There’s something for everyone on the Italian Riviera, a stretch of Mediterranean coastline in the northwestern corner of Italy that features a magical blend of Ligurian cuisine, perfect beaches, charming and colorful small towns, and light outdoor adventure. It’s also, happily, a gorgeous destination almost all year round, though sun seekers should aim for the summer and shoulder seasons, April to October. Winter, however, is fairly mild, and gives you access to all the sparkling parks and hikes without crowds.
Although it comprises many towns and villages, the most known destinations of the Riviera are San Remo, Portofino, Santa Margherita Ligure, and Cinque Terre, the famed series of villages stacked against the jagged coast, renowned for hikes studded with impeccable views. Trains are the best way to get from major Italian cities to these pockets of paradise.
In Portofino, a glamorous port city with endless opportunities to sit in the sun drinking coffee or an aperitivo, there’s Belmond Hotel Splendido, where Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were regulars back in the day. The 16th-century monastery turned luxury hotel offers uncompromising opulence on a craggy hill overlooking the sea, while the sister property Belmond Hotel Splendido Mare is perched with a perfect view of the harbor and has a waterfront restaurant that can’t be missed. The spa is worth an entire day, especially if you’ve been doing any hiking. In Santa Margherita Ligure, try the pink five-star Imperiale Palace Hotel with its own private beach.
In Riomaggiore, the largest and perhaps most colorful of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Cinque Terre villages, there are plenty of boltholes like the friendly Cinque Terre Residence. Vernazza is quaint and beautiful, a great place for an intimate stay at a basic hotel like Albergo Barbara with its epic vistas, while Monterosso has the most luxurious hotel of the five in Porto Roca, offering panoramic terraces and balconies (note that it’s only open March through November). The coast is full of adorable B&Bs, large hotels with vast patios and decks full of vibrant loungers, and even Airbnb apartment rentals if you want to feel like a local. There are endless places to grab a bite, a gelato, a glass of rosé, or even to buy fresh ingredients for cooking. But in Portofino, Lo Stella is a must-eat, according to the experts at Access Italy, a luxury tour company that also sends clients to La Terrazzo and Chuflay for romantic meals out.
While the hiking in Cinque Terre is one of the top draws, and rightfully so—paths weave along the hillsides and change from narrow to steep in the blink of an eye (watch out for super high steps, and stay alert through the towns where you wind through buildings and up stairs)—there are other endeavors to indulge in during a honeymoon here. Boat and yacht excursions are a popular way to spend a day, giving lovers a dose of the jet-set lifestyle and alternate view of the epic coastal landscapes from the water. Access Italy can also arrange private cooking schools, food tours, tastings, and demos for couples, if you hope to bring home some new skills.
Helicopter tours give an even more unique perspective. And don’t forget the wine! The Liguria region is perhaps not as famous as others in Italy, but it makes its fair share of excellent varietals. A perfect day is gaining exclusive access to some the renowned, little-known wineries where you can visit, taste limited-production vinos, and savor a genuinely local lunch. And, of course, says Access Italy’s Simone Amorico, “all honeymoon couples wish to enjoy the local beaches, spas, and simply relax under the Mediterranean sun.” After all, on the Riviera it’s like time is suspended.