Living in Liguria
Popular for its beautiful beaches, small picturesque towns (many of which have retained their own cultures and customs), and exquisite Italian cuisine, Liguria borders France to the west, the Italian Alps and the Apennine mountains in the north and Tuscany to the east. One of the smallest regions of Italy, the Ligurian coastline stretches 315 km. A historically rich and industrious region of Italy, Liguria continues to captivate buyers due to the impressive and fascinating landscape of mountains and sea.
The Ligurian coast has a timeless glamour of the elegant rather than ostentatious variety. This is a region steeped in maritime tradition and one that people love equally for mountain trekking as for enjoying sunset cocktails.
Portofino has become a byword for Italian Riviera glamour, its pastel coloured harbour front houses an iconic image of the coast, overlooking not so much fishing boats but super yachts these days. Further along the coast, Sestri Levante exudes a similar charm and cachet, along with coastal villages such as Santa Margherita Ligure, Rapallo and Lerici.
The area epitomises the classic Italian coastal road trip, hugging the cliff-edge in your open top car, wind in your hair, sun on the face. To live on such an exquisite stretch of the coast comes at a price, but it’s possible to have a more affordable Riviera lifestyle in towns such as Sori, Arenzano, or Camogli, which sits on the same peninsula as Portofino and is famed for its Fish Festival in May and the candle-lit Stella Maris sea festival in August.
Inland, the ancient village of Sarzana sits between Versilia and the picture postcard Cinqueterre, providing an ideal base from which to explore Liguria and Tuscany.
The western side of Liguria has the same wonderful climate and all the benefits of the French Riviera at its fingertips. Its beaches are a continuation of those on the Cote d’Azur, providing the opportunity to enjoy similarly beautiful scenery from its apartments and Art Nouveau villas overlooking the sea, but without the high prices. A short drive into Italy from Nice airport are palm lined coastal towns such as Ventimiglia, with its French flavour and beautiful beaches, Bordighera, long admired by writers and artists, and Ospedaletti, which has a discreet charm among its old town streets of fishermen’s houses.
Nearby Sanremo, a large town with period villas and grand hotels, is famous for such annual events as its music festival and the Milan-Sanremo cycling race. It is also known as the ‘city of flowers’ and is a prodigious producer of olive oil, all of which can be found in its regular open-air and food markets.
Liguria has a predominately Mediterranean climate and is renowned for its mild climate all year round with little rain. Average summer temperatures are around 25-28°C with winters between 6-11°C. Annual temperatures are not subject to such wide fluctuations as in other parts of Italy and Central Europe and with 300 sunny days in the year, Liguria is one of the sunniest regions in Italy, and is therefore a popular holiday destination in every season.
History of the area
Each of the pretty villages of the region seems to have its own unique claim to history. Impressive, elegant mansions and wonderfully historic churches all bear witness to a glorious past, whilst blending into contemporary living. The golden age stretched throughout the 16th and 17th centuries and the region abounds with superb examples of architecture from this period.
Sanremo, where elegant mansions lie along the coast sheltered by steep slopes, was, for a time, the home of Tchaikovsky. A stretch of the coast is known as ‘Poets’ Gulf’ because of its popularity with such literary figures as Yeats, DH Lawrence and Shelley.
The first tennis club in Italy was founded in Bordighera in 1878. There remains, to this day, a strong tradition of enjoying tennis along the Italian Riviera.
Liguria, like much of Italy, loves festivals and celebrations. Across the region, you will find festivals celebrating everything from horseracing or medieval games to olive oil, flowers, fruit and fish. These, alongside traditional religious and folk festivals take place all year round.
The paintings and sculptures of Genoa, found in churches and museums are among the finest in northwest Italy.
Genoa is the birthplace of the violinist, guitarist and composer Paganini and there are regular celebrations of his life and work. The traditional harmonious singing of the Genoese dock workers (also metal workers, longshoremen and stevedores) called Trallalero is also still practiced in Liguria. Music (classical and modern) is celebrated and enjoyed by all Italians and excellent small scale or local festivals take place throughout the year across Liguria. For example, Sanremo is well known for the annual Sanremo Festival of Italian popular music and the town of Cervo hosts a prestigious festival of chamber music each year.
Most Italian cities are superb places to eat and explore food – and Genoa is one of the very best. Ligurian olive oil is of the finest quality and makes an appearance in many local specialties. Pesto is the signature sauce of the region. Pasta is often served with a hazelnut sauce called salsa di noci. A delicious deep fried vegetable pasty called Gattafin is a local specialty. Veal either cold-stuffed or as meatballs forms the basis of many typical dishes. Because the vast majority of the population lives on or near the coast, fish and seafood are as common as meat and dairy - in particular, anchovies, octopus, clams, cuttlefish and salt or wind-dried cod. Hiking is a great way to admire the landscape, especially the well-trodden coastal path linking the Cinque Terre - five stunning villages nestled into one of the most rugged parts of the Ligurian coast. Cycling is also extremely popular across the region and all manner of water sports can be pursued along the ample coast. In the winter there are wonderful cross-country and skiing opportunities found in the Ligurian hinterland.
Types of property available
The region offers a wide variety of property types from stylish town apartments to charming period and modern villas.
Many apartments in the main towns are within converted period villas with the vast majority offering sea views. Grand period villas sit beside modern interpretations, all blending seamlessly into the surrounding countryside.
Several parts are characterized by the colourful fishing village properties that cling to the coastal cliffs, whilst a little inland larger villas and farmhouses offer land, olive groves and vines.
Direct flights to Nice and Genoa from London operate several times daily, with most other major European cities also servicing the area. The main airport for the region is Aeroporto Christopher Colombo in Genoa and there is also excellent access to the region from Nice International Airport – located just 55km from Sanremo.
Access to the region is also boosted by the main motorway located along the coastline, connecting the main ports of Nice, Savona, Genoa and La Spezia. A straightforward and well-maintained train link also runs along this route.
If you are a keen walker or cyclist there is the Cycling Riviera (Parco Costiero del Ponente Ligure) cycleway which runs for 24 kilometres between San Lorenzo al Mare and Ospedelettti passing through San Remo on the western side of the region. The path follows the course of the old railway line that ran along the coast and is entirely traffic free.
Read more about property in Italy in our Italian View publication.