22 km south east of Genoa. The rock-bound coast draws apart to admit Rapallo and its conical terraced hill. The English writer Max Beerbohm discovered it, the 1920s were its golden years, but it is host to thousands still and is fully equipped with hotels, bars and palm-court-type saloons. Historic monuments are Hannibal’s Bridge, the Civic Towers and the Salines Gate. Past the hill-top castle a cable car travels higher to the Montallegroon hills, a huge ornate sanctuary, viewpoint and market for religious trinkets. From its courtyard fascinating little footpaths descend to distant valleys. The signposts are paint-splashes on jutting rocks; study the coded plan before you start.
Detour – Santa Margherita Ligure
3 km south of Rapallo. The tourist industry considers Rapallo upmarket, Santa Margherita thinks it vulgar. Edwardian-style hotels testify to Santa Margherita’s seniority as a holiday destination for the well-heeled. The best beaches, fronting hotels, charge an entry fee; the rest is shingle. Immaculate gardens and walks, an air of decayed gentility about the small town behind the promenade, whose buildings are in the authentic Ligurian style. Paraggi, a tiny resort susceptible to gross over-crowding, is in the next small bay. It has a historical museum inside a grim old fortress. Tennis, bowls and sailing at Santa Margherita – all the conventional activities.
Detour – Portofino
8 km south of Rapallo. Bars, boutiques, night-clubs, a fashion-plate piazza, lace-making a prestige industry – Portofino complements St Tropez on the French Riviera and is the smartest resort in Italy outside the Costa Smeralda in Southern Sardina. Fishing craft share the toy harbour with luxury yachts. Walk to the Peak (610 m) or to Santa Margherita or San Fruttuoso.
Find more in: Beach & seaside