Grand Cities and Classic Riviera Villages: Turin, Santa Margherita Ligure, Cinque Terre, & More - 11 Days
- Eat delicious regional specialties like Pesto & Focaccia
- Sunbathe on rocky beaches and soak in the relaxed vibe of the Italian Riviera
- Explore Portofino, a welcoming old-world fishing community
- Explore the medieval city center and churches of Turin, visit the Cinema and Egypt museums
- Go hunting for truffles with trained dogs in the Piedmont countryside
|Day 1||Arrive in Milan, Transfer to Turin||Turin|
|Day 2||Turin Walking Tour||Turin|
|Day 3||Truffle Hunting in Alba||Turin|
|Day 4||Turin to Camogli||Camogli|
|Day 5||Free Day in Camogli||Camogli|
|Day 6||Camogli to Santa Margherita Ligure, Visit Portofino||Santa Margherita Ligure|
|Day 7||Self-Guided Day Trip to Genoa||Santa Margherita Ligure|
|Day 8||Santa Margherita Ligure to Cinque Terre||Cinque Terre|
|Day 9||Wine Tasting in the Cinque Terre||Cinque Terre|
|Day 10||Cinque Terre to Milan||Milan|
|Day 11||Goodbye Italy|
Day 1: Arrive in Milan, Transfer to Turin
Welcome to Italy! From one of Milan's international airports, you'll be taking a train ride west to Torino, known as Turin to the English-speaking world. The journey is around 2.5 hours from the airport, usually changing at Milano Porta Garibaldi station. The capital of the Piedmont region, Turin is known for its elaborate architecture and excellent local cuisine. The train station where you'll be arriving is centrally located, so you can quickly check in to your hotel and familiarize yourself with your surroundings.
Take a walk to a city square—both Piazza Castello and Piazza San Carlo are good options—for coffee and a delicious baked sweet treat to reinvigorate you after your travels. The following activities are all excellent ways to spend your next several hours.
- Visit the interactive National Cinema Museum, housed in a 19th-century Jewish Synagogue.
- Wander through Turin's old town and Europe's largest open-air market, Porta Palazzo. The Piedmont region is famed for its truffles, cheeses, and meats- sample and purchase many mouthwatering examples of these here.
- Cross the river over the Ponte Vittorio Emanuele I bridge to the Santa Maria del Monte dei Cappuccini church. The walk is uphill but not steep, and you'll be rewarded with panoramic views of the entire city after the climb.
To experience excellent examples of regional cuisine, head to the riverside area near the Piazza Vittoria Veneto for a delicious meal.
Day 2: Turin Walking Tour
After breakfast, you'll resume exploring Turin, a city famous for its sophisticated and historic architecture, shaded gardens, libraries, museums, and theaters. It's one of Italy's most fascinating cities, named in the New York Times "52 Places to Visit" in 2016.
Spend the day exploring the city on a walking tour. After meeting your guide, you'll start in the heart of the city at the iconic Piazza Castello and visit the Royal Palace, one of the city's most distinctive buildings. The Palace was the main symbol of the Savoy house when the capital moved from Chambery to Turin, and the greatest artists of the time were commissioned to create this Baroque masterpiece. Visit the ornate galleries and library, stroll through the gardens and the Royal Armory, and see the adjacent Cathedral that houses the Holy Shroud.
The entirety of the Piazza Castello was designed in concert to give the buildings a cohesive style. One of the buildings hides a great architectural treasure, the San Lorenzo Church. This baroque, octagonal building contains beautiful inner chapels and a soaring cupola with eight windows bathing the interior in sunlight.
Afterward, visit the Turin Egyptian Museum, the world’s oldest museum dedicated to ancient Egyptian culture and artifacts, with your guide. When the tour finishes, enjoy a coffee at a historic cafe nearby. Turin's cafes are legendary, with a long history as meeting places for artists, writers, and political refugees. Aristocracy, poets, bella gente, opera composers, and other lovers of the arts also sought out these cafes for their cozy atmosphere. Try the local drink, bicerin—a decadent mix of drinking chocolate, coffee, and whipped milk or cream.
In your free time, immerse yourself in Italian culture and buy your lunch from a local street food vendor. You'll see many Italians standing around eating sandwiches and catching up on their lunch breaks. We recommend spending your afternoon at one of these places of interest:
- Head to the Parco del Valentino for a late afternoon stroll through the sprawling medieval riverside park and check out the replica medieval village.
