Hiking the Italian Riviera

by Liz Dowling

My daughter and I did our first Backroads trip last month, a walking/hiking trip in Italy. We started in the Italian Riviera and moved to the Chianti region in Tuscany, so we covered a lot of territory in a short period of time. Em and I flew into Rome and had to meet our group at the Pisa train station in two days, so here it goes…..

We spent one night in Rome before taking the train to Pisa. Five espressos later, we checked into the Baglioni Hotel Regina on Via Veneto. The goal was to get on Italy time as fast as possible, so we hit the streets.

I am always in awe of Rome. The sheer beauty of this city is staggering.

Sustenance needed now – both of us are fading…

Gelato and an Aperol Spritz did the trick. When in Rome!

Our hotel was sprawling and elegant. Dinner was here tonight because we were both about to crash.

Train to Pisa the next day in the POURING rain!

Pisa is cute, but one and done. We were able to cover everything in one day.

Em found the cutest restaurant in Pisa with amazing food called La PergOletta. They were not too excited to seat two drenched Americans, but were lovely despite our wet appearance. The dining room had live flowers hanging from the ceiling so the whole place smelled divine.

10:00 at the Pisa train station the next day to meet everyone!

There were 20 people on our trip, plus two leaders. The first stop was the town of Campiglia Tramonti for lunch and our kick-off inaugural hike.

Emily loved to stand at the “edge” every time I wanted to take a picture to freak me out.

After an amazing lunch, we hiked to the town of Portovenere (the first official Italian Riviera town along the Ligurian coast) where we stayed the night at the adorable Hotel Paradiso. This is the view from our bedroom balcony. Not too shabby!

A ferry took us to Palmaria island for dinner that night at Locanda Locanda. Anchovies are a big feature in this neck of the woods! Loved the light in the clouds on our stroll to the boat.

The pace of this trip was brisk for this non-morning person. Up at 7:00 the next day to catch a ferry to Cinque Terre. We had about an hour rain delay due to thunderstorms, but then we were cleared to go.

Skies had cleared by the time we arrived in Riomaggiore. How beautiful! The five towns of Cinque Terre are Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso. The path between Riomaggiore and Manarola has been closed since 2012 due to a landslide, but you can hike between the other four towns. Since it had rained pretty hard in the morning, our leaders told us that the paths were slick, so left it up to us how much we wanted to hike that day.

Em and I hit four of the five Cinque Terre towns. We quickly realized that we liked to hike a good chunk of the day, but then leave some time to enjoy the Italian beauty and food/wine. This is right about the time we befriended a like-minded group on our trip! We skipped Corniglia and went to Vernazza to eat lunch. To get to Corniglia, you have to go up 382 steps to reach it – yes, that’s right. Then down….. NOPE!

Lunch in Vernazza!

Our little cafe was under the yellow umbrellas.

So pretty!

Next hiking destination was Monterosso, the BEACH. We rented beach chairs and hung out until we had to catch the train to Santa Margherita Ligure.

We could have stayed here for days….

We met our group at the train and headed to the gorgeous Hotel Continental in Santa Margherita.

This is our hotel for the next two nights, yippee!

Italian Riveria. We are hiking those hills in the morning to Portofino!

Our balcony view. We shared wine with our balcony neighbors and fab new friends from Houston!

The next day, we hiked to and from Portofino. About 7 miles round trip. This is the famous Belmond Hotel Splendido in photo above. Dior did a pop-up wellness spa there this summer – see the row of turquoise umbrellas? This place is insanely gorgeous.

Views along the coast…

The pictures don’t do it justice.

We’ve arrived!!!!

Hello Portofino.

Lunch at Strainer restaurant overlooking the Portofino harbor.

I did NOT want to leave the Italian Riveria! I tried to hatch a little escape plan…. Instead, Em and I spent the last hours on the coast lounging by the pool at our hotel. Heaven.

Arrivederci Italian Coast, onto Tuscany!

the wry home

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Cynthia Gallagher October 6, 2022 - 7:46 am

What a fabulous trip to take with your daughter. Love it! We spent part of our honeymoon in Portofino, loved it so much we took a baby moon (before it was called that) that started in Sta. Margarita. My obgyn said “you’re going to Italy and France? Of course you can drink wine!” She was the best. I was 4 months pregnant with Catherine. Xo

Liz Dowling October 6, 2022 - 7:50 am

We loved it too. I would stay in Santa Margherita if we went back because the town is bigger and more going on, but Portofino is so close to run over there for a day. It is absolutely gorgeous!

Amy Harden October 6, 2022 - 7:59 am

What an amazing trip and sounds like the perfect combination of hiking and enjoying all that Italy has to offer. Memories made w Em to boot for the win!

Liz Dowling October 6, 2022 - 8:01 am

As you just did with Caldwell!!!! When are you up here next?

Amy Harden October 6, 2022 - 8:01 am

Looks like you packed a lot in and trip looks amazing. Perfect balance between hiking and enjoying all that Italy has to offer. Plus memories made w Em for the win!

KMcd October 6, 2022 - 8:28 am

I would STILL be there…..

Liz Dowling October 6, 2022 - 10:22 am

I should have stayed…..

Allyson Martin October 6, 2022 - 10:41 am

Oh to be in Italy again! Can’t wait to get back and perhaps go to some if these fabu places you found so beautiful!

Liz Dowling October 6, 2022 - 10:52 am

It was amazing Al!!!

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