Nestled between the Ligurian Sea and the Ligurian Apennines, Rapallo is famous for being the site of two important peace treaties after World War I, the one in 1920 between the Kingdom of Italy and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, and the other in 1922 between the Weimar Republic and the Soviet Union.
Rapallo is a pretty little town where you can spend a couple of hours strolling along the waterfront and among the caruggi of the historic center.
It is also the base for exploring the other cities of the Riviera di Levante, being located in the center of the Gulf of Tigullio.
In addition, Rapallo offers wonderful excursions to the mountains thanks to the traditional creuze that climb the hills from the center, providing breathtaking views of the sea.
What to see
Vittorio Veneto promenade and Rapallo Castle
The Vittorio Veneto waterfront is the street that runs along the shoreline where one can take a stroll while breathing in the salty air and having an ice cream in the shade of the large palm trees.
One can notice the elegant Art Nouveau palaces that flank the waterfront, evidence of the city’s noble past.
In fact, Rapallo, thanks to its mild climate, was a vacation spot for a variety of illustrious figures such as Ernest Hemingway and Friedrich Nietzsche.
On the waterfront there are numerous bars and restaurants with outdoor tables where you can have an aperitif or eat a fish dish.
In the center of the promenade can be seen the Music Kiosk, a memorial to Rapallo citizens who emigrated to Chile, used today for concerts.
At the eastern end of the seafront promenade, above a small island connected to the mainland by a pier, we finally find Rapallo Castle, the building-symbol of the city.
Erected in 1549 for the city’s defensive purposes following the sacking by Turkish ships led by the pirate Dragut, it was used for many years as a prison.
Today is the site of exhibitions and conferences.
On the first 3 days of July, the castle is “set on fire” during the town’s patronal festival, which attracts many visitors every year, also thanks to the fireworks displays over the sea, which are very impressive!
Historic center of Rapallo
The historic center of Rapallo, like many other Ligurian towns, is characterized by caruggi, or narrow pedestrian streets, overlooked by tall, narrow, colorful old houses often adorned with frescoes.
Walking through the streets, one may notice that many of the windows of the houses are fake, that is, they have been painted on the walls.
This is because a law of 1800, issued by the Genoese Republic, imposed a tax on the number of windows in the houses.
A keen eye inolte cannot miss the so-called “aedicules” or niches set in the walls in which statuettes of the Madonna, the patron saint of the city, are contained.
In the historic center one can find historic workshops and numerous stores and places to have a bite to eat.
For a quick take-out lunch, I recommend the Tossini bakery on Via Venezia! Focaccia, pizza and in general all traditional Ligurian products such as farinata and vegetable pies really excellent.
Former convent of the Poor Clares
The former Convent of the Poor Clares is a monastic complex dating from the 17th century and deconsecrated in 1912, overlooking the sea a short distance from the castle.
Over the centuries it was used as a cloistered convent, barracks, boat warehouse and school. Today it houses the Clarisse Auditorium, a 265-seat theater-auditorium, and the Gaffoglio Museum, which displays a special art collection including, among others, carved mammal bones, beer mugs, jewelry collections, paintings etc.
Shrine of Our Lady of Montallegro
The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Montallegro is certainly one of Rapallo’s most important sites.
It is a magnificent Renaissance-Baroque-style church built on the exact spot where Our Lady, patroness of the city of Rapallo, appeared in vision to Giovanni Chighizola, a local farmer.
The Sanctuary of Montallegro appears majestically at the end of a short flight of steps and an elegant avenue dotted with olive trees. From the churchyard there is a spectacular view of the sea, the Gulf of Rapallo and the Portofino Promontory.
There are three ways to reach Montallegro i.e. by car, cable car or on foot. Several interesting treks of varying length depart from the Sanctuary.
If you want more information on how to get to Montallegro and what to do, you can check out this article.
Fractions of Rapallo
In the hamlet of San Massimo, the ruins of Valle Christi can be found. In the past centuries, several convents and monasteries were built to nurture the monastic life of the place, among which is precisely the Valle Christi Monastery which was built in 1200 and later became a national monument.
Due to Turkish raids, the monastery was deconsecrated in 1568 and the nuns were moved to other structures in the area.
Abandoned to the elements and “plundered” by locals who used some of the Monastery’s stones to build other dwellings, today the area adjacent to the Monastery is used as an outdoor stage for theatrical and musical performances.
Rapallo surroundings: what to see
You can also admire the beauty of this stretch of coastline via a boat tour departing from Genoa’s Porto Antico 👇
Trekking in and around Rapallo
For all trekking enthusiasts, both on the heights of Rapallo and in the surrounding mountains, there are really beautiful hikes that are very scenic and not very strenuous, also suitable for families with children.
Along the coast from Rapallo to Portofino, you can instead walk the Passeggiata dei Baci, or the Passeggiata dei Baci, an 8.5km-long footpath with no particular technical difficulties that skirts the coastline and thus offers splendid views.
Once you arrive in Portofino, you can return by regular boats.
Where to sleep in Rapallo
Hotel Astoria – In excellent seafront location with private parking, spa and great breakfast included – Book here.
Where to eat
A few kilometers away from the waterfront is the Osteria Vecchio Mulino in the hamlet of San Massimo.
Beautiful location in an old stone mill, possibility to eat inside or in warm weather at outdoor tables. The menu reflects the location of the restaurant in the hinterland of Rapallo so gnocchi with pesto, ravioli with meat sauce, roast, rabbit etc. Mouthwatering!
How to get to Rapallo
Rapallo is connected to the A12 highway, and the nearest exit is right at Rapallo. Alternatively, if you are nearby, it can be reached by the SS1 Aurelia.
For those arriving by plane, the nearest airport is Genoa. From there you can rent a car or take a regional or Intercity train as Rapallo is connected with the Genoa-La Spezia-Rome line.
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