- Stop by the Parco Archeologico Torri Palatine to see the Palatine Towers, the world's best-preserved Roman city walls from the 1st century.
In the evening, you'll find many restaurants in the Quadrilatero market district serving great regional specialties for dinner. Feel free to ask your guide for a local recommendation.
Day 3: Truffle Hunting in Alba
Today, you will experience the art of truffle hunting on a tour of Piedmont's countryside. Italian truffles are some of the most sought-after culinary ingredients in the world and are a well-loved feature of Mediterranean cuisine. Often served shaved over pasta, they add a distinctive and earthy flavor that is irresistible.
Start your day in Turin and head out on a search for Alba white truffles, some of the world's rarest and most expensive foods, growing wild in the heart of Piedmont. When you get to the forest, you'll be guided by your expert truffle hunter (known as Trifulau in the local dialect) and his trusty four-legged companion, the Tabui or truffle dog. You'll learn all about the origins and importance of harvesting white truffles from your expert guide. When your hunt is complete, you'll purchase what you've bagged at a great price, and take them to a local gourmet restaurant. There, the chef will grate, slice or shave your truffles onto the dish of your choice. After spending the morning hunting for the rare truffles, you'll enjoy this expertly crafted meal as a picnic lunch complete with other regional delicacies and local wine.
In the afternoon, you'll return to Turin and have time to explore at your own leisure. We'd recommend the following activities:
- Visit the designer shops and private galleries on the street Via della Rocca.
- Head to Palazzo Scaglia di Verrua, an ornate indoor courtyard filled with shops, or Piazza Benefica market to haggle for a bargain.
- Visit a chocolatier or a cafe serving locally-made coffee to accompany your sweet treats. The chocolate here is creamy and delicious. The most renowned chocolatiers in the area have been around since the 19th-century.
Later, enjoy a quiet evening in the San Salvario neighborhood with drinks at a local wine bar or piazza cafe, and dinner at a family-run trattoria in the same area.
Day 4: Turin to Camogli
Leave Turin behind after breakfast and transfer to the Italian Riviera by rail. The train journey is around 3.5 hours, traveling through the hilly landscapes of Piedmont. Camogli, typical of the Italian Riviera, is a charming and romantic town by the sea with colorful houses lining the shore. Check in to your new hotel and take it easy as you get to know this pretty, tranquil town on your own this afternoon.
Get lost in the narrow streets of the town's center. Notice the unique design of each building, and don't forget to look up at the ornate decorations. Explore the two main streets, Via Garibaldi and Via XX Settembre. The latter is above the first, close to the train station with a weekly market on Wednesdays. Via Garibaldi runs parallel to the beach and is a nice place to shop for crafts or to sit and watch the waves over a cappuccino.
For lunch, eat fresh focaccia from a café or bakery and stroll along the promenade. The local specialty is focaccia di recco, which is thinner than you might be used to and has stracchino cheese melted in the middle. As you walk, you can watch the local fishermen on their boats in the harbor and take photos at the end of the pier.
Visit one of the many churches around the village, most notably the Basilica Minore di Santa Maria Assunta on the seafront, or the Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Wood by the ruins of an old castle. The Madonna is said to have appeared at the latter in 1500. You can also explore the 13th-century Castello della Dragonar- it has an interesting interior with great views out to sea.
In the evening, you'll find good, fresh seafood served in restaurants along Via Garibaldi. Ask for a seat on the terrace if the weather is good, and listen to waves crashing as you dine.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 5: Free Day in Camogli
As today is a free day, its up to you how you'd like to occupy your time here. Enjoy your hotel breakfast and head out to discover Camogli! Here are some recommendations:
- Relax on the grey, pebbled beach and take a swim in the turquoise water. The village has a variety of options for lounging and swimming, including private and public beaches. Looking at Camogli from the sea, you'll really notice and appreciate the beauty of the pastel houses and the surrounding hills.
- Camogli's Marine Museum has artifacts from the maritime history of the Liguria region.
- Follow the short walking trail to San Rocco. This is a very worthwhile afternoon activity to walk off some delicious focaccia and take in excellent views. Past the olive and fig orchards and vineyards, you'll come to a set of steps (around 300) leading to San Rocco. After climbing, you'll find a very small village with a nice church, and a gorgeous view from the top of the hill. Enjoy a well deserved, chilled drink at a bar and look out onto the Bay of Tiguillio to Sestri Levante. If it's a clear day, you might spot Corsica before making your way back down to Camogli.
