Things to Do in Piedmont & Liguria
Arguably the most picturesque—and steepest—of all the Cinque Terre villages, Vernazza is indeed a striking sight: snaking narrow lanes and a crescent-shaped harbor are framed by forested peaks and glittering Mediterranean waters. Visitors can stroll the scenic waterfront, snap photos of the charming pastel-colored buildings, and explore a medieval castle before heading down to the sandy beach for a refreshing swim in the sea.
For one of the best views of Genoa and its Old Port, a trip on the Bigo panoramic elevator is a must. Climb aboard the out-of-this-world contraption, designed in the style of loading cranes by Renzo Piano in 1992 for the quincentennial of Columbus’ voyage to the New World, and learn about Genoa’s history as you take in panoramic views.
The biggest and most visited of the five villages comprising Italy’s famed Cinque Terre, Monterosso al Mare draws sunseekers to its sandy beach and scenic seafront promenade. The town’s comparatively flat terrain makes its two halves—the historic Old Town and the modern center—easy to get around on foot, while the surrounding hills abound with dreamy lookouts and medieval monuments.
In Turin’s Cathedral of San Giovanni Battista, the faithful and curious from across the globe gather to view the Holy Shroud of Turin (Sacra Sindone), one of most famous and controversial religious relics in Italy. This linen cloth is said to have been laid over Jesus’ body after his crucifixion, though its authenticity remains debated.
Riomaggiore is photogenic from every angle, thanks to its jumble of multicolored buildings cocooned between dramatic sea cliffs and fronted by an expanse of blue ocean. The largest and southernmost of northern Italy’s five Cinque Terre villages, Riomaggiore is the place for romantic promenades, sipping coffee in traditional cafés, and bird watching along the rocky shores.
Cinque Terre National Park (Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site full of postcard-worthy landscapes: sweeping sea cliffs dotted with sandy coves, brightly painted villages clinging to steep terraces, and forested plateaus blooming with wildflowers. Stretching some 4,300 acres (1,740 hectares) along northern Italy’s rugged Italian Riviera, the park dazzles visitors with breathtaking views of the Mediterranean coastline.
Portovenere’s brightly painted buildings, lively harbor, and clifftop castle make it a quintessential Italian Riviera town, perched on the rocky shores of the Gulf of Poets (Golfo dei Poeti). An easy detour from the wildly popular Cinque Terre National Park, this comparatively tranquil seaside town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a rich history, delicious seafood, and stunning backdrop of cliffs, caves, and coves—making it ideal for hiking, mountain biking, or just relaxing.
Pint-sized Corniglia might be the smallest of Italy’s Cinque Terre seaside villages, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in dramatic scenery and rustic beauty. Climb the dizzying 365 steps to the clifftop hamlet and you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views over the neighboring villages and a cluster of charming shops, cafés, and restaurants.
The resort town of Santa Margherita Ligure on the Italian Riviera is often outshined by its famous neighbor, Portofino, but deserves no less attention. The larger of the two, Santa Margherita Ligure feels less overrun with tourists while offering similarly quaint cafes and boutiques, pastel-painted buildings, and glorious views of the sea.
Turin’s most recognizable landmark—and home to the National Museum of Cinema—the Mole Antonelliana dates to 1889. This soaring tower, with its pyramidal dome and 551-foot (168-meter) spire rises above the Turin skyline, and its viewing platform offers top-notch city vistas.
More Things to Do in Piedmont & Liguria
The town of Barolo in Piedmont is very small – less than 1,000 residents – but since it produces one of the most sought-after wines on any Italian wine list, it attracts quite a bit of attention.
Barolo is roughly 30 miles southeast of Turin, not far from Alba. The tiny town is easy to explore on foot – although some of it is quite hilly, it's small enough that you can take your time. The countryside around Barolo is covered in vineyards, most of which are responsible for growing the nebbiolo grapes used to make the town's namesake wine.
Wine lovers will likely want to explore the area's vineyards, but don't overlook the town itself. There are a number of wine shops right in Barolo, and many winemakers have storefronts there, too, where you can taste (and buy) their wines.
