Introducing Rapallo

Rapallo is an excellent base for exploring the Italian Riviera as it is so well connected by public transport.

It is not as expensive as some of the other towns on the Riviera and is very beautiful to walk around.
It is not as touristy either and a place where the Italian families with their children and dogs holiday. Rarely do you see a Brit here.

It is a city that perfectly fuses history, art and beautiful natural scenery.

We arrived in Rapallo via train from Sestri Levante, which is a few stops along the train line and is just across the bay from Portofino.

Lungomare Vittorio Veneto (Seaside Promenade)

We loved Rapallo as soon as we walked out of the station and took our first walk along the palm tree-lined seafront promenade.
It’s a traditional red-brick promenade which skirts the semi-circular harbour.

Attractive and elegant buildings, hotels and plenty of restaurants and shops also line the promenade. The place was full of life (It was a bank holiday weekend), the sun was out, and the street musicians made it even more of an enjoyable experience.

It’s such a colourful town with the blue sea, the green mountain backdrop and the buildings painted terracotta, mustard and pink.

Rapallo has the modern marina at one end which is home to lots of very expensive, large yachts and the Christopher Columbus Monument and at the other a tiny 16th-century castle.
The Lungomare comes alive at night when the Italians come out for passeggiata (a stroll), or to drink an aperitivo in a pavement cafe.

There is often entertainment – music of different types, stalls etc. in the summer months.

Rapallo Castle

The castle is situated at the edge of Rapallo’s old town jutting out of the sea. It was built to protect Rapallo from pirate invasions. Later it became a prison but is now a venue that hosts art exhibitions. Unfortunately, it was not open when we visited so we could only photograph it from outside. It is lit up at night in the summer which looks very pretty.

Chiosco Della Musica (The Bandstand)

The attractive, early 20th-century bandstand (Chiosco Della Musica) in a small square just across from the waterfront is fascinating. Inside its domed roof, the ceiling is decorated with paintings of typical gods and goddesses of Italian myths and legends, all swirling round in a blue heaven.

Concerts often take place here in the evenings. The square is lined with cafes and restaurants where you can listen to music. The day we visited some youngsters were practising their breakdancing inside it, so we stopped for a coffee to watch them.

Tourist Train in Rapallo

Just across the road from the bandstand, you can pick up the small tourist train. For only 3 euros each we enjoyed a tour of Rapallo which was well worth it and took us a reasonable distance around Rapallo.
We passed an impressive old bridge which dates back to early Roman times. The bridge itself is gated off so you cannot cross. You can walk to either end via small alleys on each side. There is a historical marker on one end of the alley. It’s worth a quick stop to look.

Rapallo Beach

The coast is lined with lidos, private beaches where you pay to rent a sunbed and umbrella. Just a little further out of town is a public beach which is a small pebbly cove down some stairs.

The beaches are generally stone or rock rather than sand.

Rapallo’s Historical Centre

Just behind the seafront promenade is the historic pedestrian town centre with narrow cobble-stoned paths, and beautifully painted old buildings. There are lots of places to eat and a good assortment of shops. We just enjoyed exploring the cosy little squares and narrow alleys.

There is one gate remaining from the ancient walls, the Saline gate. It separates the historic centre from the seaside promenade.

As with a lot of buildings on the Italian Riviera, a distinctive feature is the trampe-l’oeil or painted decorative details on buildings that trick the eye into thinking they are real. Arches, portals, balustrades, and brickwork are all fake.  Some buildings have artificial windows painted on the upper storeys. This dates back to the 18th century when a tax was introduced based on the number of windows.

Rapallo Market

A fruit and vegetable market is held daily in the centre which is on -route to the station and buses.

The Thursday market sells everything you could want and runs the whole length of the boardwalk.

Rapallo Cable Car 

About 500 metres inland from Rapallo station at Piazza Solari you can catch the cable car and ride up to the Sanctuary of Montallegro. The shrine commemorates the apparition of Mary, the Mother of Jesus and the patron saint of Rapallo. It was built in 1558, and its marble facade was added in 1896. On the walls inside there are many paintings, mostly of miracles at sea.

The splendid ride uphill to Montallegro on the cable car (which opened in 1934), takes seven minutes to ascend the 600 metres where the views of the Gulf of Tigullio and the hills are spectacular.

The cable car leaves every half hour between 9.00 and 12.30 am and 2.00 – 5.00 pm (later in summer)

The marble facade of the church looks spectacular at night.

There are two hotels with restaurants open for both lunch and dinner. Several hiking trails start from Montallegro.

Click for more information on the Rapallo Cable Car.

Festivals and Events in Rapallo

The most important festival is 2nd July, the Festa dell” Apparizionne Della Vergine, celebrated in Montallegro above Rapallo. There is a procession from town up to the church.