In the evening, you'll find good restaurants along the waterfront or Via Settembre. Pesto and seafood are on most menus and they're deliciously fresh in Camogli. Watch the sunset and take a pleasant stroll back to your hotel.
Day 6: Camogli to Santa Margherita Ligure, Visit Portofino
Today, you'll transfer to Santa Margherita Ligure, another coastal town and the capital of the Liguria region, reached easily by a very short train ride. Enjoy a final morning in Camogli, then arrive in time for lunch at your next stop. Santa Margherita Ligure is a picturesque and compact town, where everything you need is within walking distance. From the train station, check in to your hotel, change into your beach clothes and head out on a self-guided day discovering the town, as well as nearby Portofino.
In the summertime, Santa Margherita Ligure sparkles with a festive atmosphere. The beaches are filled with Italians laying on sunbeds and terraces are teeming with people enjoying a drink or gelato while looking out to sea. Enjoy a walk down to the fishing port, where you'll see the small boats and fishermen who supply the town's hotels and restaurants with fresh fish daily. On your walk, stop by the Santa Margherita Ligure Castle and Villa Durazzo. The castle is positioned on the promenade, and many people stop to take a photo of the ancient Genovese remains. Villa Durazzo is a famous 17th-century property, built by the Durazzo family as their summer home. The beautifully decorated house and art collections are open all year round for visitors. The exterior gardens were designed much later by Alfredo Chierichetti in the 1920s, and are divided into four main areas: a citrus orchard, the Italian garden, the romantic English woods, and a secret garden.
Portofino is around 5 km from Santa Margherita Ligure, in the heart of the Italian Riviera. If you are looking to stretch your legs, it's possible to walk to Portofino- this would take around 1 hour at a steady pace. The jaunt along the coast is very relaxed, and you will pass nice beaches and cafes where you can stop for lunch or a gelato break. Alternatively, you can take a quick taxi ride from the center of Santa Margherita Ligure.
Portofino, one of the many small fishing villages that lie along the Ligurian Sea, is a sight to behold, with colorfully painted houses tumbling down to a historic fishing port. One of Portofino's main sights is the Statue of Christ of the Abyss, which lies 56 feet (17 m) below the waves on the seafloor in memory of Dario Gonzatti, the first Italian to use diving gear. Other notable sights include the 16th-century Castello Brown, the 12th-century Church of St. Martin, and the Gothic Oratory of Santa Maria Assunta.
The town itself, of course, is the main attraction. Charming, narrow streets lined with shops, art galleries, cafes, and restaurants lead up from the water. The beaches and tranquil town piazzas are full of families and couples enjoying the sunny weather. Spend the afternoon unwinding by exploring the town's enticing streets on foot.
For dinner, you can stay in Portofino or head back to Santa Margherita Ligure. Both have similar types of cuisine and restaurants serving fresh seafood with a sea view. To get back to Santa Margherita Ligure, take a taxi from Portofino or walk the 3-mile (5 km) route back before sunset. Find the perfect evening spot and relax.
Day 7: Self-Guided Day Trip to Genoa
The scenic coastal train from Santa Margherita Ligure to Genoa is around 50 minutes, passing through other Riviera towns before arriving at Genoa Brignole Station. The city of Genoa is replete with beautiful historic palaces and monuments from the 12th century onward. With a full day to explore at your own pace, you have an embarrassment of stunning buildings, interesting museums, and iconic streets to wander. There are two sides of this city, both worth seeing: the historic center and the waterfront harbor and port.
Upon exiting the train station, head right onto Via Serra and over the Piazza Corvetto roundabout. Continue straight through the Villetta Di Negro park and on the left you will find the beginning of Via Garibaldi, the most famous street in Genoa. On Via Garibaldi, there are many extravagant and luxurious Renaissance palaces open to the public. You can purchase a ticket to enter all the Rolli Palaces, which together make up the Strada Nuova Museums- each one is unique and spectacular. Together, they are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, beautifully maintained since the 1550s to display the rich work of their architect, Bernardino Cantone.
There are no less than 13 palaces on this street. Wander from one end of the street to the other, entering the ones which catch your eye. You can't always judge a building by its exterior- we recommend visiting:
- Palazzo Doria Tursi (a very important building to Genoa and museum dedicated to the Italian musician Niccolo Paganini)
- Palazzo Rosso (identifiable by the red bricks and accessible roof with views across the city and port)
- Palazzo Bianco (which houses European art in the Gallery of the White Palace)
These three palaces are all located toward the end of Via Garibaldi.
