Italian Riviera and Cinque Terre Kayak

About the Experience

The Italian Riviera and Cinque Terre have some of the most arresting stretches of coastline in the world.

Steeped in history (and steep cliffs) the five tiny villages that Cinque Terre’s name is derived from, appear like a child’s whimsical drawing. Pastel-coloured buildings and houses are neatly stacked along the harbours and hills. The uninterrupted seascape of vivid Mediterranean indigo blues rolls out into unmatched sunsets. 

To explore this area by kayak is to experience the undisputed “dolce vita” that is at the pounding heart and soul of this dramatic region on the west coast of Italy.

Warm water, sunbaked beaches, sumptuous regional food and the relaxed vibe of life at the sea’s edge have attracted artists, poets, and writers for over two centuries. Byron, Shelley, D.H. Lawrence, Hans Christian Andersen and Virginia Woolf all came here to distill and write.

Suspended along an 18km stretch of serrated cliffs between Levanto and La Spezia, Cinque Terre is one of Italy’s most precious natural treasures. The designated UNESCO World Heritage and national park of the “five lands” (Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore) also has a secret sixth! These villages are hugged by mountains, olive groves, lemon trees and terraced vineyards. You will feel the embrace immediately.

Whether in the cockpit of the kayak or following the winding alleyways of the ancient cities, surprises lie in wait. Expect an authentic taste of the area’s best wines and menus. The Riviera and Cinque Terre by paddle is an unforgettable way to feel, taste and move through the spirit of Italy.

Please note:  The proposed itinerary is weather and sea permitting which may influence the scheduled kayaking activity. The order of events may be altered to suit more favourable conditions. Due to the nature of the sea and the elements, this Riviera and Cinque Terre experience is always guaranteed to be a unique one!

Click here to see the full itinerary!
Italian Riviera and Cinque Terre Kayak

About the Experience

The Italian Riviera and Cinque Terre have some of the most arresting stretches of coastline in the world.

Steeped in history (and steep cliffs) the five tiny villages that Cinque Terre’s name is derived from, appear like a child’s whimsical drawing. Pastel-coloured buildings and houses are neatly stacked along the harbours and hills. The uninterrupted seascape of vivid Mediterranean indigo blues rolls out into unmatched sunsets. 

To explore this area by kayak is to experience the undisputed “dolce vita” that is at the pounding heart and soul of this dramatic region on the west coast of Italy.

Warm water, sunbaked beaches, sumptuous regional food and the relaxed vibe of life at the sea’s edge have attracted artists, poets, and writers for over two centuries. Byron, Shelley, D.H. Lawrence, Hans Christian Andersen and Virginia Woolf all came here to distill and write.

Suspended along an 18km stretch of serrated cliffs between Levanto and La Spezia, Cinque Terre is one of Italy’s most precious natural treasures. The designated UNESCO World Heritage and national park of the “five lands” (Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore) also has a secret sixth! These villages are hugged by mountains, olive groves, lemon trees and terraced vineyards. You will feel the embrace immediately.

Whether in the cockpit of the kayak or following the winding alleyways of the ancient cities, surprises lie in wait. Expect an authentic taste of the area’s best wines and menus. The Riviera and Cinque Terre by paddle is an unforgettable way to feel, taste and move through the spirit of Italy.

Please note:  The proposed itinerary is weather and sea permitting which may influence the scheduled kayaking activity. The order of events may be altered to suit more favourable conditions. Due to the nature of the sea and the elements, this Riviera and Cinque Terre experience is always guaranteed to be a unique one!

DAY ONE: ARRIVAL AND EXPLORATION

Plan to arrive in the vibrant port city of Genoa from Rome or Florence after 2pm. After checking into your hotel room and breathing in the bellisimmo that surrounds you, you’ll have time to explore the network of narrow cobblestoned streets (“caruggi”) and dramatic palaces of the medieval old city. There are antique pharmacies, bookstores and pastry shops that will lure you in at every turn. Be sure to enjoy a frisceu (apple fritter) or gobeletti (jam tartlet), it’s the region’s flagship sweet!

Meet your fellow Wild Women in the hotel lobby at 5pm. Dinner tonight will unfold at a traditional trattoria and wine bar. Saluti!

DAY TWO: ALONG THE RIVIERA

After boarding the shuttle van, we will drive along the famed crescent-shaped coastline and colourful beach towns of the Riviera. The pastel-coloured villas and surreal Mediterranean blues of the Gulf of Genoa haved attracted romantics, poets, writers and painters alike–Ezra Pound and Hemingway had great affection for the region of Liguria.

Our launch point will be at the seaside resort town of Recco–an area renowned for its focaccia con il formaggio. The gastronomic specialty is registered under the European Protected Geographical Indication to prevent uncontrolled recipes. This cheesy bread is sacred!

But first, back to the task at hand–we’ll have an introduction to sea kayaking ins and outs (and wet exits) before paddling off. Our first stop will be in the fishing village of Camogli. We’ll quench our thirst and continue along the coast to the Abbey of San Fruttuoso. In 1954, the ghostly underwater statue Christ of the Abyss was submerged in the sea just off San Fruttuoso, 17m (56ft) below the peacock blue surface.

Accessible only by sea or foot, we will enjoy a spoiled night in Camogli at the luxe Stella Maris Resort. The converted 18th-century villa is only accessible by sea or on foot. Embrace the solitude, relaxation and the most generous hospitality in all of Liguria. The fragrant Mediterranean gardens, terraces and solarium add to the serenity. Don’t miss the sunset as it drops into the gulf. Later, check out the spa amenities–book a fireside massage! There’s a 4-person whirlpool, sauna, chromotherapy (colour therapy) shower too!

