Rapallo, Italy and Liguria in general are loved by visitors and locals alike. Though the area is highly trafficked during the summer months, there’s no denying the Ligurian coast’s beauty, charm, and unique coastline. Italy is one of those places that grabbed onto me over 25 years ago and never let go. One taste of La Dolce Vita and I was ruined.

The acclaimed towns of Portofino and Santa Margherita welcome thousands of visitors yearly. However, also located in Ligurian sea bliss is Rapallo, an alluring destination in the Italian Riviera. 

When to visit


My husband Ian and I visited in the fall which was a perfect time of the year. The summer crowds were gone and the weather was mild, allowing for a light sweater and layers. I’ve traveled to the area during the summer months on a previous solo trip and noticed a night and day difference. I loved being there in the summer for the fun factor but I remember how scorching and crowded it was. Visiting in the fall just felt more pleasant mainly because I’ve grown to hate traveling during high-heat days. Rapallo is also a winter escape for many Italians looking for a mild, coastal climate in the off-season. 

What to see

Rapallo can be used as a home base if you want to do day trips throughout the Ligurian region. Santa Margherita and Portofino are short ferry rides away and it’s a great way to see the Ligurian coast. Cinque Terre is also close by.

Points of interest

  • Sanctuary of Our Lady of Montallegro-built to be a sanctuary for pilgrims, a pilgrimage site with sea views
  • Castelo sul Mare (Castel on the sea) The town’s castle sitting at the water’s edge. It was originally erected as a lookout to counter attacks from pirates.
  • Promenade Lungomare Vittorio Venetto-picturesque promenade around Rapallo with a scenic ocean view.
deck chairs with castle by the sea in background
Castelo sul Mare and lookout-Rapallo, Italy

Weekly open-air market

There is a weekly open-air market on the promenade in Rapallo. A variety of local vendors sell everything from clothing, jewelry, fabric, and everything a bargain hunter could wish for. Check with your local concierge or anyone in town to see what day it will be happening. We were there on a Thursday but things could change. 

man shopping at outdoor market in Rapallo, Italy
Open air market-Rapallo, Italy
outdoor shopping in Rapallo, Italy

Walk About Town

man walking in Italy past food vendors

I’m going to encourage this every time I write about Italy. Just walk. Everywhere. The Italian word, passeggiata, means to stroll or take a leisurely walk, especially in the evening. I take passeggiata to heart in Italy because you have to clear your mind and wander if you’re going to absorb everything Italy has to offer. The narrow streets, the promenade along the water, and the wonderful shopkeepers and vendors you meet, all can be easily missed if you’re looking at your phone or rushing to get somewhere. My husband can tell you how many times I threatened to throw his phone into the ocean if he didn’t look up. (But that would also be polluting the ocean so it best he put it away!) Give Rapallo and the Ligurian region your full attention and just enjoy the beauty surrounding you. 

Where to eat:

Rocce ei suoi Fratelli (K2)

A large arancini
Arancini grande!

When Ian and I travel, we like to ask the locals where THEY eat. We don’t require the trendiest restaurants in a destination, usually leaning toward what is tried and true. If it happens to be trendy, then cool. As long as it’s good, we don’t care. 

Though I love Italian cuisine from every region, I have a weakness for Sicilian-style cuisine. We found a restaurant close to our hotel serving Sicilian and Ligurian cuisine. Rocco e i suoi Fratelli (Rocco and his brothers), also known as K2, was exceptional. Just to give you an idea, arancini are one of my favorite eats ever. They are usually about the size of a baseball. I’ve had some smaller, and some bigger, but the ones at Rocco e i suoi Fratelli were giant. We could have split one but not knowing any better, my husband and I ordered one each. I could tell the waiter was holding back a chuckle because these two yankees didn’t know any better. Nonetheless, they were delicious! You may want to order one and split it if you intend to have dinner. Anything you order at this restaurant will not disappoint. We noticed local regulars dining as well as visitors like ourselves. I would suggest making reservations when you arrive through your hotel concierge or directly with the restaurant. 