From here, walk down towards the seafront along the harbor, passing by Europe's biggest aquarium and the Maritime Museum. There are lots of nice waterfront restaurants in the many squares- feel free to stop for lunch, typically served between 12-2 pm in Italy. Be sure to get the local specialty, pasta with Genovese pesto made from basil, olive oil, parmesan, and pine nuts.
If you prefer to keep walking, the medieval center also offers quality places for lunch just off Via San Lorenzo. Genoa is also known for its thriving street food scene, so you can find snacks sold in sciamaddes and friggitories (small food vendors). You will find fresh foccacia, chick-pea crepes (farinate), fried anchovies, and roasted snails among the delicacies to try here. Most of these vendors are located in the Carruggi, a series of narrow cobbled streets in the medieval part of the center, close to the San Lorenzo Cathedral.
While in the Old Town, we recommend:
- San Lorenzo Cathedral, a Romanesque building constructed from white marble and local Ligurian black stone.
- The Palazzo Ducale, or the Doge's Palace. There are 42 palaces in Genoa and this is one of the most significant. You can buy a combination ticket for the Palace and other museums in the Piazza Giacomo Matteotti square.
- Having a coffee and snapping photos by the fountain at Piazza De Ferrari.
- Browsing the best shops in Genoa on Via XX Settembre and Via San Vincenzo.
- Taking in the smells and tastes of the Mercato Orientale food market (off the Via XX Settembre).
- Walking up to the Piazza Portello, a square just behind the Via Garibaldi where you began the day (follow the main roads up from Piazza De Ferrari). This hidden spot is worth your time. Here, you'll find the elevator of Castello Levante/Spianta to take you to a panoramic viewpoint. It's best to watch the sunset and enjoy a gelato or aperitivo here, while taking in the whole city. You'll notice the monuments and buildings you've visited throughout the day as you sit atop the site of an old fortress.
Genoa is a great city to explore on your own and, hopefully, you're returning back to Santa Margherita Ligure feeling full, satisfied, and the best kind of tired. Lean back into your seat and return by train to enjoy a rejuvenating evening at your accommodation.
Day 8: Santa Margherita Ligure to Cinque Terre
You're moving on down the Riviera coastline again today! You will transfer by train to your hotel in one of the villages of Cinque Terre. The Cinque Terre is a rugged strip of the Ligurian coastline made up of five old fishing villages—Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. The coast, villages, and surrounding hillsides are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The region is renowned for its stunning natural beauty and the abundance of Mediterranean plants that cover the scrubby hillside, tumbling down to the turquoise water. The historic villages and breathtaking appearance of the region make it a popular choice for travelers. The historic towns prohibit vehicles in order to preserve the traditional charm, so most travelers arrive by train that runs along the coast, or by tour boat.
The area's coastal hiking trails are some of the world's best, linking the small villages together via a beautiful footpath. The path from Riomaggiore to Manarola is called the Via Dell'Amore (Italian for Lover's Walk). Its midpoint, The Lover's Lock, a statue of two people kissing, is a favorite place for couples to stop and copy the gesture for a photo. Bring a small lock to attach to one of the gates or rails if you like, it is considered a gesture that seals your eternal love.
The Cinque Terre villages are all equally charming and worth a visit during your stay. You'll be able to board the local express train, which connects all five villages. We recommend getting a day pass ticket, which will allow you to hop on and off the local train throughout the day, visiting the villages at your leisure. The train arrives hourly at each town. Keep in mind that the train stations are located above the towns and require a bit of a walk uphill or down through the steep town streets. Peruse the following suggestions, then head out to make the most of your time on this sunny coast:
- Soak in the sunshine, sunbathe on the rocks, or dive off the steep cliffs into the turquoise water at one of the Cinque Terre's beaches. The sandy Monterosso Beach has both public and private sections. Vernazza Beach is rocky and perfect for sunbathing, and while not technically part of the Cinque Terre, Levanto Beach is unusually long, rare for the area
- Visit the 17th-century Church of San Francesco to see fine art, including a depiction of the Crucifixion by Antoon Van Dyck, as well as notable Italian painters of the 17th- and 18th- centuries
- Tour the 1,000-year-old Castello Doria in Vernazza, the Cinque Terre's oldest surviving structure, for sweeping views of the town and harbor
- Climb the Scalinata Lardarina, a steep 377-step staircase that connects the harbor with the village of Corniglia. Here, you'll find some of the Cinque Terre's best views
- Dive into the 14th century at the Chiesa di San Lorenzo in Manarola, an immersive experience into the art and architecture of that time period
- The Cinque Terre has no shortage of churches—visit a few of them, including the Santuario di Nostra Signora di Montenero in Riomaggiore and the Church of San Giovanni Battista in Corniglia
- Explore the 13th-century Castello Di Riomaggiore, which dominates the Cinque Terre coastline. Built to protect the town from seafaring pirates, the castle is now simply a throwback to a different time, as well as a great place for photographs. Head inside the castle to see the exhibit displaying centuries of town history.
