If you’ve heard of the Cinque Terre, you should probably also know about Liguria’s Golfo Paradiso, located on the Italian Riviera… and maybe even consider it as an alternative!
With its five seaside towns (the same as the Cinque Terre), lush landscapes, and beautiful views, Golfo Paradiso is one of the most beautiful stretches of Italian coastline. Which explains its name: “Golfo Paradiso” literally means “paradise gulf”!
The Italian Riviera’s Golfo Paradiso might also be even easier to reach than the Cinque Terre. The coastal area is located just under 7 miles (11km) from Genoa. (You can get to Genoa either by flying into the Genoa Cristoforo Colombo Airport, or by taking a train to the city’s Piazza Principe station).
The best way to enjoy Golfo Paradiso’s hidden gems and breathtaking views? Rent a car or motorbike and cruise down the SS1 highway—or go by bicycle, if you’re feeling adventurous! (And please be careful!).
Want to know more about where to go in Golfo Paradiso? Each of the area’s five small towns have their own distinct character, cuisine, and attractions.
To help you get started, here’s a bit about each!
This tiny, traditional Ligurian village boasts the clear blue water so renowned of the Italian Riviera… dotted, of course, with fishing boats and surfboards. If you’re a surfer, or want to learn, come here: Bogliasco has ideal surfing conditions, even during the winter!
A fan of flowers? Beeline here. The most verdant of the five towns, Pieve Ligure is known for its flower blossoms. (In fact, the bright yellow mimosa, or acacia, flower is the town’s symbol). On the second weekend of February, tourists flock to the Mimosa Festival to enjoy the themed parade—and, of course, to collect mimosa bouquets to give to their loved ones on International Women’s Day (March 8).
Fact: Liguria has fantastic food. And one of the region’s most classic dishes, trofie pasta, got its start here in Sori. Trofie are made from flour and water, then hand-rolled into small, irregular spirals. You’ll find trofie on most of the area’s menus; they’re typically served with fresh pesto, string beans and boiled potatoes.
Even better than the food in Sori? The pristine coastline. I soresi, the locals, take great pride in their environment, and work to preserve its tranquility and quality. No high-rises here!
Read more: The Cinque Terre Train: A How-To Guide
As much as we love the food in Sori (and across the Italian Riviera… and, okay, all of Liguria), it’s Recco that’s known as the gastronomic capital of the Golfo Paradiso.
Why? Because Recco is the birthplace of two Ligurian specialties. The first, focaccia con il formaggio di Recco, is a plate of the paper-thin bread covered with creamy stracchino cheese. Usually served on a huge circular wooden dish, it’s so delicious, focaccia enthusiasts travel from far and wide just to have a taste! But make sure to save room for the second specialty, pansoti. This pasta is like ravioli, only smaller, meatless, and filled with cheese—and it’s usually topped with a luscious walnut sauce.
Camogli is famous for its freshly-caught fish (don’t miss the anchovies!), regal sailing ships, and colorfully-painted homes.
Camogli also hosts two fascinating (and fun!) annual events. The first, the Sagra del Pesce (“Feast of the Fish”), is a huge fish fry that takes place every year on the second Sunday in March. Locals and tourists gather around an enormous frying pan (almost 13 feet, or 4 meters, in diameter!) to get a taste of some of the Italian Riviera’s freshest seafood. (Even if you’re not in town for the festival, you can pay homage to it by going to see the historic, even-larger frying pan on display near the marina).
Meanwhile, on the first Sunday of August, Camogli hosts the Stella Maris. The event was inspired by a mosaic from 400 A.D., located in the town’s San Nicolò di Capodimonte church, that depicts the Madonna as a procuress of sailors. The event starts with a cannon blast in the morning, announcing the departure of Dragun (a famous pirate ship) and its followers. The boats return to land after sundown. In a stunning spectacle, locals illuminate the dark sea for the sailors by placing hundreds of glowing lanterns on the water.