Address: Vico delle Saline, 5, 16035 Rapallo GE, Italy

Phone: +39 0185 475219

Armida 1905

A big OMG Rapallo restaurant moment. Another local recommendation (from our Concierge at Hotel Vesuvio), this restaurant is a gem. Tucked away down a quiet street is this beautiful restaurant, authentic, friendly, and delicious with fresh local ingredients. The restaurant itself is cozy yet modern, with the region’s wine on full display. The owner was so welcoming, that we put ourselves in his hands and asked him to simply serve us his preference. The octopus dish we had was amazing, cooked to perfection. We were able to chat with the owner a bit after closing and learned about his profession in designing kitchens. It was clear that his expertise was put to good use in his restaurant. 

This is a place to make reservations. It has become a favorite, highly rated, and for good reason. Food is prepared with precision and the staff is very accommodating. Be prepared to get comfortable, hang out for a while, and just enjoy your beautiful meal in a special place. 

Armida 1905

Open daily

P.za del Pozzo, 23/25, 16035 Rapallo GE, Italy

 +39 0185 233575

Where to stay

Hotel Vesuvio

Location is everything. Hotel Vesuvio is a 3-star property, close to the train station and the ferry dock. The rooms are bright, airy, and an incredible value in an amazing location. The staff is so friendly, you feel like you’re visiting friends. They instantly welcome you and offer any guidance about what to do in the area. They were the ones who pointed us in the direction of the restaurants so kudos for that alone! There’s also a pizza ristorante adjoined which is really convenient.

The room was just what we wanted; a bright room with a balcony to enjoy the view. The balcony was nice enough to eat in for meals and watch the world go by. We were there for my birthday and I wanted to spend the late afternoon enjoying the local wine, cheese, and cured meats we acquired at the corner bottega-enoteca. Is there a better way to spend your birthday than to enjoy an ocean view, drink local wine, and eat local meats and cheeses? 

Speaking of wine, if you’re a red wine lover like me, pick up a bottle of Rosmarinus Rossese di Dolceacqua from the same bottega-enoteca. Or, have them suggest something to you.Parla Come Mangi is a wonderful one-stop shop for wine, cheese, salami, anything, and everything local to Rapallo. They were holding a tasting event outside when we were there and it was evident how much they loved interacting with visitors. 

A note on the star ratings on European hotels:

When traveling through Europe, you might notice stars on hotel signs or somewhere on the hotel property. Star “ratings” aren’t ratings as in how nice is it. The stars are indicative of amenities. The stars are given to the hotels by tourism inspectors. For example, if a hotel offers 24-hour concierge service, a bathroom in the room, and a mini-bar, it may receive a three-star rating. However, there are no hard and fast rules in Europe about the star rating. (Of course not!) A hotel might check off their list but may be lacking an elevator which might not be important to the “powers that be.” Use the star rating as a guideline but ultimately, I’ve always chosen accommodations based on my needs. 

Getting Around

The trains run often so if you’re coming from Pisa or Genoa, you’ll have plenty of options. Trenitalia is easy to navigate and there is assistance at the train stations if you need help purchasing your ticket. You can also download their app and purchase your ticket that way. The train is the best and most enjoyable way to experience this region. Just enjoy the scenery!

Car

You can rent a car if planning on enjoying the Ligurian coast but I’ll be honest, I would skip it. If you plan to include the Cinque Terre and Portofino in your itinerary, they can’t accommodate vehicles based on their tiered living and geography. Though you can drive in Rapallo and Santa Margherita, you could end up in local traffic. If you still want some wheels to get around in, there are Vespa rentals which would be a lot easier to navigate. For travelers, I’ve found it much easier to use the train and ferry systems. 

Ferry

Speaking of the ferries, just do it. Treat yourself. They run up and down the Ligurian coast, taking you to Santa Margherita, Portofino, and the Cinque Terre, just to name a few. It’s a pleasant way to enjoy the coast and talk about photo opportunities! For us, coming from the land of congested highways, there was no better way to see the Ligurian coast. 

Rapallo, Italy and Liguria is truly a special part of Italy that shouldn’t be missed. Also known as part of the Italian Riviera, it’s important to break down the areas that make up this region. Rapallo is a destination my husband and I can’t wait to revisit and retrace our steps. Amore Rapallo!

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