- Walk up to the Torre Aurora, a medieval castle that stands on the intersection of Monterosso's Old Town and New Town
- Pay a visit to Cantina 5 Terre in Riomaggiore, the Cinque Terre's only major winery, to learn about how ancient traditions mix with modern-day production techniques here, producing a unique and flavorful wine. Sample the wines, especially the local white, and enjoy a relaxing afternoon.
Spend the day exploring the towns at your leisure, before heading back to your hotel. If you have a favorite village, make a reservation for dinner and return later in the evening. You'll be sure to head home feeling wowed by the places you've visited today.
Day 9: Wine Tasting in the Cinque Terre
Start the day today with a guided hike up to a Riomaggiore vineyard, where your expert guide will explain the region's tradition of wine-making. Here, each family owns a small piece of terraced vineyard on the steep cliffs above the village. The family lots, which pass down from generation to generation, have been terraced and cultivated in the same way for centuries. The locals take a lot of pride in growing their own family wine and taking care of the delicate grapevines the same way their ancestors did.
The town and vineyard both enjoy sweeping views over the coastline and surrounding hills. Learn about this region’s centuries-old techniques as you walk through the rows of grapes. The focus here is on making high-quality wine without using any chemical products, and the results are the pride of the Cinque Terre region.
Enjoy a tour of the vineyard, then sample two local wines to experience the delicate fruit flavors for yourself, and see how organic wine-making makes a difference in flavor. Nibble on traditional Ligurian focaccia bread as you learn more about the production of the specific vintages and take in the views from the vineyard.
After the three-hour tour, head back to town to find a family-owned cafe for lunch, then spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the rest of the Cinque Terre villages, easily accessible through the network of boat and train lines that ferry locals and travelers from town to town.
There will be plenty of time in each village to learn about its past, explore its individual charms, and buy gifts before returning to your home base for the evening.
Day 10: Cinque Terre to Milan
Check out of your hotel after breakfast and make your way to Milan by train. From the Cinque Terre, the journey is around 4 hours, so sit back and enjoy the scenic ride. Milan is known as the fashion capital of Italy, the place where everything happens. The city is a center for business, shopping, and culture, as well as medieval art and beautiful architecture. Old monuments and buildings destroyed by World War II bombings have been restored, and the new construction and modern architecture give Milan a sophisticated vibe. Milan represents modern Italy.
Many of Milan's famous historical sights are clustered together in the heart of the city, with easy access from the train station. Consequently, it will be easy and straightforward to explore on your own today while you get acquainted with the city. Top sights include: the striking Gothic Duomo (one of the world's largest), the La Scala Opera House, the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele (a glamorous early 20th-century indoor shopping mall), the Pirelli Tower, and the medieval Castello Sforzesco. Milan is also home to one of the world's most famous paintings, Leonardo da Vinci's 'The Last Supper', housed at the Santa Maria della Grazie monastery.
If there's enough time in the afternoon, a stroll through the downtown district is an excellent way to spend part of the day. We recommend a visit to the 16th-century Royal Palace, a sprawling neoclassical palace turned art museum, to explore the city's history and art. Although the building suffered great damage during World War II, it has been beautifully restored and is now a renowned cultural center.
In the evening, head to the Navigli at Porta Genova, Milan's ancient network of canals and passages used for transporting goods and supplies across the city. At night, these streets transform with crowds of locals and tourists meeting friends at bars and enjoying aperitivos. Come for the festive energy, stay for the great wine bars and people watching before finding a nearby spot for dinner.
Day 11: Goodbye Italy
Your journey in Italy will end after breakfast, with a transfer to the airport to catch your flight home or to your next destination. Arrivederci!