Rapallo is a charming coastal town on the Italian riviera. The colourful houses that climb the mountain base are typical of Ligurian architecture, and the narrow streets that meander these intricately designed structures offer sweeping views over the Gulf of Genoa. The municipalities of Portofino and Tigullio are less than 30 minutes away by car, making Rapallo an ideal central base to discover the best of Genoa’s eastern municipalities.

    From scuba diving and cable-car rides to unforgettable gastronomic experiences, Rapallo’s range of activities and sights will excite your senses. Here are our picks of the best things to do in this Ligurian town.

    What are the best things to do in Rapallo?

    1

    Lungomare Vittorio Veneto

    Enjoy coffee with a view on the promenade

    The promenade is one of the best places to see the sights of Rapallo from ground level. Arrive just before sunrise to watch the colours of the hillside Ligurian houses, hotels and restaurants come to life, while hues of orange and purple bounce off the ocean. You can see the harbour and the medieval Rapallo Castle to the east.

    Wake up to a freshly brewed coffee at a café along Lungomare Vittorio Veneto, the street that runs adjacent to the promenade. Sit outside, and you can view a string of seafront hotels constructed in the Liberty style, Italy’s answer to Art Nouveau. Gran Caffè Rapallo is a highly reviewed waterfront café that serves delicious dishes with Italian, Japanese and Chinese influences.

    Location: Lungomare Vittorio Veneto, 30, 16035 Rapallo GE, Italy

    Open: Daily from 10.30am to 11.30pm

    Phone: +39 0185 55775

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    photo by Youflavio (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    2

    Portofino Marine Park

    Scuba dive and view the underwater statue of Christ of the Abyss

    Portofino Marine Park, situated about 30 minutes southeast of Rapallo, is one of the most famous diving spots in the Mediterranean. Il Cristo Degli Abissi (The Christ of the Abyss) is a bronze statue that rests on the seabed at a depth of about 12 metres in the bay of San Fruttuoso. Tours to the park from Rapallo operate every day. It’s a suitable place for novice divers to gain new skills.

    During your dive, look out for marine creatures such as lobsters, moray eels, snappers and sea breams. Thanks to the high underwater visibility in the bay, you'll also notice colourful coral and lots of seagrasses. We recommend diving during the summer when water temperatures can be as high as 25°C.

    Location: Camogli, Portofino, Santa Margherita Ligure Metropolitan City of Genoa, Italy

    Open: Varies by season and weather

    Phone: +39 0185 289649

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    photo by Franco Vannini (CC BY 2.0) modified

    3

    Centro Storico

    Shop and absorb the sights of the historic city centre

    One of the best ways to absorb the sights of Rapallo is by exploring the streets of Centro Storico (Rapallo’s historic centre) by foot. As you’re within a pedestrian area, you won’t have to watch out for vehicles as you observe the well-preserved medieval buildings. Look out for window shelves decorated in traditional Baroque elements.

    Walk along Via Mazzini to see the many shrines to Our Lady of Montallegro. To marvel at a fine example of Art Nouveau architecture, visit the Music Kiosk, a circular building supported by 12 columns. Every Thursday, Piazza IV Novembre hosts market stalls selling local souvenirs, clothes, food, and antiques.

    Location: Piazza 4 Novembre, 16035 Rapallo GE, Italy

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    4

    Rapallo Castle

    Tour the iconic 16th-century fortress

    Rapallo Castle is an icon of the namesake municipality, situated on the far east of the promenade. The ‘Old Castle on the Sea’ was constructed in 1550 to protect Rapallo and other settlements along the riviera from pirate raids. Now, this iconic fortification is a public museum that you can enter for free on Fridays, weekends and on public holidays.

    Throughout the year, the castle plays a prominent role in the town’s festivities. On July 3, which marks the end of the celebrations that honour Our Lady of Montallegro, the fort is the starting point for a unique fire display. A white pyrotechnic waterfall descends into the sea from the castle roof, while artificial red smoke erupts from its windows.

    Location: Lungomare Vittorio Veneto, 16035 Rapallo GE, Italy

    Open: Daily from 9am to 12.30pm and 2pm to 5.30pm

    Phone: +39 0185 230346

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    5

    The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Montallegro

    Admire the marble façade of this iconic religious site

    The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Montallegro is one of the most iconic religious buildings in Rapallo. Its hilltop location offers sweeping views of Rapallo, the promenade and the harbour. Its beautiful white façade was constructed in 1896, though the sanctuary itself was built in the Gothic Revival style in 1558.

