Liguria, whose history and destiny are closely tied to the sea, is home of the Italian Riviera; sandwiched between the French Riviera and the Tuscan coast, bounded to the north by the Piemontese Alps.
This magnificent coastal area, is best known for its string of glamorous resorts like San Malo, Portofino, and Cinque Terre) and picturesque fishing villages like Camogli.
The resort towns and coastal villages that stake intermittent claims on the rocky shores of the Liguarian Sea are the long-lost cousins of newer, overbuilt seaside paradises.
Here the largest and grandest "edifici medioevali" (medieval buildings) share space with frescoed, angular, late 19th century apartment buildings. The latter day high-rise glitz seems as foreign as the Maine lobster that some of the region's toniest restaurants (incongruously) fly-in for dinner.
For those who want a change from the beautiful beaches and port towns, the hinterland behind the seaside is full of chestnut forests, rugged mountains and ruined castles. The trails connecting Camoglie and Portofino are superb. Most routes are well marked along the entire coast from Genoa to Portofino and even further south.
Walking or sailing is the best way to enjoy this coastal area and there is little or no need for a car, as convenient transportation (such as the train or ferry system connecting the Cinque Terre and other coastal systems) allow for people to enjoy a stress-free, glamorous holiday.
The rustic and elegant, the provincial and chic, the cosmopolitan and the small-town are blended together here in a sun-drenched pastiche that make this area one of the most exotic, fascinating and sometimes most strange in all Italy.
The regional capital, Genoa ("City of Culture" in 2004), was the birthplace of Christopher Columbus and today is a major commercial port with a winding medieval centre and grand neoclassical palazzi along many of the ancient streets.
Liguria's coastline is divided into the western and eastern Rivieras. The western end, the Riviera di Ponente, famed for its roses, almond and citrus groves, lies between San Remo and Genoa. The eastern part, the Riviera di Levante, is on a more rugged stretch of coast between Genoa and La Spezia and includes Portofino and Cinque Terre.
Liguria, not content to lie on its beaches, has also contributed gastronomically to the world. One example: basil, garlic and pinenut sauce - Pesto - layered over everything in the zone from Foccacia (also a Ligurian specialty) to pizza, pasta and panini. Initially "pesto" as the sauce is known today was invented by practical-minded Ligurian sailors to avoid scurvy. Other Ligurian cuisine has its origins in just as imaginative - and practical - thinking!