Like a scene from a novel, the Italian Riviera is a fairytale of a region dotted with craggy coastlines, old fishing villages and spectacular seafood restaurants. When the time comes for you to see this narrow stretch of heaven tucked between the sea and mountains for yourself, make sure you’ve done your homework.
The best time of year to visit the Italian Riviera
The presence of the sea and the protection of the mountains produce an enviable mild climate that you can enjoy both in the winter and summer.
The Italian Riviera can become extremely crowded during the summer months, when Italians flee the city in favor of a coastal retreat. The winding roads between the tiny towns become congested. If you go during this time, you might want to avoid weekends and national holidays.
The best months to visit are April, May, late September and October. This way you can miss the summer crowds yet still partake in the warmer weather (and go into the water, if you like).
Steer clear of driving here during the busier times; in fact, we recommend taking advantage of the frequent train and ferry services connecting the Italian Riviera’s coastal villages.
The best shopping in the Italian Riviera
The best shopping in the Italian Riviera is found in Portofino. The luxe fishing village has stores from top Italian and international designers, such as Ermenegildo Zegna, Salvatore Ferragamo, Missoni, Cartier, Louis Vuitton and Dior.
Once you’ve refreshed your wardrobe, shop throughout the entire Italian Riviera for a wide range of products — including wine specialties, souvenirs, handicrafts and nautical objects.
The region boasts excellent gastronomy products. Pesto hails from here, and the extra-virgin olive oil is very good. We recommend buying it directly from the farmers in the inland areas.
The region also produces excellent wines, including whites (e.g., vermentino and pigato), reds (rossese, ormeasco and ciliegiolo) and sweet wine (sciacchetrà).
Pair that sweet pour with desserts like spongata (a flat cake topped with crunchy pastry), buccellato (a cake with figs, raisins, dates, nuts) and pandolce (a fruit loaf), which you can find at all local delis.
Other Ligurian pastries, such as cakes with pine nuts and pane del marinaio (a fruit bread), can be found in the local bakeries.
Non-food souvenirs include items with a marine theme, coral works, naval instruments and seashells.
The best thing to bring home from the Italian Riviera
The best thing to bring home from the Italian Riviera is pesto. This world-famous sauce hails from here — precisely in Genoa — and you should buy at least one jar as a souvenir. Mainly used as a pasta sauce, the traditional recipe uses basil leaves designated with the DOP trademark, pine nuts, olive oil, garlic, salt, grana and pecorino cheeses.
Ask for pesto made the artisanal way, where the ingredients are ground with a wooden pestle in a marble mortar, rather than the one produced industrially, which uses a mixer. When using the mixer, the ingredients are thrown in together, and the olive oil is added at the end.
When using the pestle and mortar, the correct procedure is to grind the garlic and the pine nuts with salt first, then the basil leaves, then the grated cheeses and, finally, the olive oil. This is the way to obtain pesto’s correct flavor and texture.