    The interior of the church has remained largely unaltered since 1640. Notable features include a Byzantine painting that was supposedly given to the residents of Rapallo by the Virgin Mary. You can also admire the famous Visitazione painting by Giovanni Battista Carlone, as well as the white marble crucifix near the second altar.

    Location: Via al Santuario, 24, 16035 Rapallo GE, Italy

    Phone: +39 0185 239000

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    photo by Superchilum (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    6

    Rapallo Cable Car

    Observe the city from above

    Opened in 1934, the Rapallo Cable Car is the only facility of its kind in the region of Liguria. During the 600-metre ascent, you can admire the intense blue waters of the Gulf of Genoa, the mountainous landscape of Rapallo, and the colourful houses that climb the hillside. When you reach your destination, you’ll be a stone’s throw away from the iconic Sanctuary of Our Lady of Montallegro.

    After visiting the sanctuary, you can walk along several paths that run along the ridge between the oaks to enjoy some peace, fresh air and unobstructed aerial views. The cable car ride takes approximately 7 minutes.

    Location: Piazzale Silvio Solari, 2, 16035 Rapallo GE, Italy

    Open: May–September from 9am to 12.30pm and 2pm to 6pm. October–April from 9am to 12.30pm and 2pm to 4.45pm (specific dates vary each year)

    Phone: +39 0185 52341

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    photo by Ale Sasso (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    7

    Take a taxi boat to Portofino

    Observe stunning villas and mountainous terrain from the sea

    You can reach Portofino from Rapallo by car in under 30 minutes. But if you want to admire the rugged mountainous terrain and coastline from the riviera, we recommend getting there by boat. Ferries run from Rapallo’s harbour to Portofino daily between 8am and 7pm. The journey takes about half an hour, which includes a stop at Santa Margherita Ligure, where you’ll find a free public beach.

    Alternatively, you can hop on a taxi boat and let a tour guide show you the best sights of the riviera. Most operators run tours between April and October. However, if you’re in good shape, you can walk from Rapallo to Portofino in about 2 hours, regardless of the season.

    Location: Portofino, 16034 Metropolitan City of Genoa, Italy

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    photo by Pierre-Selim Huard (CC BY 4.0) modified

    8

    Spiaggia Minaglia

    Journey to the region’s most beautiful beach

    Spiaggia Minaglia is located about 5 miles south of Rapallo, making it easily accessible via boat, foot, bus or car. It’s widely considered to be the region’s most beautiful beach, thanks to its clear waters and golden sands. Beach facilities include shaded sun loungers, showers, changing rooms and games such as ping pong. There are also plenty of restaurants, cafes and bars nearby.

    You can lay down a towel and enjoy this relatively quiet beach for free. Alternatively, you can rent sunbeds with parasols for the day. During summer, the beach remains open from 8.15am to 7.30pm. Unless you want a sunbed by the water’s edge, there’s no need to book in advance.

    Location: Via Milite Ignoto, 16038 Santa Margherita Ligure GE, Italy

    Open: From 8.15am to 7.30pm (check for seasonal variations)

    Phone: +39 392 042 1906

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    9

    Taverna Paradiso Club

    Enjoy a spritz with riviera views

    Rapallo has a fair share of traditional tavernas where you can enjoy a cocktail or 2 to end your day. After walking along the promenade to see the sunset and the castle silhouette, we recommend heading to Centro Storico (the historic centre) to sip beverages with riviera views.

    Some of the best hillside bars in Rapallo include Sole Bar, Bar Nostromo, Uno Bar, and Zino&Zino. If you fancy a tipple with unobstructed views of the Rapallo Castle, the Italian Riviera and the promenade, we recommend heading to Taverna Paradiso Club, which serves excellent cocktails until 3am.

    Location: Via Venezia, 72, 16035 Rapallo GE, Italy

    Open: Daily from 5pm to 3am

    Phone: +39 345 237 9212

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    10

    La Trattoria

    Eat like a local and feast on Ligurian dishes

    Some of Italy’s most notable dishes originate from the region of Liguria. While you’re in Rapallo, treat yourself to some Ligurian delights, such as focaccia (a delicious flatbread dish), farinata (fried pancake) and pandolce (Genoa cake).

    La Trattoria is one of the top-rated Ligurian restaurants along the waterfront in Rapallo. Here, you can taste authentic Italian dishes made from locally sourced ingredients. You can also ask for wine recommendations to pair with your meal. Book a table well in advance to watch the sunset over the Italian Riviera.

    Location: Via Montebello, 11, 16035 Rapallo GE, Italy

    Open: Monday–Friday from 7pm to 10pm, Saturday–Sunday from 12pm to 2pm and 7pm to 10pm

    Phone: +39 389 285 4488

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    Joshua Saunders | Contributing Writer

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