The Italian Riviera begins just beyond Menton, where the French Riviera and France ends. Our tour was part of a larger trip. This section covers, The Italian Riviera in a campervan from San Remo to Genoa.
To be honest, we weren’t too sure what to expect from this part of Italy. However, after a brief peak at the first couple of resorts around Ventimiglia, a few years ago. These left us slightly less than impressed.
This trip began by driving along the coastal road through Ventimiglia. The alternative route, is the rather boring A10 motorway that runs inland. Something we wanted to avoid.
As many of you will know. Driving in a Motorhome has been a big part of our lives for a number of years. Nigel is an excellent driver and loves a challenge, although, these Italian roads are another level!
The driving here is chaotic and crazy. Roads are narrow and traffic is manic, coming at you from all directions. Scooters are the Italians best friend and these are everywhere, cutting across to overtake or undertake constantly. There seems to be no adhering to high way code, certainly, it’s every person for themselves!
Thankfully, we survived the first few hour. Having broken out into a very deep sweat by the time we reached San Remo. We knew this was going to be an interesting trip, maybe for all the wrong reasons!
So, let’s begin on our tour of The Italian Riviera in a Campervan
San Remo is a reminder of how seaside resorts need to keep up with the competition, in order to stay in the game. Once, a the Monte Carlo of Italy and the jet set, it’s now the poorer relation.
It feels tired and is slightly rough around the edges, but it was worth a stop.
There’s a large, free motorhome Sosta situated on the approach from Ventimiglia. We took advantage and parked up with the numerous other motorhomes.
The first thing we noticed was the litter everywhere! Not a great first impression, although council worker’s did keep appearing to empty the bins. In addition to normal litter there was a lot of toilet paper and excrement of some kind. It was all rather horrible and it wasn’t confined to the motorhome area.
On the positive side, there’s an excellent cycle path, that follows the old railway line to Imperia, further along the coast. Exploring on bike seemed the best option for us. Off we peddled, soon reaching the centre of San Remo along with a pretty harbour front and promenade.
Having enjoyed the sea front views and bustling Summer atmosphere. We parked up the bikes on the sea front, and walked into the old town.
We were actually rather surprised at the old town. It was rather quite nice, with a really busy atmosphere and plenty of ornate architecture.
The Casino stands above the waterfront and is a reminder of the Monte Carlo connections. There’s a decorative 19th Century Russian Orthodox Church, built by rich Russian exiles, who also built some fine villas around the town.
For us it was time to journey onwards!
As we travelled along the coast, we realised the beaches here display a colourful array of sunloungers. Seemingly, taking up every inch of sand in the process!
Imperia is a fascinating looking town, divided into two by a River of the same name. Towering above the sea on a raised headland, we failed to park.
Instead, we joined the weekend and market day traffic jams which lead into the second half of Imperia town, named Oneglia.
It was chaos here, as we headed for a large, but jam packed harbour parking area. We held our ground and just about managed to find a space along a breakwater, overlooking the working harbour.
The litter problem was still evident, as was the madness of the driving!
Thankfully, the locals began retuning to their vehicles, allowing a little breathing space. A short lunch followed, before we took off on foot to explore.
With the sun blistering down upon us, the heat was intense. After a walk of a couple of miles we reached Imperia, however, the sea was all that we wanted by that stage!
Finding a tiny stretch of public beach, nestled between the hoards of private sections. We quickly took a dip in the water before finishing off in the historic old town.
It was worth the effort, as the views across the sea, were rather lovely from the town. We were ready to move on though. After a hairy turn across a railway line into a tiny street, following google maps to a Sosta, it all became rather stressful!
The coast really started to improve for us around Albenga. With no sign of the litter and excrement that had been evident beforehand, we began to enjoy the trip a bit more.
Albenga is an ancient walled town, with Roman origins. Originally, the town was next to the sea, but it’s now somewhat inland in comparison.
Parking was easy, at a free Sosta with a few other motorhomes. Fortunately, a small underpass lead to a beautiful promenade and the lovely beaches. We chose to have a beach afternoon, firstly though, it was time to buy some freshly baked Foccata at the local bakery. The food in Italy is amazing!
Another wonderful historic town is Finale Ligure. A really practical sea front Sosta provided ideal parking for us. Situated alongside a breakwater, we swam from the rocks in the fabulous clear blue sea.
