Liguria occupies a narrow strip of land along Italy's northwestern coast, curving along the northern edge of the Ligurian Sea with one foot in France and the other in Tuscany. Which, if you think about it, isn't a bad place to be at all.
As you'd expect, much of Liguria's identity comes from its long coastline, but—perhaps surprisingly— this little piece of real estate is primarily mountainous. In many places, the sea crashes into near-vertical cliffs, not gently sloping beaches.
However small Liguria is in relation to Italy's other regions, it takes up lots of space in terms of tourist numbers and the national economy. Genoa, the capital, is home to Italy's busiest port, and the five villages of the Cinque Terre are among the most popular tourist destinations in the country. Pastel-colored Portofino is one of the jewels of the Italian Riviera, but isn't one of the four UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Liguria. Those include Portovenere, Genoa's historic center, and the entire national park encompassing the Cinque Terre.
For as mountainous as Liguria is, it's possible to reach most points along the coast by train—including the villages of the Cinque Terre (they're served by the slowest form of regional train, but you can get there by rail). To get into the mountains, you may need a car, and in summer you may actually prefer to hop on a boat.
Photo credit: Gaspar Janos