Trip to Northern Italy: Adriatic Sea or Riviera?

As a peninsula, Italy juts far into the Mediterranean Sea and is surrounded by water to a large extent. To the east and west of the mainland, the north of the country is roughly divided into two coastal sections: Adriatic Sea and Riviera. Both show their own characteristic features.

When it comes to the length of its coastline, Italy is at the top of the list among southern European countries. It has around 7,600 kilometers of coastline around the boot. Anyone who wants to travel to Bella Italia usually has to choose between one of the two coasts. But which is the more beautiful?


A really difficult choice, because both the Italian Adriatic and Riviera coasts have many unique highlights to offer. We have gathered a few of the best arguments to make the decision easier.

The situation

The 22-hectare gardens surrounding Miramare Castle are home to over 2,000 Mediterranean and exotic plant species, Trieste, Italy - © James Camel / franks-travelbox
© James Camel / franks-travelbox

Adriatic Sea: The entire east coast of Italy runs along the Adriatic Sea. On the opposite side are Croatia, Montenegro and Albania. The largest cities on the northern Adriatic coast are Venice, Trieste, Ravenna and Rimini.

Riviera: The Riviera coast extends on the western side of Italy only in the northern part - from the French border (Côte D'Azur) to about the town of Lerici near La Spezia. The largest city is Genoa, which divides the coast into the so-called Riviera di Ponente in the west (Riviera of Palms and Flowers) and the Riviera di Levante in the east. After its location on the Ligurian Sea as part of the Mediterranean Sea, the region is also called Liguria.

The accommodations

On both sides of the boot, the regions along the Italian coast are very well developed for tourism. The land where the lemons blossom has been considered a longing destination for Germans for many years. Both on the Adriatic and on the Riviera, there are places that are considered typical tourist strongholds. Particularly popular are the unique lagoon city of Venice (Adriatic) or the Cinque Terre region (Riviera), with its spectacular villages in the cliffs.

In the same way, there are very special insider tips and quieter places everywhere, where you can experience nature and which are characterized by their very own charm. Depending on individual taste, budget or type of trip, a wide variety of accommodations are available. On both coasts there is a huge choice in every price range. Those who are clear about their preferences can find the right one for them, depending on their requirements.

Camping sites can also be found in large numbers. For those traveling by motorhome, there are also many official sites. Wild camping or parking is not allowed - though it is tolerated for one night in some communities.

The weather

Morning atmosphere at St. Mark's Square in Venice, Italy - © Dmitri Ometsinsky/Shutterstock
© Dmitri Ometsinsky/Shutterstock

As far as air temperatures are concerned, there are no noticeable differences between the two coasts. The climate is moderately warm everywhere. In winter, it remains cooler with an average temperature of around seven degrees Celsius (Riviera) and three degrees Celsius (Adriatic). In summer, the thermometer then rises to an average of 23 degrees Celsius in both regions.


For a bathing vacation in Italy it should be said: the closed Adriatic Sea heats up faster and usually offers one or two degrees more than the Riviera coast.

There are also differences in precipitation during the year:

Adriatic Sea: In the Veneto region, rainfall is surprisingly distributed about equally throughout the year. The driest months are considered to be January and February, while November is the rainiest on average. The number of rainy days is otherwise evenly distributed among the remaining months. So even in midsummer, showers must be expected there again and again.

Riviera: The weather map on the Ligurian coast is completely different. Here, the summer months are much drier than in the other seasons. Most rain falls in October and November. Towards July - by far the driest month - the amount of precipitation then decreases more and more.

The beaches

One of the best options for a relaxing day on the Adriatic beach is the island of Lido ("beach") in the Venice Lagoon, Italy - © 4kclips / Shutterstock
© 4kclips / Shutterstock

Adriatic Sea: The Adriatic coast is mainly flat or gently hilly, especially in the western part (Veneto). Here vacationers will find miles of sandy beaches that slope slowly into the sea. Perfect for a beach vacation with small children.

From Chiogga to Jesolo, the lagoon of the same name stretches around Venice with a rather rugged coastline. Another, the Laguna di Marano, lies a little further between Bibione and Monfalcone. From here on, the coast becomes a bit steeper and rockier towards the east. Nevertheless, there are still many attractive beaches, some sandy, some gravel.

Riviera: The Riviera coast, on the other hand, is more rocky throughout. The coast here rises steeply directly from the shore into the hilly hinterland. The reason for this is the foothills of the Appennine Mountains, which run close to the sea here. Between the sometimes very steep rocky sections, however, there are always small, picturesque bays with fine sandy beaches.

There are also good opportunities for swimming in the sea at most of the localities. In some cases, steps carved into the stone lead to a hidden cove. The farther west you go, the sea becomes more and more a bright shade of blue, familiar to many from the French Côte D'Azur.


The sights

The whole of Italy is popular not only for its beautiful beaches and impressive stretches of coastline, but especially for its rich culture, which can be discovered throughout the country. Both on the Adriatic and on the Riviera, everyone will get their money's worth.

Sights on the Adriatic Sea

St Mark's Square in Venice by night, Italy - © gary718 / Shutterstock
© gary718 / Shutterstock

A visit to Venice with all its canals, bridges and magnificent buildings is indispensable. Not only during the legendary Carnival, but also during the rest of the year, the city is one of the most popular destinations on the Adriatic coast. The Doge's Palace on St. Mark's Square, the Rialto Bridge or the offshore island of Murano with its glass factories are among the cultural highlights.

In the far east near the border with Slovenia and Croatia lies the exciting metropolis of Trieste. The proximity to neighboring countries and the varied history are noticeable today in a unique diverse culture that reflects influences from different peoples. Numerous magnificent buildings recall the economic importance as an important trading and port city.

In the west, the city of Ravenna has a lot of cultural attractions. The history of the city dates back to the 6th century BC. Various buildings from the early Christian period are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. A walk through the pretty old town thus becomes a journey back in time.

Places worth seeing on the Riviera

On this side of the boot, do not miss the five small villages known as Cinque Terre. Between Chiavari and La Spezia, where the coast is particularly steep, the picturesque villages were built in a spectacular way amidst the rocks. In places, the coast drops dramatically steeply 100 meters into the sea right next to the colorful little houses.

The entire area is located in a nature park and is especially popular among hikers. The narrow paths connect the individual places and offer fantastic views over the bay.

The metropolis of Genoa is the most important economic and cultural center on the Riviera coast. Its old town is one of the largest in Europe and invites you to stroll among well-preserved Renaissance and Neoclassical buildings. The city was protected in the hinterland all around by a wall and fortifications, which can also be visited.


The spa town of Sanremo was already an important destination for tourists in the last century, as evidenced by numerous magnificent villas and palaces. In addition to the historic center with small winding streets, the pretty harbor and the palm-lined waterfront are also worth seeing.