Furrowed with deep, narrow valleys at right angles to the coast, had a maritime civilisation before the Roman era. The steep slopes of the inner valleys are dotted with poor perched villages, watching over groves of chestnut or olive trees and cultivated terraces. The rocky indented coastline has few fish to offer but has enjoyed heavy coastwise traffic since the time of the Ligurians, facilitated by many small deep-water ports. The Roman Empire gave its present appearance to the country, with olive groves and vineyards, to which have been added vegetables, fruit (melons and peaches) and flowers grown on an industrial scale.
The Riviere di Ponente (Western Riviera), west of Genoa, is sunnier and more sheltered than the Riviera di Levente (Eastern Riviera), but the latter has a more luxuriant vegetation. The chief towns are Imperia, Savona and Genoa (shipyards, oil terminal and thermal power station) and La Spezia (naval base, commercial port, thermal power station and the manufacturing of arms).