With over 26,000 ancient Egyptian artifacts gathered between the 18th and 20th century, Turin's Egyptian Museum (Museo Egizio) houses one of the largest collections of Egyptian antiquities in the world. The galleries were extensively enlarged, renovated, and reorganized, reopening in 2015, and the result is both spectacular and engaging.
Perched on a rocky promontory, riddled with caves, and lapped by startlingly blue waters, Cinque Terre’s village of Manarola is the epitome of romantic. Its charms include sea-view restaurants serving ultra-fresh anchovies, a picturesque waterfront promenade, and a rugged Italian Riviera shore dotted with swimming holes—all this and small enough to explore in a single morning.
Elegant Turin, which was the seat of the Duchy of Savoy before briefly becoming the first capital of unified Italy, is home to a number of sumptuous historic palaces and castles. The Royal Palace of Turin (Palazzo Reale di Torino) is among the most opulent, and today it houses the Royal Museums, with an extensive art collection, armory, and gardens.
The Aquarium of Genoa is not only the largest aquarium in Italy, but also the most extensive exhibition of marine biodiversity in Europe. Situated in Genoa’s Old Port, more than 70 different tanks hold 1.6 million gallons of water and 12,000 animals. Visitors can see sharks, dolphins, manatees, penguins, seals, jellyfish, and much more.
Ringed by neoclassical buildings, flanked by busy roads, and crowned with a statue that commemorates the workers who built the trans-Alpine Fréjus Rail Tunnel, the Piazza Statuto is one of Turin’s most prominent public squares. Completed in 1865, it was built while Turin was the newly formed Kingdom of Italy’s first capital city.
Built in 1298 to demonstrate Genoa’s wealth after it had become an important maritime trade center, the Doge's Palace (Palazzo Ducale) was the residence of the doge, ruler of Genoa. Today a cultural center, event space, and museum hosting rotating exhibits, the palace offers visitors a glimpse of the splendor of Genoa’s history.
A busy Mediterranean naval port in northern Italy, the La Spezia Cruise Port (La Spezia Terminal Crociere) offers cruisers easy access to three of the country’s top destinations—Pisa, Florence, and the Cinque Terre. Cruise passengers also use La Spezia as a jumping-off point for other highlights in Piedmont and Liguria or stick around to enjoy the town's own modest but beautiful attractions.
Home to one of Italy’s most popular and decorated soccer teams, Juventus Stadium is a must-visit Turin attraction for sports fans. Opened in 2011 following the demolition of the team’s previous Stadio delle Alpi, Juventus Stadium—also known as Allianz Stadium—also hosts the Juventus Museum and companion shopping center.
Of Turin’s many baroque squares, Piazza San Carlo is a standout. Lined with porticoed palaces housing historic cafés, and the twin churches of Santa Cristina and San Carlo Borromeo, this square on Via Roma between Piazza Castello and Piazza Carlo Felice is one of the liveliest in the city.
Piazza de Ferrari is the expansive main square in Genoa, separating the historic district from the modern city center. Its large fountain is the square’s centerpiece and a central meeting point for tourists and locals alike. The piazza is named for Raffaele de Ferrari, who donated a lot of money to help expand Genoa’s port in the 1800s.
Turin is headquarters to Fiat and Alfa Romeo, so it's only fitting that the city is home to the National Museum of the Automobile (Museo Nazionale dell'Automobile), as well. With one of the largest collections of cars on display in Europe, this museum is a mecca for antique car enthusiasts as well as those interested in prototypes for cars of the future.
The soaring square dome and spire of the Mole Antonelliana is Turin’s most recognizable landmark and home to the National Cinema Museum, where the vast collection of silver-screen memorabilia draws film buffs from around the world. Take the glass elevator to the top of the dome for sweeping views across the city.
In the heart of Genoa’s old town, Genoa Cathedral (Cattedrale di San Lorenzo) is the most important church in the city. It’s a soaring Gothic and Romanesque masterpiece in alternating bands of black and white marble, where the magnificent art and architecture serve as reminders of this former maritime republic’s historic wealth and power.
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- Things to do in Turin
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