Day One: Board your yacht in Genoa. After you meet your crew and view the itinerary, explore Genoa, the reputed home of Christopher Columbus. The captain will arrange a tour of this legendary maritime gem including a trip to La Spianata de Castrelleto for an amazing view of the city. Stroll the labyrinthine streets past medieval churches to see the Columbus House and the Renaissance palazzo on the Via Garibaldi. Then walk to the magnificent Piazza Mateo, visit the superbly restored Palazzo Ducale, the impressive Church of Gesu and the majestic black and white-striped façade of the Cathedral of San Lorenzo.
Cruise to enchanting Portofino, a national monument and playground of the rich and famous. One of the most photographed villages along the coast, with a decidedly romantic and affluent aura, Portofino has long been a popular destination for foreigners. Once an ancient Roman colony and taken by the Republic of Genoa in 1229, it has also been ruled by the French, English, Spanish, and Austrians, as well as marauding bands of 16th-century pirates. Elite British tourists first flocked to the lush harbor in the mid-1800s. Stroll around the promenade between the harbor and brightly colored chops. Walk to Punta del Capo, shop at exclusive boutiques and relax with a coffee at one of the Piazzetta’s cafes. Enjoy panoramic views of the sparkling bay from the Church of San Giorgio, the medieval fortress of Castello di San Giorgio and the Punta del Capo lighthouse. Relax with cocktails and dinner on board. Overnight.
Day Two: In the morning cruise to the Cinqueterre, which takes its name from the five small villages – Corniglia, Manarola, Monterosso al Mare, Riomaggiore and Vernazza – that defiantly cling to the inhospitably rugged Ligurian coastline. They are, and have been for many centuries, practically inaccessible by land due to the harsh, steep terrain which juts up at their backs. The best way to see them is to dinghy from the yacht to the base of each village.
Each of the Cinqueterre towns has something different to offer. Monterosso has the most famous beach, a 16th-century Capucchin monastery with some fine paintings, and an ancient castle. There are great views of the other towns in Corniglia, along with a more secluded beach. Vernazza, perhaps the most dramatic, juts straight out over the water, with crashing waves below to the left and a postage stamp boat harbor to the right. High above are the ramparts of a ruined medieval tower. Riomaggiore is hopelessly picturesque, a beehive of crumbling pastel-colored houses tumbling down to the horseshoe-shaped dock, and great snorkeling. Manarola also has excellent swimming off the rocks. An authentic fishing village, it is probably the most genuine of the “lands.” One of the best ways to see the Cinqueterre is to hike the many trails that join them. All Riviera di Levante tourist offices can supply maps of the sentieri (paths), many of which have been marked by the Italian Alpine Club.
Head ashore in the ship’s tender to hike between several of the villages, stopping to have lunch in a local trattoria in one of the villages for very local cuisine. The yacht will follow by sea and pick you back up by ship’s tender at the end of your hike. After visiting the Cinque Terre, cruise to spend the night anchored around the old village of Portovenere.
Day Three: Often overlooked, this little village has a long and venerable history as attested to by the castle remains on the promontory overlooking the town and town quay. Many feel that Portovenere is what Portofino was before discovered by the rich and famous and still to this day retains the quaint and sleepy feel of a quiet old seaside fishing village.
Perched on the tip of a promontory alongside the Gulf of Poets, the area of Portovenere, also known as Portovenere, (a UNESCO World Heritage Site included with the Cinque Terre), is comprised of the little towns of Fezzano, Le Grazie and Portovenere, and the three islands of Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto. Portovenere, originally settled during the first century BC, was graced by a Temple to Venus, hence the area and the town name. Today, this is a sleepy little area, where time stopped during the medieval period. Visiting charter yachts can anchor in a protected bay between the village of Portovenere, and the island of Palmaria for guests to enjoy this little jewel, in the same manner as have civilizations in years past.
After anchoring and heading ashore in the ship’s tender, explore the little winding medieval alleyways of Portovenere where the still standing medieval gate opens to the historic old town center. Close beside the gates is a tower, and at the top of the promontory looming over the town is the old Castello Doria.
