Live la dolce vita on the Italian Riviera

You don’t have to pay Portofino prices to enjoy Liguria’s superb food, wine and pristine beaches.
Liguria is one of Italy’s smallest regions, a narrow ribbon of coast and deep green mountains that curves between Tuscany and France’s Côte d’Azur. It’s a hot favourite for second homes, attracting weekenders from Milan and Turin as well as foreign tourists.
 
Highlights of this Italian Riviera include the pretty, pricey village of Portofino, the festival town of Sanremo, stand-out food and wine, clean Blue Flag beaches and unspoilt hilltop villages.
 
International airports at Nice, Genoa and Milan provide speedy access from London while the train from Nice chugs through Monaco, Menton and around the Ligurian coast. Summer sun gives way to mild winters, and the Alps, the sea and the French border are all near.
 
THE COAST EAST OF GENOA
Famous residents of the exclusive Riviera di Levante include fashion designers Dolce & Gabbana and Giorgio Armani, but buying here is not straightforward. Space is limited and there is very little new build, explains Martino de Rosa of IIN Liguria, part of Knight Frank’s Italian network.
 
“Prices average £800 a square foot, rising above £1,600 in Portofino.” A three-bedroom duplex flat of 1,940sq ft in rarefied Portofino’s central piazza, for example, is £2.7 million. The year-round town of Santa Margherita, 40 minutes from Genoa, is more affordable.
 
Knight Frank is selling nine one- and two-bedroom flats off-plan in the centre from £638,400. Over the mountain in the fishing village of Camogli, flats in a refurbished 19th-century villa start at £518,700 for 645sq ft (knightfrank.com; 020 7629 8171).

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From £638,400: nine one-and two-bedroom flats, close to the beach in Santa Margherita, eastern Liguria, with parking, are being sold off-plan by Knight Frank (020 7629 8171)
 
WESTERN LIGURIA
The embattled local economy makes this a good time to bag a property bargain on the Riviera dei Fiori, while French residents regularly cross the border to buy food in the markets at much lower prices. The 40 miles from Alassio to the French border includes the lively waterfront towns of Sanremo, Bordighera and Imperia, all a direct train ride from Nice.  
 
“Western Liguria has long sandy beaches, great countryside and plenty to do including sailing, cycling or walking in pine forests,” says Matteo Scandolera of Liguria Homes. Prices start from £119,650 for studios and £200,000 for one-bedroom flats. On the waterfront in Ospedaletti, two-bedroom flats are £319,150.
 
A two-bedroom penthouse flat on Sanremo seafront is £478,600 while a three-bedroom flat in a classic villa in Imperia, with concierge and sea views over the small marina, is £1.2 million. Inland from Bordighera, a fabulous, architect-designed four-bedroom home in gardens full of orange and olive trees is for sale at £2,154,000 with Knight Frank (knightfrank.com; 020 7629 8171).
 
Further inland, the medieval village of Dolceaqua is noted for its beauty and culture. A two-bedroom flat in the Old Town is £255,300 through Liguria Homes (liguriahomes.com). Says Scandolera: “Buying a home here is just like having one in the South of France in so many ways, just cheaper to buy and cheaper to maintain.”

THE BEST OF THE BEST
“Welcome to Paradise,” says Ermes de Megni, general manager of Belmond Hotel Splendido as he steers guests towards the terrace, a Bellini and a breath-taking view of the azure Mediterranean bay dotted with sleek, white yachts below.

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Belmond Hotel Splendido: the perfect base above Portofino
 
The old-style glamour of the Italian Riviera is captured in the hotel, above Portofino, where stars from Ava Gardner to George Clooney have checked in. The scented gardens, the spa and restaurants, legendary service and charm combine to make the Splendido one of Europe’s finest, most exclusive hotels and the perfect base from which to explore Liguria.
 
  • Garden view rooms at Belmond Hotel Splendido start from £479 with breakfast (see hotelsplendido.com; belmond.com — or call 0845 077 2222)

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