A Weekend on the Italian Riviera
Italian Riviera – An Introduction
Nestled between the south of France and the Tuscan border lies the region of Liguria, with verdant and lush mountains to the north and east, and the sapphire blue Mediterranean to the south and west. In between is a land of lush vegetation, medieval hilltop hamlets, panoramic vistas, colorful seaside villages, and pristine beaches.
There is plenty to do—from hiking and biking, to water sports and fishing, to eating (very) well—and plenty to see, including some of Italy’s most aesthetically pleasing architecture to just enjoying la dolce vita along its coast, better known as the Italian Riviera.
“The Italian Riviera oozes charm and irresistible allure, with many seaside resort towns and colorful villages that stake intermittent claim to the rocky shores of the Ligurian Sea and seem like the long-lost cousins of newer seaside paradises found elsewhere. It has been a haven for artists, writers, celebrities, and royalty since the 1800s, and continues to fascinate visitors throughout the year due to its mild climate. Here the grandest palazzi share space with frescoed, angular terratettos (tall, skinny houses). The rustic and elegant, the provincial and chic, the small-town and cosmopolitan all collide here in a sun-drenched blend that defines the Italian side of the Riviera. There are chic resort towns such as San Remo and Portofino, the unique beauty and outdoor adventures of the Cinque Terre, numerous quaint seaside and hilltop villages to explore, plus the history and architectural charm of Genoa. Mellowed by the balmy breezes blowing off the sea, travelers bask in the sun, explore the picturesque fishing villages, and pamper themselves at the resorts that dot this ruggedly beautiful landscape.
A&B Travel Notes:
Just 2 hrs from Milano…Spend a few days visiting three quiant towns on the Italian Riviera:
Camogli…Santa Margherita …Rapallo
At the edge of the large promontory and nature reserve known as the Portofino Peninsula, has always been a town of sailors. Today multicolor houses, remarkably deceptive trompe-l’oeil frescoes, and a massive 17th-century seawall mark this appealing harbor community… One of the most pleasant surprises on the Italian Riviera is this small fishing village tucked away between Portofino Mountain and the Ligurian Sea. Camogli (pronounced kuh-moh’-lee) has a double meaning in Italian. The first translation, “houses close together,” is apparent when you stroll through the town’s narrow streets, which are lined by tall columns of pastel-colored homes. The second meaning, “houses of wives,” is not so obvious; it refers to the fishermen’s wives, who traditionally spent their time at home while their husbands were out at sea.
But Camogli is more than just a fishing village. Although it may not reel in scores of international celebrities and luxury yachts like its more famous neighbor, Portofino, Camogli is an increasingly popular tourist destination. In the summer, the town’s population of 7,000 almost doubles, as tourists and Italians who own vacation homes in Camogli arrive.
Camogli’s biggest tourist attraction is its annual fish-fry and festival during the second weekend of May. Saturday’s “blessing of the fish” festivities include bonfires and a spectacular display of fireworks. On Sunday the town pulls out what is said to be the largest skillet in the world (about four meters — more than 12 feet — in diameter) and fries up a huge helping of fish donated by the local fish cooperative. Camogli is also home to the C. Colombo nautical institute (named for Christopher Columbus, one of Italy’s most famous sons), which produces many of Italy’s merchant marines.
Where to Stay
> Hotel Cenobio dei Dogi – Camogli
> Villa Rosmarino
Santa Margherita Ligure
A beautiful old resort town favored by well-to-do Italians, Santa Margherita Ligure has everything a Riviera playground should have—plenty of palm trees and attractive hotels, cafés, and a marina packed with yachts. A truly quiant seaside town, Santa Margherita Ligure has all the appeal of Portofino without the crowds and prices. Its palm-lined harbor fringes the waterfront while the pastel-painted houses crawl up the hill behind. Lush green forests and olive groves cover the terrain, while sailboats and fishing craft bob in the colorful marina. Santa Margherita Ligure boasts the allures of other Riviera towns with its picturesque setting, colorful buildings, palm trees, and seafront promenade. It is a friendly and vibrant place with a sunny disposition, pebbly beaches and a laid-back atmosphere. There are plenty of restaurants and cafes to enjoy and shops to peruse. Narrow medieval streets meander along with interesting architecture thrown in. The primary piazza for gathering is Piazza Martiri della Liberta’ with its sidewalk cafes and casual eateries. Piazza Caprera is dominated by the Basilica of Santa Margherita of Antioch, a Baroque beauty with statues, stained glass, and gilding lit by crystal chandeliers. The charming church was built in 1658 and is a must-see when you’re in town.
Where to Stay
WB Yeats, Max Beerbohm and Ezra Pound all garnered inspiration in Rapallo and it’s not difficult to see why. With its bright-blue changing cabins, palm-fringed beach and diminutive 16th-century castle perched above the sea, the town has a poetic and nostalgic air. It’s at its busiest on Thursdays, when market stalls fill central Piazza Cile.
Rapallo is the largest Italian Riviera seaside resort town. There’s a picturesque castle in the sea, a small harbor and seaside promenade, pedestrian shopping streets in the historical center, and good seafood restaurants. Don’t miss the funicular ride up the hill to Montallegro.
Where to Stay