What are the best things to do in Rapallo?
Looking for the best things to do in Rapallo, Italy? Whatever your budget, you won’t be short of things to do in Rapallo. This charming part of Italy’s Ligurian coast has plenty to offer tourists and locals alike.
I have travelled extensively throughout this region, with my most recent visit being in October 2022. Liguria is quite a large region, so it will help to know where all the attractions are and how to get to them. Be sure to read my other Italy posts before your trip.
The town of Rapallo is the largest town on the Ligurian coast of Italy, and is sometimes overlooked by tourists, in favour of its more fashionable neighbours. However Rapallo is a destination in its own right, and is a popular holiday choice for locals. There is a distinctly more casual vibe in this part of the Ligurian coast.
Where is Rapallo?
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Things to do in Rapallo
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The town is full of the characteristic colourful houses of the Italian Riviera, known for their trompe l’oeil (the painted facades on the front of the buildings). See my Portofino guide or my Instagram story highlights to learn more about trompe l’oeil.
Read on for my list of 10 things to do in Rapallo.
1. Stroll along Rapallo promenade
Number 1 on this list of things to do in Rapallo is going for a stroll down the lovely Promenade Vittorio Veneto. The promenade is beautiful early in the morning for a coffee, or at sunset for an aperitivo. You can see views over the mountains and colourful houses nestled into the cliffs.
There are lots of cafes and restaurants where you can sit outside and watch the world go by. If you are sitting outside, I recommend taking a packable sun hat like this one to protect your head from the sun.
2. Visit Rapallo castle
? Rapallo Castle, Lungomare Vittorio Veneto, 16035 Rapallo GE, Italy
No list of things to do in Rapallo would be complete without a visit to this tiny castle.
The Castle on the Sea is a tiny fortress built entirely from stone with very thick walls. It was built as a deterrent to pirate raids in the 1550s (and it worked). Today it is a museum which is free to enter on weekends. The castle is also the centrepiece of the big display and fireworks on the first weekend of July.
You might also be interested in the castle at nearby Santa Margherita which is very similar (It was built by the same architect, for the same purpose).
3. Take a ride on Rapallo cable car
?Rapallo Montallegro Cable Car, Piazzale Silvio Solari, 2, 16035 Rapallo GE, Italy
A stunning cable car ride up the cliffs, with a 600 metre ascent and breathtaking views of the mountains and the Gulf of Genoa. At the top is the Sanctuary of Lady Montallegro along with walking paths and trails where you can admire the view.
4. Visit Hannibal Bridge
?Corso Cristoforo Colombo, 16035 Rapallo GE, Italy
This is an ancient stone bridge which is said to have been used by Hannibal of Carthage. Hannibal was a Roman general and statesman who is generally considered one of the greatest military leaders of all time. Hannibal led the outbreak of the Second Punic War in 219 BC. This bridge is said to have been used for transit of supplies.
5. Sample the food and drink in Rapallo
No list of things to do in Rapallo would be complete without mentioning the famous Ligurian cuisine! Italians are passionate about their cuisine, and each region of Italy has its own specialities.
Local specialities for this region include trofie or pansotti pasta with pesto or walnuts, and a Ligurian flatbread called Farinata. You will always find fresh fish specialities in Rapallo. Don’t forget the Focaccia (which originated in Liguria in ancient Roman times) and Genoa cake too.
There are some excellent restaurants in Rapallo, and if you book early enough you can get a table to watch the sunset. Two of the best restaurants in Rapallo are:
?Armida 1905, Piazza del Pozzo, 23/25, 16035 Rapallo GE, Italy (great for seafood and the lemon risotto)
?Elisir – Bar Ristorante, Lungomare Vittorio Veneto, 22, 16035 Rapallo GE, Italy (incredible pasta, desserts and live singers)
6. Wander through Centro Storico
?Centro Storico, Via Mazzini E Vie Adiacenti, 16035, Rapallo, Italy
Rapallo’s medieval old town is pedestrianised. You can wander through the cobbled streets and admire the pretty buildings and window displays at your leisure. There are lots of shrines to Our Lady of Montallegro down the Via Mazzini.
The old town contains many old taverns and patisseria which certainly attract fewer tourists than the ones on the promenade. There is a market every Thursday on the Piazza IV Novembre.
7. Check out Rapallo’s music kiosk
?Chiosco della Musica, Piazza Martiri della Liberazione, 16035 Rapallo GE, Italy
A stunning nouveau circular structure which houses music and other entertainment. It was built in 1929 by Rapallan migrants who relocated to Chile and wanted a music monument in their hometown. The artwork features iconic composers such as Mozart depicted in its decorative ceiling. Rapallo is twinned with Iquique in Chile.
