Liguria Paradiso
Liguria, Un Paradiso di Mare e Montagna (Cinque Terre, Portofino... but not only)

Liguria is the region of Northern Italy where the Alps and Apennines drop steeply and dramatically into the Mediterranean sea. Its lush climate and spectacular landscape make it a true paradise for walkers and gourmands alike. On this tour, we’ll follow beautiful trails through both the stunning Cinque Terre region and the splendid promontory of Portofino. We will also explore places overlooked by the typical tourist, as one need only head a short distance from the crowds to experience another world. Cooking class possibility on the final day with local chef, a real character.

Day 1

Into the Val di Vara

After we meet our guide and driver in Milan , we’ll cross over the Apennines into Liguria and the green Val di Vara, a valley inhabited since pre-historic times. Our destination today is a remarkable town with a seemingly endless supply of fantastic trattorie. So today we’ll indulge a bit on some of the typical antipasti for lunch, before we set out to explore the town and surrounding countryside on foot. Our afternoon reconnoitering will ensure that our appetites are re-stimulated for the evening repast.

Day 2

Levanto - Monterosso

In the morning, we leave the Val di Vara for the coast of the Cinque Terre. While we’ll be dropped off at the train station in Levanto, our bags will be taken directly to our hotel in the next town, Monterosso al Mare, the easternmost village of the Cinque Terre. The five villages are difficult to reach by car, so the best way to explore them is on foot and via the excellent train system, which we will take advantage of in the coming days.

After having explored the charming center of Levanto, we’ll start our walk along the narrow trail on the right side of the medieval church of San Giorgio. Climbing steadily for about two hours we’ll reach an isolated country house where the owner – a friend of the guides - will offer us homemade lemonade, served on his terrace overlooking the Mediterranean. Refreshed, we’ll continue our climb to Punta Mesco, the most notable promontory in the Cinque Terre. Before we reach Punta Mesco, we’ll make a small detour to the ruins of an 11th century hermitage and a nearby ‘semaforo’ (beacon), to experience absolutely breathtaking views. From there, we’ll follow the forest trails that will signal our descent into the northern end of Monterosso, using a narrow set of steps that will be a good test for the knees. Once we’re on flat terrain, we’ll cross the small town, strolling along the beach to our accommodations.

Day 3

Cinque Terre National Park

We start today directly from Monterosso for the fishing village of Vernazza, walking along a beautiful trail sculpted out of the hillside. Vernazza, probably the most beautiful of the five Cinque Terre villages, is set around a small harbor, and dotted with pastel-colored houses that seem about to tumble into the sea. We’ll have time to take in the sights, dine on focacce and branzino (sea bass) at a table in the piazza, and even go for a swim off the little beach, before continuing our walk towards Corniglia, the next of the five cities. Set upon the summit of a jagged cliff directly above the sea and surrounded by steeply terraced vineyards and olive groves, Corniglia is not as well-known as Vernazza, but is just as charming. We’ll enjoy an aperitif as we view Manarola and Riomaggiore, the final two villages of the Cinque Terre, further along the coast.

Day 4

A little sorpresa…

A special hike and lunch is planned for today, to one of the region’s best-kept secrets… non-disclosure agreements must be signed, naturally, but we’ll seal the bargain with a sip or two of a fabulous local passito dessert wine ;-).

Day 5

Portofino Coast

In the morning we’ll travel by train from Monterosso to the elegant Santa Margherita Ligure. After a leisurely stroll through town, we’ll take a boat ride along the rocky coastline of the Portofino Promontory to the medieval abbey of San Fruttuoso, hidden in a secluded natural harbor. After a short rest on the beach in front of the Abbey, we’ll climb through Mediterranean forest to simple farmhouses covered with valeriana and musky ginestra flowers, finding our way along paths lined with terraces overlooking the sea. As beautiful, gated villas come into view, so will the tiny harbor of Portofino, which will likely be packed with incredible yachts from all over the world. After lunch, we’ll walk to the nearby lighthouse, where we’ll have a great view off the entire Tigullio Gulf. We’ll also take the opportunity to visit the town’s shops and galleries, before returning to Santa Margherita. We’ll check into our new hotel overlooking the port, where we’ll find our luggage and a wonderful meal awaiting us.

Day 6

Departure (with Options)

While our tour ends officially this morning, those who wish to spend a little more time on the coast may choose to join us as we meet a wonderful chef (and a real character) at his restaurant, help him pick aromatic herbs and vegetables in his garden and assist him in his lunch and dinner preparation. Afterwards we’ll join him for lunch, relishing the fruits of our labor.

For those who have other travel plans, we would be happy to see you off from the train station, or arrange transportation for you to your next destination.
Walking Level
2 – with some steep ascents/descents, sturdy trail-running or hiking boots recommended.

Group minimum 6, maximum 12; includes accommodations (inn with amazing restaurant in Varese Ligure, lovely B&B in Monterosso, 4-star hotel in Santa Margherita), all cultural visits, 2 lunches, 2 dinners, transportation, guide and driver costs.

Also with cooking class experience on Day 6.

On request, spring & fall recommended

Tour Notes
This tour is recommended from March to June and late September to November. This is of course just a taste of what can be experienced in the region – we would recommend at least one additional day for exploring the less-traveled region just to the south of the Cinque Terre; please contact us for more details.

Recommended pre-tour visits include two days in the cities of Parma, Modena, Bologna or Milan, while post-trip visits could include the Riviera dei Fiori (see end of Smuggler’s Return itinerary), Langhe, Monferrato or Lakes.