Rapallo - The Castle on the sea, symbol of the town
Rapallo – The Castle on the sea

Rapallo is a popular seaside resort and port,visited both in winter and summer due to its mild climate, in the Riviera di Levante in the region Liguria, north-west Italy.

With about 30,000 inhabitants, Rapallo is not only the largest town in Portofino‘s bay, called Bay of Tigullio after its ancient inhabitants, a pre-Roman Ligurian tribe, but also the sixth-largest municipality of the whole Liguria region. It is furthermore the town with the most ancient history in the district, as it was first recorded in 964.

One of Rapallo’s particularities is that of having a leaning tower. The town is much more than a seaside resort, and possesses ancient monumeents and works of art.

Rapallo is situated at the eastern end of the Bay of Tigullio, in the bay’s innermost and best protected point, at the head of Rapallo Gulf, southeast of Genoa, which is the capital of Rapallo’s province and of Liguria region.

It is in a privileged position, only 20 minutes’ bus drive from Portofino to the west, and half an hour to Levanto and Cinque Terre to the east. Near Rapallo, on the road to Portofino, is Santa Margherita Ligure, another major resort.

Rapallo has a long history. Testimony of that are a beautiful church built in the 7th century and consecrated in 1118, Basilica dei Santi Gervasio e Protasio, located in Corso Italia, and a 16th-century castle. Also remarkable and worth a visit is the sanctuary of Montallegro, built nearby in 1557.

The Basilica dei Santi Gervasio e Protasio has a bell tower (“campanile”) next to it spiring over the roofs of the town’s historic nucleus. Throughout the centuries it has been subjected to several demolition and reconstructions partly for problems of inclination and stability derived from the marshy land on which it was built.


In 1768 these problems were finally solved with the current tower which is 67 metres high and the tallest bell tower in the whole region of Liguria. All attempts to straighten the bell tower, though, have been in vain, and the tower has remained slightly leaning. It houses 12 bells.

The Basilica dei Santi Gervasio e Protasio overlooks Rapallo’s main and busiest square, Piazza Cavour. In this square historical parades in costumes dating back to the 1600s are often held.

According to legend Rapallo’s history goes back to the times of Hannibal, the great enemy of Rome: a bridge named after him is considered evidence of that origin. Its history continues, through many vicissitudes of which it was a willing or not so willing protagonist, until today. The town, sacked successively through the ages by the Lombards, Normans, and Swiss, in 1917 hosted the Allied Conference of Rapallo. In 1920 treaties establishing friendly relations between Italy and Yugoslavia, and in 1922 between Germany and the Soviet Union, were signed in Rapallo.

Riviera di Levante map, Liguria, Italy
Riviera di Levante map

Rapallo has a historic centre along the elegant seafront promenade, the lungomare Vittorio Veneto, adorned with palm-trees and flower beds, which offers a vast, breathtaking view of the bay.

Still in the centre of Rapallo, near the promenade, are the beaches and the touristic harbour. There are both free beaches and paid beaches.

Symbol of the town is the Castle on the sea (see picture), built in 1551 to defend the town from pirate invasions, which has been declared part of Italy’s national heritage. It can be seen from the road along the coast, and today it is used to host exhibitions and tourist events.

Rapallo is an elegant resort, famous for its mild climate, beautiful hotels, harbour. Various golf courses are also here, and cultural events are organized. Tourism is the main economic activity, but there is also production of olive oil, pillow lace, special steels, cement, textiles.

In a few minutes from Rapallo you can reach Genoa (Genova in Italian), city of old splendours, rich in museums and works of art, with an international airport and tohether with Marseilles the largest port in the Mediterranean, with ships going to every destination in what Romans called “Mare Nostrum” (our sea).


Italian Mini Dictionary

Castello sul mare = Castle on the sea

Lungomare = Seafront promenade or road (literally: along the sea)

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