8. Take a Rapallo boat trip
You can take a boat from Rapallo to Portofino, with a stop at Santa Margherita. It is a beautiful boat ride and all three towns are stunning. A popular option is to take a boat ride straight to Portofino for lunch, then travel back via Santa Margherita for some shopping. On the boat ride you will see some super-yachts like the ones below, which always makes for an exciting trip.
A popular option is to combine several activities by booking a tour which includes a boat trip, walking tour, pesto workshop and lunch all over 3 hours.
9. The sanctuary of Our Lady de Montallagro
?Santuario di Montallegro, Via al Santuario, 24, 16035 Rapallo GE, Italy
Santuario di Montallegro can be reached by cable car and offers a beautiful view of the Tigullio Gulf and the surrounding scenery. This is where it is said the Virgin Mary was sighted in the 16th century. There is a Byzantine painting inside, which is said to have been given to the residents of Rapallo by the Virgin Mary herself.
Note: the address above is the address of the actual Santuario di Montallegro, but to get there you will need the address of the cable car mentioned earlier.
10. Basilica of Sts. Gervasius and Protasius
?Basilica of Saints Gervasio and Protasio, Piazza Cavour, 23, 16035 Rapallo GE, Italy
An intricately designed basilica which was consecrated in 1118 and restored in the early 17th century. It has a leaning bell tower. This catholic church has a neoclassical architectural style and has a beautiful interior. Remember to cover your shoulders with a scarf like this one when visiting churches.
And that brings me to the end of my top 10 things to do in Rapallo! I hope you found this post useful when planning your trip to Italy.
What else is there to do near Rapallo?
Portofino is only a 30 minute car journey away, although for the best views I recommend you take a boat trip. An excellent stop on your boat trip would be Santa Margherita Ligure. Rapallo is also close to the famous Cinque Terre and Genoa. Rapallo is an excellent base for exploring the whole Ligurian region.
Travel advice for your trip to Liguria
What is the climate like in Liguria?
Liguria is situated in one of the sunniest parts of northern Italy, with over 300 days of sunshine per year. In July, temperatures can exceed 30C/86F with moderately high humidity. May and September are great months to explore this area if you’re looking for fewer crowds than the summer months, especially at the beaches.
In winter, you can expect lows of 7C/44F and highs of 14C/57F, but bear in mind a lot of hotels and restaurants close over the winter.Booking.com
What is the best way of getting around in Liguria, Italy?
You don’t need to rent a car in most of Liguria. It is easier to travel by train or ferry between places like Santa Margherita Ligure, Rapallo, Genoa and Portofino. For Cinque Terre you are definitely best using local trains to get between the villages.
I have summarised the times you might want to get a car in Liguria, versus when not to get a car below:
Reasons not to rent a car in Liguria:
- Portofino and Fruttuoso are car-free.
- Portofino has one nearby car park which is always busy.
- Visiting beaches in the high season is difficult by car – there is a lack of parking spaces and a LOT of traffic.
- The city of Genoa has 26 train stations.
- Winding roads in the Cinque Terre can be very nerve-racking to drive on.
- Narrow roads in Cinque Terre means it takes 1 hour to drive 3km.
- Motorways have tolls and parking is expensive.
- It is cheaper, quicker and more environmentally friendy to use trains.
- Boat rides are a pleasant way to travel between Ligurian towns.
Reasons why you might rent a car in Liguria:
If you are not travelling to any of the above places in the high season, you might want to rent a car in Liguria. Consider these circumstances:
- It is much easier to drive in Liguria in the off-season (October to May). There is less traffic and lots of parking spaces. Beware the narrow roads in Cinque Terre though.
- You’ll need a car if you’re visiting Hinterland.
- You’ll need a car for mountain trekking (but Cinque Terre treks are still usually accessed by train, even in winter).
- You’ll need a car for visiting olive groves, archaeological sites or wineries (these are usually quite far out).
What currency do they use in Liguria?
The official currency in Italy is the Euro (€) which comes in paper notes and coins.
Are there ATMS in Italy?
Yes there are ATMs in Italy. The ATMs are called ‘Bancomat’ and they work generally the same as in the UK or USA. Cash is accepted everywhere and is sometimes preferred. For example, some taxis might accept card payment but they still prefer cash. It’s best to ask before getting in.
The working hours for the banks in Italy are 08:30 – 13:00 and 15:00 – 16:00, Monday to Friday.
Below are some helpful links for your trip:
Related Reading: Italy & Liguria
- Related Reading:
- 10 Best Things to in Portofino, Italy
- 10 Great things to do in Santa Margherita Ligure
- Cinque Terre: the Ultimate Guide
- 10 Unique & Unusual Things to do in Naples, Italy
- 17 Things to Know Before Visiting Rome, Italy
Have you been to Rapallo? Let me know in the comments below.
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You are reading Hazel’s Travels – an online publication and travel blog which aims to provide advice and inspiration for travel in Europe, the UK and USA.Tags: italian riviera, Italy, Liguria, Rapallo