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Italian Riviera Yacht Charter : Finding La Dolce Vita

The Italian Riviera takes over where the French Riviera leaves off, sweeping in a long, beautiful curve from the vertiginous French-Italian border all the way to Tuscany’s northern edge. This is Liguria, a small Italian region of almost dazzling perfection, its dramatic cliffs falling away into blue-green sea and picturesque villages surrounded by terraces of olives, lemons and vines.

Sailing in Liguria, Italy

Style and Good Sense : Exploring the Italian Riviera by Superyacht

There is simply no better way to travel the Italian Riviera than by private yacht charter. Not only is it the most decadent way to travel and the one that affords the most spectacular views of the coastline, but it’s practical too—allowing you to avoid the clogged, narrow roads and the summertime crowds, simply dropping anchor and going ashore where you please.

Yachts at Monaco Yacht Club

You may wish to begin your yacht charter in Monaco, enjoying Michelin star dining and boutique shopping, before leaving Port Hercules and quickly crossing the Italian border. You’ll soon arrive in the Art Deco seaside resort of San Remo, before heading further down the coast to explore the ancient city of Genoa. Your yacht will then float along the plunging coast of the Cinque Terre with its multi-coloured villages, and finally back to glamorous Portofino on its deep emerald bay. Those with the luxury of a longer Italian yacht charter can easily continue onto Tuscany, the Amalfi Coast and Sicily.

Aristocrats, Artists, and Celebrities on the Italian Riviera

The Italian Riviera has been attracting the well-heeled for centuries, European aristocrats leaving behind grand villas shaded by pines and swanky clifftop hotels. The allure of the Ligurian coast was irresistible to artists and writers too, who were attracted by the purity of the light, the jumble of almost impossibly colourful villages, and the mild climate.

Vernazza in the Cinque Terre, Italy

Byron, Shelley, DH Laurence and Hemingway are just a few that fell in love with the Italian Riviera, and the movie stars of Hollywood’ s Golden Age would follow suit, with Frank Sinatra, Grace Kelly and Richard Burton just a few of the screen legends who couldn’t resist the charms of Portofino.

View in Scoglio, Italy

Today, the jet-set still flock here in the summer months to shop in the boutiques, breathe in the fresh scent of pine and sea, and eat in the fine restaurants that line the picturesque harbour in Portofino and the clifftop terraces of the Cinque Terre.

Cucina Povera by the Sea

Once referred to as ‘cucina povera’ for its reliance on humble local ingredients, there’s little that could be called ‘poor’ about the Ligurian cuisine now.

Lemon seller in Cinque Terre, Italy

On a yacht charter on the Italian Riviera you’ll be treated to ripe red tomatoes crushed onto bruschetta with lashings of local olive oil, vibrant green pesto (Genovese, obviously) tossed through spaghetti with tearings of sweet basil, and silvery whole fish grilled on platters scattered with wedges of the bright yellow lemons that hang heavy from the local orchards.

Spaghetti pasta with Pesto sauce

The local vineyards produce wine from the Sciacchetra grape, which ends up on your restaurant table, the waiter plonking down a carafe and some tumblers with a thud and a rather pleasing lack of ceremony. Later will come the grappa or the icy-cold Limoncello to finish the meal, as you sit on a restaurant terrace high above the sea, surrounded by bougainvillea and happily replete.

Highlights of an Italian Riviera Yacht Charter
San Remo: Fading Belle Epoque Beauty among the Gardens

Also known as the ‘City of Flowers’, the seaside resort of San Remo has a charming sense of fading glamour about it, its ornate Art Deco facades and Venetian mansions remnants of a grander time when San Remo became the ‘exile’s capital of Europe’ in the 19th century, hosting a retinue of European royals including the Empress Elisabeth of Austria and Tsar Nicola of Russia.

After strolling the boutiques and bars of Corso Matteoti, wander through the narrow lanes of La Pigne, the old town and up the hill to the Gardens of Queen Elena, where a riot of flowers explode in the spring and the dome of the Madonna della Costa Sanctuary can be seen for miles.

Casino in San Remo, Italy

The belle époque San Remo Casino is an architectural beauty, and the local Cinema Teatro Ariston features a splendid frescoed ceiling which is also worth seeing while on charter in San Remo. Afterwards, head down to the bustling seafront to promenade under the palms, passing by the Santa Tecla Fort and the stunning Russian Orthodox Church.

Genoa : Opulent Palaces and Medieval Atmosphere

While Genoa isn’t always considered a glamorous superyacht destination, there’s a genuine majesty to this ancient city. And no wonder, for Genoa was one of the great merchant powers of Europe, its towering wealth leaving behind a legacy of opulent palazzi and grand piazzas, frescoed theatres and impressive museums.

Old town of Genoa, Italy

The old town is one of the largest medieval towns on the continent, with a maze of dark, narrow streets lending a thrill of atmosphere to your exploring, before emerging onto the stunning row of staggeringly opulent 16th century palaces along Via Garibaldi. Collectively called the Palazzi dei Rolli, the palaces are a triumph of gold leaf, chandeliers and acres of marble, their halls hung with artworks by Caravaggio, Rubens and many more.

