Italy’s most seductive attributes – stone villages baking in the sun, rows of vineyards, castles, palm-shaded beaches and rich cooking traditions – all abound in this trio of regions.
Shaped like a rainbow, Liguria arcs from Tuscany to the French Riviera. Its ancient maritime capital, Genoa, is a seething port city with a maze of medieval passageways. Liguria’s coastal walking paths wind past pastel fishing villages tumbling down vine-terraced cliffs to the sea; while dazzling marine life lures divers below the surface.
Piedmont’s gentler green hills are also ribboned with grapevines, producing prestigious reds and sparkling whites. The region’s hazelnuts, white truffles and cheeses inspired the Slow Food Movement’s inception here. A baroque showpiece of arcaded walkways and squares, revitalised Turin entranced international audiences when it hosted the 2006 Winter Olympics and later took on the mantle of Europe’s Capital of Design, showcasing its industry and artistry. Turin now has one eye on its upcoming role hosting the sesquicentenary of the Italian unification, which took place in the city, making it Italy’s inaugural capital.
Crowning the trio, the snow-blanketed Valle d’Aosta is cradled beneath Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn. Mountain villages dot the valley’s slopes, which are traversed by hiking, biking and ski trails.
Less than a day’s travel apart, each of these three contrasting regions will see you fall in love with Italy – for the first time, or all over again.
Liguria has the same ingredients as the adjoining French Riviera – belle époque villas, palm trees and sun lounge–strewn beaches – but an unmistakably Italian flavour that extends well beyond its famous pesto and focaccia. Less polished than its neighbour, Liguria is lively and laid-back. Summer in particular sees it swarming with scooters and with gelati-carrying families strolling along its shores.
Midway along the Ligurian coast, the region’s capital, Genoa, is a mass of history-steeped streets plummeting down to its port. A wealth of museums, many housed in grand palaces, interpret Genoa’s rich history, which still lingers in its warren of alleyways.
To Genoa’s west, artists, writers and wealthy hangers-on have frolicked along the waterfront from the early 1800s onwards, giving rise to fashionable resort towns such as San Remo. Between the resorts, there are also some enchanting, little-visited medieval villages to explore. East of Genoa, the coastline is equally captivating, especially around the Unesco-protected Cinque Terre villages clinging to the cliffs.
You could easily laze away your days on the beach, but there are plenty of opportunities to get active too. Water sports abound, including some fascinating wreck dives. A few kilometres inland, Liguria’s cool mountains offer hiking and biking challenges.