The downside here, was the huge derelict building next to the Sosta. We just had to ignore this, as the location, was otherwise ideal.
Once the sun set, the air cooled enough for us to walk the 10 minutes into town. A tree-lined promenade stretches for a mile or so, whilst the old town beyond, remains a hub of activity.
The coast here begins to get really pretty. The litter problems were long gone, as we’d progressed further East. We began to feel that we could stay a little longer in some of the resorts, a good sign of things to come.
This intimate coastal town is another historic walled gem. We just about managed to park on the road here, giving us time to take a look before the beach called!
Noli is a delight, with a lovely waterfront leading to the old town, through a series of covered arches. It’s smaller than some of the other towns, so has an intimate feel, although equally as beautiful.
However, with the Summer heat being so intense, we had to get to the water.
Our next stop was just outside of Spotorno. Thankfully, a private Sosta for 14 Euro per night provided a place for the night.
Direct access to the lovely beach was really beneficial. A small walkway below the road, lead to a public section where we stayed for the afternoon.
Unfortunately, the weather being so hot, meant that doing anything is rather difficult!
However, as darkness fell, we strolled along the well lit promenade towards the town. Another, lovely atmospheric resort, which provided a pleasant environment on this hot Summer evening. Some rather upmarket beach restaurants looked rather tempting.
Having failed miserably to park in Savona, unfortunately, we had to give it a miss.
Although, our driving around for almost an hour, provided a little bit of an insight into the town. The approach is a mass of industrial buildings, so it doesn’t have a glamours feel.
We had wanted to visit the covered food market. All we managed to see from driving was a castle area, which did look rather nice.
We’re not sure what to think of Genoa. We’d read several reports of robberies from vans overnight. So we opted for a quick daytime tour. Fortunately finding a parking space close to the waterfront, in a relatively safe looking location.
Walking straight into a maize of tiny streets, these alleyways meandered into a mass of medieval architecture.
Feeling as if we’d been transported back in time, it all felt rather seedy somehow and we were rather uneasy in its presence.
Prostitutes seemed to be waiting for business, in numerous doorways. Had we unwittingly entered the wrong side of town?
As we scurried through the lengthy alleys of souvenir shops, coupled with foods stores and merchants from across the globe.
We finally emerged in a square full of tourists, who’d been transported off a cruise ship, which was docked in the Port.
The more classy side of the city was now upon us. Leading to a UNESCO street of ancient palaces. The city had shone a new light in our eyes and we began to relax a little.
Taking in the immense frescoes, elaborate architecture and ornate displays of the facades, it was all rather pleasant.
We felt it worthy of a visit but after a couple of hours, we’d had enough!
Relieved to be back at the van and ready to escape to a more low-key environment, it had been an interesting and eye-opening city to explore!
These are nearly all private, cover miles of beach. Restaurants provide individual areas, covered in sun loungers and parasols of co-ordinating colours. Small beach huts are provided for changing, life guards are often on duty too. Some beach bars provide permanent style sea inflatables as well as volleyball courts.
We haven’t used any, but believe they can be fairly expensive, at around 20-30 Euro per day.
There are hardly any toilets! Basically, without our own toilet in the van, we’d be very stuck!
If there is a public toilet, there’s often a charge, but may have toilet paper!
Toilets are rare, free toilets even more rare! When we have seen one, there is never toilet paper!
These are crammed between the masses of private beach bars and restaurants.
They can be tiny, often just a narrow strip of sand, which is all rather uncomfortable.
We’ve found them to be a necessity rather than a luxury, due to the heat here in August. Expect to have someone’s head at your feet and vice-versa!
A Sosta is the same principal as a French Aire or German Stellplatz. It’s an Italian term for parking and is where a motorhome can park overnight.
It is NOT small campervans or similar vehicles. To use any form of Aire system in Europe, the motorhome or campervan should ALWAYS be fully self-contained.
Basically, if the vehicle is more car than motorhome or has an elevated roof with none of the above fixed sections, then a campsite should be used.
Sosta parking is found by means of a sign showing a motorhome symbol. The rules will be stated in the parking section. Some are free, others are payable. There are a number of both public and privately operated Sosta parking throughout Italy.
As with Aires etc, there may be a dump/fresh filling area or there may not! Each is different.
For further reading, here’s our blog piece that tells you everything about Aires and Sosta’s.