Rapallo Travel Guide

Rapallo is an Italian Riviera town between Genoa and the Cinque Terre. With a train station and reasonably priced hotels, it makes a good base for visiting other towns along the Ligurian coast. From town there’s a stunning ride up the hill on the cable railway to Montallegro with beautiful views of the sea and coast.

rapallo castle
Rapallo Castle

Plan Your Visit to Rapallo

Where to Stay:
  • The Hotel Riviera, across the street from the sea, is famous as the hotel where Hemingway wrote his story, The Cat in the Rain, although it was called the Splendid at the time.
  • Hotel San Desiderio is in the center, a 5 minute walk to the seafront or the train station.
  • Excelsior Palace Hotel is a luxury hotel with two restaurants, indoor pool, wellness center, and panoramic views of the bay.

Transportation:
Rapallo is on the coastal rail line that runs from Ventimiglia (near the French border) to Rome. Its train station is centrally located. Buses run to many smaller towns both on the coast and inland. Arriving by car, there’s an exit off the A12 autostrada. The closest airport is Christopher Columbus airport by Genoa. Ferries run to Santa Margherita Ligure, Portofino, and San Fruttuoso. From July through September there are some ferries to Cinque Terre. Ferries to Portovenere and Sestri Levante run on Sundays from May through September and Tuesdays and Thursdays from July through mid-September. On Fridays in August there’s a ferry to Genoa. See Tigullio Ferry Schedule. There’s also taxi boat service in the harbor.

Top Things to See and Do in Rapallo

*Ride the Funivia: Take the 8 minute ride up the hill to Montallegro on the funivia, or cable railway, leaving from Piazza Solari. At the top is the large Sanctuary of Montallegro, built in 1558 to commemorate a picture left by the Virgin when she appeared to a peasant. On the walls inside are many offerings, mostly for miracles at sea. Several hiking trails start from Montallegro and there are two hotels, both with restaurants usually open for lunch and dinner. Watch the short video:Funivia ride from Montallegro to Rapallo.

rapallo bay of tigullio
Rapallo: View over the Bay of Tigullio
  • Stroll along the Lungomare, the Seaside Promenade, a red-brick walkway lined with palm trees that skirts the semi-circular harbor. Along the promenade are Art Nouveau buildings, restaurants, bars, and hotels. In summer small music groups sometimes perform in the early 20th century band shell.
  • Rapallo’s tiny picturesque castle in the sea was built in 1551 to guard against pirate attacks.
  • Walk through the historical center with its beautifully painted buildings and pedestrian shopping streets. There’s one gate remaining from the ancient walls, the Saline gate, separating the historic center from the seaside promenade.
  • The Municipal Clock Tower,built in 1473, is next to San Stefano Church.
  • The Oratorio dei Bianchi, also next to San Stefano, has a collection of processional crosses.
  • Basilica of Sts. Gervasius and Protasius was started in 1118 but remodeled in the early 17th century and a new apse was added in 1679. Its bell tower is a leaning tower.
  • The Church of Saint Francis, with a gray and white facade, was started in 1519 and restored to its original form in the 20th century.
  • Lace Museum, Museo del Merletto, in Villa Tigullio, has a huge collection of lace from the 16th to 20th centuries with over 1400 items. There are also patterns used to make the lace. Currently open Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
  • Gaffoglio Museum, in the former Clarisse convent, has collections of gold, china, and ivory.
  • Beaches and Swimming: you’ll find a few small strips of beach but you can swim or sunbath on the artificial lidos along the sea.
rapallo stations of the cross
Rapallo: Stations of the Cross

Places to Go Near Rapallo

Santa Margherita Ligure, Camogli, and Genoa are all near Rapallo along the rail line. Portofino can be reached by bus or ferry in summer. Going toward La Spezia by train you’ll reach Sestri Levante, Chiavari, Levanto, and the Cinque Terre. Click on this Liguria Map to see the location of these towns.

santa margherita harbor photo
View of Santa Margherita Harbor from Villa Durazzo Park

Italian Riviera Travel Books:


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Rapallo Travel Guide originally appeared on MarthasItaly.com , updated: May 13, 2022.