This article analyses the evolution of reception policies between 2011 and 2020 in Liguria, a region which is emblematic of the refugee crisis in Italy but that nevertheless has been under-investigated in migration studies. By applying a multilevel governance approach, the article aims to understand how relations among different tiers of government and between state and non-state actors changed over time. The impact of cognitive and political factors on reception policymaking is evaluated. The empirical analysis shows that when reception is framed in terms of emergency, a centralist mode of governance prevails. Political factors seem to affect intergovernmental relations as well. In Liguria, conflicts between national and regional authorities increased since 2015, when a political dealignment occurred between the national and regional level of government.