Spend 6 days in Northern Italy discovering the myriad charms of the Piedmont region and the Italian Riviera . Learn about the history of Turin on a guided walking tour of major sites, including the Royal Palace and Church of San Lorenzo. Escape the city and stay in relaxed Santa Margherita Ligure on the Italian Riviera. Enjoy walking along the beach to the fishing village of Portofino, and take day trips to explore the Cinque Terre and Genoa.

Highlights

  • Explore the ancient city center and churches of Turin, visit the Cinema and Egypt museums
  • Discover the rugged nature and medieval villages of the Cinque Terre
  • Visit the Rossi Palaces & Old Town in Genoa
  • Sunbathe on rocky beaches and soak in the relaxed vibe of the Italian Riviera

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Milan, Transfer to Turin Turin
Day 2 Turin Walking Tour Turin
Day 3 Turin to Santa Margherita Ligure, Visit Portofino Santa Margherita Ligure
Day 4 Cinque Terre Day Trip from Santa Margherita Ligure Santa Margherita Ligure
Day 5 Self-Guided Day Trip to Genoa Santa Margherita Ligure
Day 6 Goodbye Italy  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Milan, Transfer to Turin

Turin
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

Turin
Piazza Castello, Turin

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: Turin to Santa Margherita Ligure, Visit Portofino

Portofino Harbor

Leave the city behind after breakfast and transfer to the Italian Riviera. The train journey is around 3 hours from Turin, traveling through Emilia-Romagna. You will stay in the capital of the Liguria region in the beachfront town of Santa Margherita Ligure. It is a picturesque and compact town, meaning you have everything you need 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 coastal towns of Santa Margherita Ligure and nearby Portofino.

In the summertime, Santa Margherita Ligure has a holiday atmosphere, the beaches are filled with Italians laying on sunbeds and terraces are filled with people enjoying a drink or gelato whilst they look out to the 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 was 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. Outside the 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 5km from Santa Margherita Ligure in the heart of the Italian Riviera. For those active travelers, it's possible to walk to Portofino and would take around 1 hour at a steady pace. The walk along the coast is very relaxed, as you pass nice beaches and cafes where you can stop for lunch or a gelato break. Alternatively, you can also 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. 

But of course, the main attraction is the town itself. Narrow streets lined with shops, art galleries, cafes, and restaurants lead up from the water, and 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 charming 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 5km route before sunset. Find the perfect evening spot and relax.

Day 4: Cinque Terre Day Trip from Santa Margherita Ligure

Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre

Spend a full day exploring the towns of Cinque Terre with a local guide! This is a section of the Italian coast famous for its medieval villages, stunning cliffs, and beautiful hiking trails. Head to Santa Margherita Ligure train station in the morning to catch a train to Monterosso, one of the five Cinque Terre villages.

Start in Monterosso al Mare with time to explore and learn about the history from your guide. The city's medieval center remains nearly perfectly preserved, with its ancient tower houses and network of carrugi (narrow alleyways that lead from the sea to the cliffs above the town). Monterosso is also renowned for having the best gelato on the Cinque Terre (make sure to try some!) as well as breathtaking views of the sea. Ask your guide for recommendations for this (and lunch later in Vernazza, you won't be sorry!

From here, head up the coast to the town of Vernazza, a small resort town located at the mouth of a river and naturally protected from wild sea swells by a rocky promontory. This natural wave break protects the harbor, making it the only major docking point in the Cinque Terre. Enjoy lunch on your own time as you explore the local cuisine and savor regional delicacies. 

Continue to the town of Riomaggiore, one of the five villages that make up the historic Cinque Terre region. Walk along the beautiful Via dell' Amore (Lover's Pathway) to enjoy views of the coastline and sea. Unfortunately, due to landslides, part of this path is closed to the public. However, the views along the cliffs are still exhilaratingly beautiful and definitely worth the walk.

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 museum exhibit of the centuries of town history. 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

If you have must-see sites in the area, feel free to share this with your guide so they can tailor the day around what you want to do. This way, you'll get the most out of your time and have the comfort of a local expert to help you navigate the villages. After the day's sightseeing, follow your nose to the neighborhood bakery to sample the local focaccia with pesto for a delicious snack you won't find anywhere else. Buon Appetito!

Day 5: Self-Guided Day Trip to Genoa

Genoa
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 6: Goodbye Italy

Cozy street in Trastevere, Rome
Depart 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!

Map

Map of Grand Cities and Classic Riviera Villages: Turin, Santa Margherita Ligure, Cinque Terre, & More - 6 Days
Map of Grand Cities and Classic Riviera Villages: Turin, Santa Margherita Ligure, Cinque Terre, & More - 6 Days