The Italian Riviera in a Campervan
San Remo To Genoa
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 our campervan from San Remo to Genoa.
To be honest, we weren’t too sure what to expect from this part of Italy. This was mainly thanks to a brief peek at a couple of resorts around Ventimiglia a few years ago, which left us slightly unimpressed.
The Coastal Route – The Italian Riviera in a Campervan
This trip began along the coastal road at Ventimiglia. The alternative route, is the rather boring A10 motorway inland and something we wanted to avoid.
Motorhome driving has been a big part of our lives for decades which is a good job because we needed every ounce of experience here! Although Nigel is an excellent driver and loves a challenge, 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 the highway code, basically it’s everyone for themselves.
Thankfully, we survived the first few miles, having broken out into a deep sweat by the time we reached San Remo.
San Remo – The Italian Riviera in a Campervan
San Remo is a reminder of why seaside resorts need to keep up with the competition. This was once the Monte Carlo of Italy, home to the jet set but now very much it’s poor relation.
It may feel tired and slightly rough around the edges, but we still thought it was worth a stop. One good point is a large, free motorhome Sosta situated on the approach from Ventimiglia. We took advantage and parked up with probably 50 other motorhomes.
The first thing we noticed was the litter everywhere. This isn’t a great first impression, although council worker’s did keep appearing to empty the bins.
On top of all the normal litter, there was an awful lot of toilet paper and excrement, which seemed to be the human kind. To put it mildly, it was blinking horrible and unfortunately it wasn’t just confined to the motorhome area.
A great cycle path
On the positive side, there’s an excellent cycle path that follows the old railway line to Imperia, direct from the Sosta. Exploring by bike seemed the best option, so off we peddled, soon reaching the centre of San Remo with its pretty harbour and promenade.
Having enjoyed coastal views en-route, we thought we’d park up the bikes and walk into the old town to soak up the atmosphere.
Now, we were actually rather surprised at the old town. It was really quite nice, with a busy centre and plenty of ornate architecture.
There’s a casino which stands above the waterfront and brings a reminder of the Monte Carlo connection. Another beautiful building is the decorative 19th Century Russian Orthodox Church. This was built by rich Russian exiles who also built fine villas around the town.
Imperia – The Italian Riviera in a Campervan
Back in the campervan, we travelled further along the coast, passing beaches full of colourful sun loungers. Unbelievably, these took up every inch of sand or so it appeared, with parasols and beds lined up and practically touching.
Imperia is a fascinating looking town, divided in two by a River of the same name and situated above the sea on a raised headland. Unfortunately, we failed to park the campervan, it was just so manic.
Instead, we joined the traffic jams which lead us into the second half of Imperia town and a place named Oneglia.
beaches are all private
Absolute chaos springs to mind right now, not helped by the only parking area being full. Oh no, this was one of those “what do we do now moments”, because there was nowhere else for us to go. So, we held our ground and eventually got a space along a breakwater overlooking a working harbour.
Here, the litter problem was as bad as ever and if there’s anything that annoys us, it’s rubbish, simply because it’s so unnecessary.
As soon as we could, we started off on the couple of mile walk to Imperia, but by now, it was only a dip in the sea that appealed.
Finding a stretch of public beach wasn’t easy. We hadn’t realised that nearly all beaches are private, with a fee for entering. This meant when we finally found a public stretch, not only was it tiny but absolutely packed like sardines. We just about had enough space to put down our bags and change, then take a quick dip, even this wasn’t that great amongst the masses.
Finally it was a quick look around the old town, which was worth a visit but didn’t leave a lasting impression.
One wrong turn
What came next did leave a lasting impression though! This was one of those hair-raising wrong turn moments which left us in a real tight spot.
Worse still, was the fact that it was on a railway crossing and all because we were following a Park4Night spot on the App. Well, the cursing went on long after miraculously getting free from the smallest of tight turns, which wasn’t suitable for anything bigger than a moped.
By now, the stress levels were momentous to say the least.
Albenga – The Italian Riviera in a Campervan
The coast really started to improve for us around Albenga. With no sign of the litter and excrement that had been following us around before here. By now, we were beginning to enjoy the trip a bit more.
Then came Albenga itself, an ancient walled town with Roman origins. Originally, the town was next to the sea, but it’s now somewhat inland in comparison and looked like an interesting find.
Thankfully, parking was easy here at a free Sosta, we even had a few other motorhomes for company.
Fortunately, a small underpass opposite the Sosta lead to a beautiful promenade and lovely beaches. So, we chose to have a beach afternoon, but first it was time to buy some freshly baked Foccata from the local bakery.
Did we mention that 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 soon 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. Here, a tree-lined promenade stretches for a mile or so, whilst the old town beyond remains a hub of activity.
The coast now began to get really pretty and those litter problems were long gone. 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 too, no wonder they were all so full.
Having failed miserably to park in Savona, unfortunately we had to give it a miss. Although, driving around for almost an hour, provided a little bit of an insight into the town. The approach is passed a mass of industrial buildings, so it doesn’t have the best appeal.
We wanted to visit a covered food market, but all we managed to see from driving seat was the castle area, which looked nice but didn’t help us to park. As you can guess, parking was really difficult, so for us, Savona was frustratingly inconvenient.
We’re not sure what to think of Genoa. We’d read several reports of robberies from campervans overnight. So we opted for a quick daytime tour. Fortunately we found 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?
Next, we scurried through lengthy alleys of souvenir shops, coupled with foods stores and merchants from across the globe.
Finally, we emerged into 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 motorhome and ready to escape to a more low-key environment. I have to say, it had been an interesting and eye-opening city to explore!
Let’s just go back to the beaches topic. So, as we’ve said already, beaches along the Italian Riviera are nearly all private and they cover miles of coast. On the sand are restaurants and just loads of sun loungers and parasols of co-ordinating colours.
Small beach huts are provided for changing, and life guards are often on duty too. Some beach bars provide permanent style sea inflatables as well as volleyball courts – it’s a fun-loving environment, but not for the low-key types.
We haven’t used any of these private beaches, but believe they are fairly expensive, costing around 20-30 Euro per day.
There are hardly any toilets on the Italian Riviera, so let’s hope you have one in your campervan. Basically, without our own toilet in the van, we’d be very stuck indeed. Also, when there is a public toilet, there’s often a charge.
I’d say toilets are rare and free toilets even more so and there’s no toilet paper either.
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 on our visit in August. Expect to have someone’s head at your feet and vice-versa!
Sosta – Italian Motorhome Parking
A Sosta is the same principal as a French Aire or German Stellplatz. It’s an Italian term for parking and is where a self-contained motorhome can park overnight.
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.