March 16, 2015

Resort Towns of the Italian Riviera

Spring is just around the corner but the lingering snow has me reminiscing about hot days on the sunny Mediterranean. I love the French Riviera and you needn’t be wealthy to enjoy its delights. (Read my posts on Villefranche-sur-Mer to find out why.) Last summer we visited two resorts on the Italian Riviera, Santa Margherita Ligure and Portofino.

Riviera Poster

First a little geography: the Italian Riviera picks up where the French Cote d’Azur leaves off, extending along the coast of the Ligurian Sea to the Gulf of La Spezia. It’s divided into two sections at the city of Genoa: the Riviera di Ponente (the Coast of the Setting Sun) to the west and the Riviera di Levante (the Coast of the Rising Sun) to the east.

We toured the eastern section, arriving by train from the Cinque Terre village of Monterosso al Mare in Santa Margherita Ligure. This aristocratic town of hillside villas and grand hotels became a popular seaside resort after World War II. Many of the houses are painted with trompe l’oeil balconies and shutters.

Santa Margherita Ligure on the Italian Riviera

Trompe l'Oeil Painted Houses

The colourful buildings continue along the palm fringed waterfront where a statue of Genoa’s most famous citizen, Cristoforo Colombo, points west to the New World he discovered. (Or perhaps he’s pointing out the striped changing cabanas that line the promenade.) The pebbly beach was filled with happy sunbathers but the best beaches are a little ways out of town.

Waterfront Promenade, Santa Margherita Ligure

Statue of Cristoforo Colombo (Christopher Columbus)

Beachside Changing Cabanas

The Beach in Santa Margherita Ligure

We’d be spending the night in Santa Margherita but first we had one more stop on our itinerary, the resort of Portofino. This small fishing village became a posh vacation spot thanks to movie stars like Greta Garbo, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Today it’s popular with the yachting set and celebrities like Rihanna and Gwyneth Paltrow vacation here.

Boarding the Boat to Portofino

The Italian Resort Town of Portofino

Portofino Harbour


La Gritta Bar, Portofino

La Gritta Floating Terrace

The prices in Portofino are way beyond my budget and, other than the scenic harbour, there’s not a lot to see. (Okay, we could’ve hiked up the hill to Castello Brown but at this point in the day the climb looked overwhelming.)  I was content to sit by the water with some gelato and enjoy the free top-notch view. I didn’t spot any celebrities; just a lot of hot, tired tourists like me.

Portofino Harbour and Castello Brown on the Hilltop

After a long day we made one last trip by boat and returned to Santa Margherita Ligure for the night. I’d hoped to see more of the sights after dinner but fatigue, stormy skies, and our hotel’s distance from the centre of town made me settle for a good night’s sleep.

Beach View from the Hotel in Santa Margherita Ligure

In the morning we continued our journey north to another spot on my Bucket List, the lovely Italian Lakes and Lago Maggiore.

Next:  Italian Lakes: Lago Maggiore

Related Posts:
Porto Venere and the Gulf of Poets
Cinque Terre: the Five Lands

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