From Genoa the old Roman Road to Pisa, the Aurelia, heads at first Eastwards. The road, carved into the mountainside, with many modern overpasses, crosses over ancient villages and towns which cling to the cliffs, wending through pine forests and rocky hills, across a spectacular landscape until it reaches Portofino.

This Roman Road crossed over a bridge at your first stop, Bogliasco. The remains of this bridge still stand. The focal point of the town is the Piazza, with its church, overlooking the sea. There is a wonderful walkway above the water, the "passegiate a mare". Visible from the black sandy beach is the 16th century castle built to defend the town from the Saracens.

A diversion from the Aurelia brings you to Pieve Ligure. Here the houses are grouped around the Baroque church of San Michele. The beautiful 15th century Oratory of St. Anthony Abbot is nearby on the coast. This oratory holds three Baroque silver processional crosses by the renowned Genoese sculptor, Anton Maria Maragliano and a triptych by Pier Francesco Sacchi. The road continues to Recco - famous for its crisp, golden, fragrant foccacia, deliciously sandwiching warm liquid cheese. The town is a contrast to the characteristic tourist resorts, having been almost entirely reconstructed after being destroyed in 1944. But the harbour, with its many sailing craft is as busy as any other on this coast.

Another busy harbour, with a small fishing fleet of "gozzi" is found at Camogli. This town was also home to shipbuilders who were famous worldwide. Mariners and shipbuilders are celebrated in the town's museum. Be sure to visit the town's largest church, the 12th century Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta, which is beautifully decorated. To experience the town from a different perspective, take a boat trip, look back to see the tightly packed, many-coloured houses clinging to the cliffs. High above the Basilica, and the Castle beside it, you will see the 19thcentury San Prospero Monastery, famous for its library and for the medicinal ointment made by the Benedictine monks.

Higher still up above Camogli is the tranquil little village of Ruta, perched on the craggy slopes of the Capodimonte, which forms the spine of the Portofino Promontory. It was here in the October of 1860 that the German philosopher Nietzsche, who loved mountains and climbing, came to write the prefaces to three of his major works.

South of Camogli is a much smaller fishing village - San Fruttuoso, which can only be reached by sea or on foot and is protected due to its historic and artistic interest. The settlement is in two areas - the Bay of the Fishermen and the Abbey, all dominated by the Andrea Doria Tower. The Abbey was built in the 8thcentury to house San Fruttuoso's remains but the village is much older- 2nd or 3rd century AD. If you enjoy diving, you can swim 17 metres beneath the waves to see the statue of the protecting Saint of divers, Cristo Degli Abissi, sculpted by Guido Galletti, which was placed here in 1954.

Back now on the Aurelia Road, until you reach the San Lorenzo turning to Santa Margherita. This is an old fashioned kind of Riviera Resort. The climate is balmy, the views attractive, the hotels comfortable and long established, the harbour full of small yachts. Climbing up the hill from the harbour, above the small castle and the churches, you will find the Villa Durazzo Centurione built in 1560. With its many famous works of art the villa is now a study centre.

As you continue along the coast, make another diversion to visit the Cervara Abbey, once a famous Benedictine stronghold, important in spreading Flemish culture. The Abbey was fortified after attacks by North African pirates in the 16th century. It contained many important works of art. Eminent people - such as Pope Gregory IX, Maximillian of Austria and Catherine of Alexandra were offered hospitality, others such as Francis I of France, were prisoners here. The Abbey was suppressed by Napoleon and its treasures scattered. This National Monument is now privately owned and has become a venue for exhibitions, concerts and ceremonies. You are almost at your journey's end but first visit Paraggi, an amazing little jewel of a beach set in an arc of crystal water. The little hamlet here, which was once home to fishermen is now a fashionable resort.

Your trip ends in chic Portofino, which has been Italy's premiere resort town for decades. The multicoloured village with its stylish hotels stretches around a small harbour filled with oversized yachts. Beneath the glamour, Portofino is still a charming fishing village, in a frame of rugged cliffs and clear blue sea. The typical terraced houses, built together, are decorated in Ligurian style. On the hillside are the Churches of San Martino and Saint George. Climb to the 16th century Saint George fortress for a lovely panorama of the sheltered bay.

Away from the resorts this coastline has parts that are still untouched by the commerce that serves the yachts of the rich and famous. In the Monte di Portofino Park and Marine Reserve the romantic, stunningly beautiful, area of the Portofino Promontory is safeguarded. For the naturalist the Monte di Portofino Park is a very important habitat. The promontory, with its dramatic cliffs and coves and unique topography is noted for its remarkably varied flora. The surrounding turquoise seas support all varieties of marine life and in this unspoilt and safe environment animals and birds are protected.