Panorama of the port of Genoa, Italy

History looms all around in Genoa, and yes, in certain quarters it is a bit dank and gritty and not at all ‘Riviera-esque’. But lovers of history, art, and architecture will find a great deal to love about the ancient port city of Genoa, while those seeking the good life will find luxury boutiques, a very cool covered market in old church cloisters, and a rapidly gentrifying heart of bars and restaurants.

The Cinque Terre : Drenched in Colour

Floating along the Cinque Terre in a superyacht is a scene out of a dream. Towering cliffs—folded and grooved by tectonic forces—fall steeply away into the crystal clear sea, which laps at the stone in shifting shades of sapphire and emerald.

Aerial view of Vernazza, Italy

Five fishing villages are strung along the coast like brightly-painted jewels, their jumble of pastel townhouses a riot of pinks and yellows against sky and sea. Fishing boats are pulled up out of the water into cobbled squares lined with gelatarias and shady restaurant terraces, and stone vaulted passageways lead up into the steep medieval streets, now dotted with boutiques and tiny hotels with dizzying clifftop views.

The five towns of the Cinque Terre—Monerosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore—are linked together by the famous walking path that trails along the rugged cliffs and past terraced vineyards and shady olive groves, stopping in each of the five towns along the way.

Cinque Terre, Italy

The walking path is 9 miles in total, and you could walk between all five towns in around 6 hours if you weren’t planning to do much exploring along the way. However, the path can be very crowded and very hot work in summer, which is why doing the Cinque Terre by yacht is by far the most attractive option.

On an Italian Riviera yacht charter you’ll cruise along the steep coast at your leisure, swimming off the back of the yacht and heading ashore to experience the nicest parts of the Cinque Terre walking path before settling in for lunch or dinner on a restaurant terrace.

Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy

When it comes to dining on the Cinque Terre, there are some standouts, including the Gambero Rosso and the Belforte in Vernazza, Restorante Miky and L’Ancora della Tortuge in Monterosso al Mare, and the tiny Osteria a Cantina de Mananan in Corniglia.

For aperitifs, Nessun Dorma is casual perfection, with a garden terrace on the cliffs overlooking the colourful houses of Manarola. Heaven!

Portofino : Dolphins and Italianate Villas by the Emerald Sea

It’s hard not to gasp as you enter the deep emerald waters of Portofino, where dolphins play as they’ve done since ancient times when the Romans named this place ‘Portus Delphini’.

Yachts in Portofino, Italy

Portofino’s tiny, sheltered port is quite possibly the world’s most beautiful marina, with its pastel facades edging the waterfront and hillsides of deep green pines and grand Italianate villas.

Portofino has been a playground for screen royalty since the 1950s when the village became a byword for Hollywood glamour, with Rita Hayworth and Bacall holidaying here, Ava Gardner and Humphrey Bogart filming scenes of A Barefoot Contessa in the port, and Rex Harrison throwing his Oscar into the harbour after a particularly wild night at La Gritta American Bar. Elizabeth Taylor, who spent her fourth honeymoon in Portofino, even has a spaghetti named after her—which shows just how much celebrity is a fixture of local life here.

Waterfront villas in Portofino, Italy

Yet for all this name dropping we’re engaging in, Portofino doesn’t have the celebrity showiness or the buzzing nightlife of somewhere like Saint Tropez. Portofino is a peaceful place, utterly content with its own staggering beauty. It has its fair share of decadence though, with its clutch of Louis Vuitton, Dior and Hermes boutiques as well as glamorous hotels and spas.

Hotel Splendido in Portofino, Italy

Of all the fine establishments, none can rival Belmond Hotel Splendido perched up in the hill, and its sister hotel, Belmond Hotel Splendido Mare down on the port. Once a Benedictine monastery, the Hotel Splendido is considered one of the great hotels of the world. The Duke of Windsor was the first visitor in the guest book, beginning a dazzling roll call of celebrities including Churchill and Clark Gable, Madonna, George Clooney, and Beyoncé.

Swimming pool at Hotel Splendido in Portofino

If you were to drag yourself away from the hotel’s two exceedingly fine restaurants, La Terrazza and Chuflay Restaurant, there are several other good tables in town, notably Da Puny and Taverna del Marinaio, both down on the waterfront. It is near-compulsory while in Portofino to finish dinner with a gelato from Calata 32.

One of the most pleasant things to do while in Portofino is to take one of the walking trails on the forested headland. On your way out of the village, pass through the Museo del Parco’s excellent sculpture garden and stop by the 16th century Castello Brown.

But whatever you do, keep walking along the path, with turquoise flashes of sea visible through the cypress until you come to the water. Listen to the cicadas buzzing overhead, pick bunches of wild thyme from the marquis, and take great lungfuls of the pine scented air, the needles releasing their cool-scented oils in the Mediterranean heat.

Amazing evening sky in Portofino, Italy

In such a splendid place, is all too easy to imagine all the celebrities and dignitaries who have walked this way before you on the dreamy Italian Riviera, right back to the days of ancient empires when the Romans saw the dolphins playing in the blue-green waters of Portofino.

Want to experience this incredible coastline for yourself? To organise your yacht charter on the Italian Riviera, contact Bespoke Yacht Charter, the Italian Riviera yacht charter specialists:

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