The small theatre in the former Clarrise convent holds concerts and plays, and during summer movies are shown outdoors in the town park by Villa Tigullio. There are many small weekend festivals, outdoor markets, and concerts throughout the year. Sailing regattas are sometimes held too.

Rapallo Nightlife

Bar

Cafe ZiPier
Via Avenaggi 17,
16035 Rapallo GE,
Italy.
Facebook: Cafe ZiPier

Good food, good drinks and great friendly staff. Popular for its extensive selection of beers. Live music to rock and reggae. Lovely bar terrace with sea views.

Gallery

Click to see larger images.

Where to stay in Rapallo

The Rapallo seafront and streets leading from it are lined with hotels, many built in the Liberty style, the Italian equivalent of Art Nouveau. They range from modest two-stars with homely atmospheres such as Hotel Portofino, to grand five-star hotels like the Excelsior Palace. As in other seaside towns in Italy, many hotels in Rapallo shut down from November to March.

Rapallo Hotels

Look for hotels with Booking.com
TripAdvisor.com

Recommended hotels are Best Western Tigullio Royal and Hotel Miramare.

Campsite

Fossa Lupara,
Sestri Levante,
Italy.

GPS: N44°16’25” E9°25’21”

This Site is listed in the ACSI Discount Camping Book available here. This book is definitely worth getting for its discount card that you can use for out of season camping.

We love this campsite although a couple of years ago we pulled up outside and decided to come away and find another one as it didn’t seem to be in the best location. It was very near the toll booths on the motorway and there were a lot of concrete bridges and pillars around along with a builder’s merchant near the entrance.  Straight away we thought it wouldn’t be nice for getting anywhere by foot or cycle. However, we decided to give it another try this year and the actual site inside is really nice and cosy. The food in the restaurant is good.  You can’t really hear any road noise and the owners are so friendly.

Daniel, the campsite owner, provides a taxi service into Sestri Levente or the station for just 4 euros each way and you just give him a call when you want to be picked up and he or one of his family pick you up.  You can walk into Sestri Levente but it is quite a long walk.  We cycled once but it was along a busy main road.

We stay at Fossa Lupara and then travel from there by train to Rapallo and the other towns on the Italian Riviera.

How to get to Rapallo

Rapallo is located in the region of Liguria on the Italian Riviera between Genova and the Cinque Terre.

The nearest airport to Rapallo is Genoa Cristoforo Colombo Airport (GOA/LIMJ). This airport is in Genoa, Italy and is 39 km from the centre of Rapallo.

Rapallo train station

The train station is situated in the old town of Rapallo.

Rapallo is about an hour on the train from Genova.

You can get a train from Milan to Rapallo which can be booked online at https://www.trenitalia.com/en.html
Type in Milan in the form field, and you’ll probably leave from Milano Centrale. There is an occasional intercity train that goes direct to Rapallo, or you can change in Genova. You can buy an e-ticket without creating an account, and you usually have to tell the train conductor the PNR code of your booking.

Buy a ticket from the self-service machine (they have instructions in English) or the counter. You must remember to validate the ticket (get a time printed on it) in the machines on the platform before you board.

The regional trains are really cheap. From Rapallo, you can get to Santa Margherita Ligure (3 minutes away) and Camogli (8 minutes) quickly by train. To get from Rapallo to the Cinque Terre, you can take the train to any of the five villages.

It takes 40 minutes to walk from Rapallo to Santa Margherita Ligure along the coast from there it is just over an hour to Portofino. You can also get a bus to Portofino, but they are always packed.

Bus

You can take the bus although it will take a long time and isn’t very convenient with large luggage. You would need to take the airport bus (volabus) to the end of the line at Brignole Station. Then a bus from very nearby Piazza Verde to Recco, then another bus to Rapallo.

rapallo ferry

The ferry is a scenic way to travel (although a bit more expensive) to Santa Margherita, Portofino, San Fruttuoso, and Cinque Terre.

From July through September there are some ferries to Cinque Terre. See the Tigullio Ferry Schedule. There’s also a taxi boat service in the harbour.

By Car

The distance from Genova airport to Rapallo is 38 mins (32.4 km) via A12/E80.

Car Hire

There are so many amazing places to visit which sometimes we can’t get to with our motorhome or local transport, so we often hire a car for a few days to explore more.

We take out an annual car hire excess insurance with insure4carhire.
RentalCars.com is the company we use if hiring from a campsite but if we are flying into an airport we use Zest Car Hire which usually has the best deals but can only be picked up from an airport or hotel.

Tourist Information

The tourist information office is near the sea on Lungomare Vittorio Veneto.