Liguria may be famous for its glitzy Riviera resorts, but there’s far more to this beautiful corner of northern Italy than beaches, boutiques and yachts. As always, we’ve journeyed beyond the tourist hotspots to seek out secret valleys, secluded coves and the very best places to eat, drink and stay. Here’s a look at some of our favourite hideaways…
Vibe: A tranquil retreat in an old stone house, with 4 pretty guest rooms, ancient beams and plenty of gastronomic flair. Butterflies flit among the vines on the terrace, and views soar out over wooded slopes to the Med sparkling far below.
Setting: The tiny hilltop hamlet of Chiesanouva, high above the Ligurian coast. The famous pastel-coloured villages of the Cinque Terre lie just around the headland, and scenic footpaths lead out in every direction.
Why we love it: Last week’s focaccia recipe post gave a taste of the foodie delights which await at La Sosta, and delicious bread is just the start. As well as multi-course dinners prepared by talented chef Lucca, you can look forward to cooking classes, olive-oil tastings, a vast selection of wines, and breakfast spreads packed with local ingredients.
Top tip: Book a session of ‘dry-stone-wall watching’ – much more interesting than it sounds! Local guide Silvia Mertens will explain the history of the area’s Unesco-listed vineyards, which consist of stone-walled terraces carved into the steep hillsides, before you sit down to sample their wares.
Vibe: An elegant pink palazzo that’s been given a thoroughly modern makeover by ad-exec owner Mario. Inside are 6 minimalist rooms adorned with contemporary Italian art; outside, banks of fragrant lavender and a turquoise pool flanked by lemon and magnolia trees.
Setting: On the edge of yellow- and ochre-hued Camogli, whose seafront promenade brims with restaurants and ice-cream parlours. It’s a short train or boat hop from glittering Portofino and Santa Margherita, and within easy reach of the magnificently moody Ligurian capital, Genoa.
Why we love it: The impeccable interiors pair white walls and sleek furniture with eye-catching pops of colour, and the garden is perfect for lazy poolside siestas. All in all, it’s a wonderfully stylish base in a pretty harbour town.
Top tip: Take the little ferry round to Portofino and climb up to the very splendid Hotel Splendido, whose terrace is a great spot for sunset aperitivi and people-watching.
Vibe: A friendly, family-run guesthouse, whose 14 elegant rooms are spread over 3 beautifully restored buildings. There’s also a flower-filled garden with a pool and a bubbling Jacuzzi.
Setting: Sleepy little Borgomaro – population 884 at the last count. It’s the main village in the peaceful Maro Valley, and just a 20-minute drive from sandy beaches.
Why we love it: The village is enchanting – a crumbling jumble of houses lining a gushing river, with a 17th-century church and a square where children play barefoot. Relais del Maro’s owner Elena and her mother welcome you with big smiles, and you’ll soon feel part of local life.
Top tip: Stroll a couple of minutes up the road to Censin da Bea, a rustic trattoria in a converted watermill. There’s no menu; instead, dish after dish emerges from the kitchen and you help yourself to whatever takes your fancy – local salami and cheeses, slow-cooked stews, just-caught eels, creamy tiramisu and even the occasional snail.