For i milanese, the nearest waterfront escape that isn’t a freshwater lake is the Ligurian coast, which stretches from Tuscany in the South to the French-Italian border.
Many of the names you have heard before, like Portofino and Cinque Terre, are situated along this rocky terrain that is a favorite alternative to busier places like Cannes and Capri.
In May, I joined the SDA Bocconi Sailing Club for a weekend on the water off of Lerici (near La Spezia), and then later in the summer spent a weekend in Genova celebrating my friend Michelle’s birthday. Both occasions afforded amazing weather (so good I enjoyed a deserved sunburn), and while Portofino is the most upscale spot, the entire coast is beautiful and relaxing.
Lerici is a sweet seaside town, if not terribly fancy. It has a small harbor and charming hillside neighborhoods away from the central square. The Sailing Club held a gala dinner at Villa Marigola, a stately historic mansion overlooking the town and bay with gorgeous gardens.
The most memorable part of Lerici was actually sleeping on the sailboats. You can call me high-maintenance, because squeezing into cabins with nearly zero storage plus a pervasive moisture inside the boat challenged my sense of self-soothing and “roughing it.” How are we supposed to POOP for god sakes?!
Maybe if we’d had four people per boat rather than ten?
Genova was much more comfortable. We rented a gorgeous, massive flat right in the center of town, in fact steps from the Gucci store. On Saturday we hired a speedboat and spent the afternoon cruising from Genova to Portofino and back, stopping at various points to dip into the chilly but refreshing saltwater and lounge on pink inner tubes.
When I was in Florida I relished being on the water with friends, wind whipping my hair and sun kissing my skin. It’s something I miss, especially as a water-loving Pisces. There is an innate sensuality to being on the water and in the sun. A romanticism that is different from say, hiking in the mountains.
Genova itself is a nice city, quieter than Milan and definitely older feeling. Different architecture (more ornate). Lots of tourists. The historic waterfront port is marred by an elevated highway, much like in Seattle and in San Francisco in the past. This feature adds to the generalized roughness and grit one feels there. But, it is home to a handful of megayachts that are great to ogle.
Nevertheless, I would guess there is plenty to discover and enjoy—we mostly just wanted to relax, not sightsee.
Wherever you are, bright sunny skies make a world of difference, and so Genova was fun to stroll around for an afternoon. The Liguria region is known for its focaccia (similar toppings to pizza but dough is spongier), and there are a handful of ancient candy stores in the city. Check out my Genova Spots map for details.
Getting to and from Liguria from Milan takes two hours or so by car or by train. A few days is plenty to enjoy the local cuisine (they also love seafood of course), escape the hubbub of Milan or Rome, and be on the open water!