Exploring the Gulf of Tigullio in a weekend: day 1
Updated: Sep 18, 2020
I love weekend trips, they're a special break from the routine of the week.
This time, I decided to continue exploring a region which is very close to Piedmont, Liguria. Liguria is a half moon shaped region in the North of Italy characterised by quaint villages and narrow beaches dominated by the Ligurian Alps and Ligurian Apennines in the background. The region is a common holiday destination for people living in the North of the country and also a great option for a weekend escapade. Liguria is worldwide famous for its precious Cinque Terre, but there are so many little treasures to discover such as the enchanting Gulf of Tigullio!
The entire 2-day itinerary included the following stops:
Santa Margherita Ligure
San Fruttuoso Bay
Let's start with the first day which was about adventure and enchanting views!
Exploring the Tigullio Gulf means getting lost in the narrow streets of these picturesque villages, being enchanted by the colourful houses on the hills overlooking crystal clear beaches, trying delicious local specialities surrounded by a magic atmosphere!
Discover here the article about Day 2: Camogli, San Fruttuoso Abbey - Recco.
Rapallo-Santa Margherita Ligure and Portofino by walk
We opted for a camping in Rapallo (Camping Miraflores) to set up our tent for the weekend on Friday night. The camping is well equipped and clean, about 20 min walk from the city center, a great option for a cheap adventurous weekend!
On Saturday morning, our day started with a panoramic walk from Rapallo to reach the charming Portofino. The walk starts from the pier in Rapallo following the direction for Santa Margherita Ligure right on the coastal pathway. We took the time to explore a little bit the historical center of the quaint villages along the walk and we managed to reach the destination in about 3 hours. From Paraggi Bay, right at the end of the village, we started the so called Walk of the Kisses: a themed walk in the wood full of vegetation and the spectacular view of the bay. It ends in the quaint streets of Portofino after about a 30min walk.
Tips for the walk: wear comfortable shoes, bring a hat and water with you!
“O dolcissima Rapallo, città d’oro illuminata, dai tramonti di corallo, lo smeraldo del tuo mare e l’azzurro del tuo cielo ogni coppia fa sognare. '' Totò
Rapallo is the center of the Tigullio Gulf which starts from Portofino and ends in Sestri Levante. Its marine soul is enriched by the Liberty style, especially on the pier (Lungomare Vittorio Veneto) where many palaces from the Belle Epoque overlook the seaside. The houses are high and narrow, decorated with the fascinating trompe-l’oeil, a technique to paint windows, bricks and balustrades creating optical illusions.
A particular curiosity? In 1798 a law was introduced concerning the payment of taxes according to the number of windows of a building. This pushed people to paint them using this technique in oder to bypass the law.
Other spots are the Porta delle Saline, the Castle on the seaside and the Montallegro sanctuary reachable through a cableway not far from the train station.
Santa Margherita Ligure
Santa Margherita Ligure is a lively village full of bars, restaurants and discos, symbol of the young movida of the Gulf. The castle of Santa Margherita Ligure was built in 1550 and it's similar to many other fortresses and towers along the coast that had the mission of protecting these villages from the pirate invasions in the Middle Age.
A must stop is Villa Durazzo, two luxurious villas immersed in a XVII century Italian style garden. Here it's possibile to visit the Museum of the writer and journalist Vittorio Giovanni Rossi.
Paraggi Bay is a special gem, a natural swimming pool just before Portofino. There are several equipped beaches and public rock coves to enjoy the crystal clear seaside, to dive and to snorkel while admiring colourful fishes. In the afternoon, we stopped at Niasca Bay and hired two kayaks at Outdoor Portofino to explore the bay. The glare of the sun on the sea, the adrenaline of kayaking and the enchanting landscape surrounding us made this experience amazing! Here, it's possible to do so many other activities such as paddle, snorkelling and coasteering.
Right at the end of Paraggi village, there are the signs for the Walk of the Kisses that continues until Portofino!
Arriving in Portofino, you'll have the impression of being in another universe, a unique mix of nature, culture and history. This dreamy fishing village has only about 400 inhabitants, but it's a worldwide famous destination for its luxurious yachts, exclusive restaurants and hotels. The main square has the title of ''Locale storico d'Italia'' (Italian historical establishment) for its picturesque houses, the boats on the pier and the fact that the area is entirely pedestrian. While strolling around it, you'll perceive this magic atmosphere.
For our lunch break, we had a delicious focaccia, one of the main specialities of Liguria, from Panifico Canale, a local bakery.
Other main spots in this fascinating and cosmopolitan village are San Giorgio fortress and the Church, both overlooking the pear with a spectacular view on the Tigullio Gulf.
At the end of the day, we were quite tired after this adventurous day so we went back by bus. The bus line (ATP), in fact, connects the Tigullio Gulf and all its villages. Another efficient option is the train! (Trenitalia)
Dinner in a Ligurian Trattoria
When I visit a new destination, I try to opt for local restaurants to eat specialities in order to avoid the classic touristic spots. We had a look on a few blogs and then we booked at Trattoria da Rosa in Rapallo: a typical trattoria on the hills overlooking the bay. We ended up being in a truly authentic place: people screaming in the kitchen, plastic glasses and dishes, simple and genuine ingredients. Reaching Trattoria da Rosa was a bit scaring, because of the hairpin bends, but the view from the top was definitely worth it!
We chose a mix of Antipasti (starters) with various salumi as prosciutto crudo, salame and coppa, but also a taste of insalata russa (vegetable salad), farinata (chickpeas cake) and a kind of vegetable quiche. We couldn't decide for the main course, so we ordered Linguine al Pesto and Pansotti with nut sauce (pasta filled with ricotta and spinach or fresh herbs). Everything was delicious in abundant portions for a super small price (around 13euro par person!).
Cocktail in Santa Margherita Ligure
We couldn't miss the evening movida in Santa (nickname used by locals) for a cocktail. The Vernissage immediately caught our attention. It's an exclusive bar located right next to the Castle with an outdoor structure and several pillows and small tables on the street just overlooking the seaside. Definitely the perfect spot to enjoy a delicious cocktail to end this adventurous day!
PS. If you like gin, try the Vernissage cocktail!
What made this trip so special was the pleasure of being able to explore again, to discover, to feel that adrenaline before the departure and the sensation of being enriched while returning home. And of course, two great friends that share with me the same curiosity, love and passion for life!
Discover here the article about Day 2 of this Gulf of Tigullio trip!
You'll discover the amazing Camogli before visiting the ancient San Fruttuoso Abbey, then head to Recco to try the famous cheese focaccia from Recco.
[A special thanks goes to two wonderful travel companions: Mimi & Ge]