DAY THREE: PADDLING TO PORTOFINO 

Setting off along the coast of Parco Naturale Regionale Portofino, our first destination is Portofino. The village southeast of Genoa has been Italy’s twinkly premier coastal resort, attracting celebs (and Wild Women) from around the world. Super yachts converge in the harbour loved for its sunsets, colorful facades, seafood restaurants and genuine “dolce vita”. Ricky Martin liked livin’ la vida loca but here, it’s all about the “sweet life” which is palpable.

We’ll paddle into the harbour and stop for gelato at a gelateria. (*Here’s the inside scoop on some favourite flavours: stracciatella, biscotti, limoncello!). After some photo ops and guaranteed OMGs, we’ll continue on to Santa Margherita Ligure. A short drive will take us to Villa Bardi, a family-owned coastal farmstay that will be our dreamy destination for the night. The outdoor terrace has an enormous view of the sea and the natural setting hugs the property. The agriturismo restaurant is known for its “zero kilometer” products. Chemical and pesticide-free olives are pressed on site in the cold-oil mill and “Jars of Happiness” jams are made with seasonal fruit. The family abides by “peasant traditions” in their meat-curing process and they bottle honey too! It’s a super sweet stay!

 

DAY FOUR: CINQUE TERRE

We’ll drive along the mesmerizing Riviera coast to Monterosso al Mare, the largest of the five ‘Cinque Terre’ towns. The hills are verdant with lemons, olives and terraced vineyards.

We will launch the kayaks into the translucent sea and experience our first big taste of the rugged beauty that is the coast of the Cinque Terre National Park–Italy’s first (and smallest)! The area was protected in 1999 and includes five (cinque!) picturesque seaside villages (Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore) that cling to the rocky Mediterranean coastline in a captivating palette. The villages are a marvel of Benedictine monasteries, Roman villas and ancient churches, all dwarfed by sharp cliffs and coastal hills. The sheltered bays and coves below are a playground for kayakers!

Our destination for the night is Corniglia, the most unique of the five villages with a bird’s eye view from the promontory it’s perched on. Surrounded on three sides by vineyards and terraces, it’s like a fairytale castle set atop the cliffs, overlooking the mirror surface of the sea. 

Basil grown in Cinque Terre is known to be particularly flavourful, making the local pesto a must-try. Anchovies (fried, marinated, salt-cured) are ubiquitous–so are lemons! Try an icy lemon granita–there’s a reason why Monterosso hosts an annual Lemon Festival (May).

For a sweet nightcap, you must try the local treasure, Sciacchetrà. This dessert wine is made with grapes that grow closest to the sea. Classic Cinque Terre wine is a dry, aromatic white made of varietals like Bosco, Albarola and Vermentino.

 

DAY FIVE: CINQUE TERRE NATIONAL PARK

We’ll continue our intimate exploration of Cinque Terre National Park and the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park is also internationally recognized as a marine reserve and Sea Cetacean Sanctuary (established in 1999). Two thousand fin whales, dolphins, goose-beaked whales and sperm whales frequent the Ligurian-Occitan basin, including the Cinque Terre region as well, in preparation for the winter.

As your kayak cuts through the warm cyan water, swift as a dolphin, the panorama of Cinque Terre will envelop you, like visual quicksand. We will take time to visit the villages, explore the twisting alleyways and climb up to the vineyards for a view that captures the distinct magic of Cinque Terre. Depending on the sea and weather gods, we should be able to visit three or four of the five villages of Cinque Terre.

We will return to Corniglia, to absorb the marmalade sunset while sampling local wines over dinner on the terrace of our hotel.

 

DAY SIX: ROAD OF LOVE TO RIOMAGGIORE 

After a sumptuous breakfast and kicky espresso, we will continue to discover Cinque Terre from the best seat in the house–the cockpits of our kayaks! After passing through Manarola’s waterfront (population 353, plus the Wild Women), we’ll paddle alongside the famous Via dell’Amore (Lovers’ Lane)–the 1km footpath that connects Riomaggiore with Manarola has been closed since the 2016 earthquake. (The devastating floods were in 2011–proving the area’s resilience!) 

We’ll tie up our kayaks in Riomaggiore and explore this bella città (beautiful town) before paddling along a stretch of indigo coast that leads to the semi-secret “sixth village” of Cinque Terre. Rounding the point we will enter the medieval harbour of Portovenere (or Porto Venere), where Castello Doria, a cliff-top fortress, overlooks the Gulf of Poets (how great is that moniker? It’s a nod to all the literary giants who were inspired by the views and muse). We’ll paddle the spectacular bay around the former Roman and Byzantine Empire maritime base.

Depending on the sea, weather and the group’s energy level, we could also circumnavigate the lushness of Palmaria Island.

After landing, there will be time to explore the Palazzata. These connected dwellings are built into the rocky shoreline as part of the town’s fortified walls. There’s also an ancient gate (Porta del Borgo), Byron’s grotto, churches–or, try a slice of Ligurian pandolce (the huge wheel of the classic fruit cake that you see displayed in every bakery window).

Tonight will be our final Riviera arrivederci dinner together. Time just floated by, didn’t it? We’ll be staying at a waterfront hotel to soak up the shimmery views just a little longer.

 

DAY SEVEN: PORTOVENERE AND LA SPEZIA

After a relaxed breakfast on the hotel’s terrace, we’ll transfer to La Spezia Centrale railway station. From this rail hub, it is easy to return to Genoa Airport or continue onward to other destinations in Tuscany and beyond. Because, when in Rome…or Genoa…

Click here to see upcoming trip dates to book your spot!