Seaside charm on Italy’s Ligurian Riviera

For centuries, Rapallo has quietly drawn the bright young things to its palm-fringed shores. Perhaps it was the light bouncing off the sparkling sea that captivated Keats. Or the pastel landscapes and characterful villas painted with trompe-l’oeil that inspired Sir Max Beerbohm to settle here. Whatever the reason, today this colourful town promises boutique hotels and seaside charm in (buckets and) spades.   

Things to Do

Rapallo is made for promenading in the salty sea air, nodding at locals as you stroll and pausing to admire the brightly coloured beach huts. Time your stay for a Thursday when the Mercato del Giovedi pops up at the seafront. Or shake the sand from your toes – or the pebbles from your shoes – and explore 16th-century Castello sul Mare on the waterfront. In July, it’s beautifully backlit by the fireworks that punctuate the night skies.  

You could walk in the hoofprints of mules along the almost 4,000 metres of ancient track to reach Santuario Basilica di Montallegro. But soaring skyward on the cable car is much more fun. Dating back to around 1559, the iconography and frescoes are simply beautiful. But the views across Rapallo really take your breath away. 

Embrace the spirit of the Grand Tour and walk, cycle or sail out from Rapallo’s marina to discover its sister towns. Portofino brings the glamour, Camogli the picture-perfect pastel streets, and the must-visit Abbey of San Fruttuoso is sandwiched between. Don’t miss the chance to visit UNESCO-heralded Cinque Terre though. This quintet of fishing villages, linked by zig-zagging cliff-edge paths have to be seen to be believed – and are best explored via the vintage railway line. After all, cars are banned.  

Top Tip from SLH

Eat as the Nonnas do and sit down to comforting bowls of batolli pasta. Made with chestnut flour and tossed in pesto, it’s a fork-twisting take on tagliatelle.