching storm sent waves crashing over the sea walls.
From there, we headed onwards to Camogli, a former fishing port on the Portofino peninsula that’s now an elegant resort town. During the summer months it’s packed with tourists, but in October we had its black curve of sand and graceful, palm-lined promenade largely to ourselves.
The next stage of our journey took us further west still to the province of Imperia, which neighbours France. We paid flying visits to a few of its pretty little towns, but my favourite was Cervo, perched high atop a hill. We corkscrewed up steep, cobbled alleys to the castle which crowns the town, passing hidden doorways, flower-filled balconies and sleepy piazzas where cats dosed in the sunshine. Every now and then the buildings would part, revealing tantalising glimpses of the glittering sea far below.
I also loved Borgomaro, the main village in the wooded Maro Valley, which tumbles from the Alps down to the Mediterranean. It felt like an authentic slice of rural Italy: gently dilapidated but all the more charming for it, with pastel-coloured houses lining the river, children playing barefoot in the square, and little three-wheeler vans trundling along the narrow lanes. Here we stumbled across a rustic trattoria in an old watermill and enjoyed one of the best meals of the trip. There was no menu; instead, dish after dish emerged from the kitchen – local salami, herby focaccia (a Ligurian speciality), slow-cooked bean stew, tiramisu – and we helped ourselves to whatever took our fancy.
Much of our time, of course, was spent in the car, but even the motorways in this part of Italy are spectacular. As we sped along the coast, we plunged in and out of tunnels, with the sea melting into the sky on one side and forested slopes rising on the other.
We also spent a bit of time in Genoa, Liguria’s gloriously gritty capital city. More on that to follow in a separate post, but in the meantime you can see the hotels we visited for i-escape here.
All photography by Abi Dare