Portovenere is located on the Gulf of Poets, also known as the Bay of La Spezia, however, so re-named given the legions of writers, artists and poets that are said to have found inspiration in this lovely area, such as writers David Herbert Lawrence and Percy Bysshe Shelley, writer and painter George Sand, and poet Lord Byron. Supposedly, the early-Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli created one of his most extraordinary masterpieces, the Birth of Venus, after meeting Simonetta Vespucci, model for Venus in his painting, while visiting the local village of Fezzano. Some art experts believe that the bays appearing on the right side of this masterpiece are depictions of the Gulf of La Spezia, with Fezzano and Palmaria Island. The Bay of Poets is filled with grottos, and it is said that one of these Grottos, now sadly collapsed, was a favorite haunt of Lord Byron, who famously swam across the Gulf of Poets to visit his friend Percy Bysshe Shelley, the same Shelley that later met his end in a boating accident on this very same Bay. Gunkholing by ship’s tender is a fun activity in which to explore over 36 grottos in this area.
Perhaps have dinner at Locanda Lorena on nearby Palmaria Island. Overnight in anchorage.
Day Four: In the morning cruise to Camogli. Situated at the edge of the large promontory and nature reserve known as the Portofino Peninsula, it has always been a town of sailors. The name Camogli is a contraction of Casa Mogli (Wives’ House) from the days when the women ran the town while the men spent months at sea with the town’s huge fishing fleet. Today, the fleet is much smaller, and the men have resumed control of civic affairs. Piles of fishing nets filled with sleeping cats cover the docks along the massive 17th century seawall. Multicolor houses and remarkably deceptive trompe-l’oeil frescoes mark this appealing harbor community, perhaps as beautiful as Portofino but without the glamour. When exploring on foot, don’t miss the boat-filled second harbor, which is reached by ducking under a narrow archway at the northern end of the first one. At the end of the harbor, built into sheer rock is the Castello della Dragonara which houses the Acqario (Aquarium).
San Remo, Italy
Day Five: In the morning, leave very early to cruise to the little emerging village of Imperia, a village well known for flowers, olives, and olive oil. In the afternoon, cruise to San Remo with its vibrant palm fringed esplanade. Enjoy a walk along this playground for the rich and famous. View the colorful work displayed by local artists in the many art galleries ashore.
Monte Carlo Casino, Monaco
Day Six: Leave to cruise to Monte Carlo and into the hub of life along the Cote d’Azur. Dock in the main harbor of Monte Carlo. Old City Monte Carlo, known as Monaco-Ville, is just a short walk from the port and is the location of the Grimaldi Family Palace and grounds. 15 rooms are now open for viewing as well as the gardens and don’t miss the changing of the guards at 11:55am. Spend time in Monaco-Ville as located here is also the Romanesque/Byzantine Cathedral of Monaco, the burial location of Princess Grace and other important members of the Royal Family. Also be sure to visit the Musee Oceangraphique et Aquarium, once headed by Jacque Cousteau, for a maritime history of the area. The aquarium is extremely well known and is considered one of the best aquariums in Europe with over 4000 fish species in tanks on display.
In the evening enjoy cocktails and dinner on deck under the stairs and then head out in Black Tie for an evening at the Casino and other top night spots in Monte Carlo. Overnight.
View from Eze, France
Day Seven: Cruise in the morning to Cap Ferrat, and head ashore to the little village of Cap Ferrat for the morning to explore. After seeing the village, walk around the end of the promontory past magnificent private villas of the rich and famous to the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild. Once the private villa of the Rothchild Family, now, the villa and seven fabulous gardens, each with a different theme are open as a museum. Precious artworks, tapestries, and furniture adorn the salons – in typical Rothschildian fashion, with each room decorated in a specific “ancient regime epoque.” Allow plenty of time to also wander in the gardens. They are one of the few places on the coast where you’ll be allowed to experience the lavish pleasures of the Belle Époque Côte d’Azur. There are no less than seven themed gardens (she liked to collect). The extraordinary ensemble reigns over a hilltop at the crest of the peninsula, providing in spectacular, symmetrical views of the coastline.
While walking around the end of Cap Ferrat, the yacht will cruise from the village of Cap Ferrat to anchor off Villefranche near the Villa Rothchild. Return back on board for lunch and a relaxing swim.
Later in the afternoon, take a taxi up to the famous town of Eze. Enjoy a walk around this charming hillside village. Be sure to hike to the Jardin Exotique above Eze for a fabulous photo op of the Cote d’Azur. For a spectacular dinner have reservations made at Chateau de la Chevre d’Or, a five-star resort and restaurant atop the mountain which affords an extraordinary view of the ocean and surrounding countryside.
Or return back to have a last dinner on board, and after dinner head ashore for a coffee or a drink in the main square of Villefranche. Overnight on anchor.
Day Eight: In the morning head ashore to explore the little village or Villefranche for an hour and then cruise to Nice, France to disembark.
The Italian Riviera