The Exceptional Value of a Stay in Santa Margherita Ligure
Santa Margherita Ligure is a wonderful small town located about 22 miles southeast of Genoa. This fishing village has an abundance of colorful houses, excellent food, picturesque scenery, and far fewer tourists than one might expect. Boats, hiking trails, trains, and of course roads connect the small towns along the coast and luxury travelers will find excellent hotel options in this area. It’s also close enough for day trips to places such as Cinque Terre, which is a playground for the wealthy, but far more expensive.
Santa Margherita Ligure is a fair-sized town but it has not been smothered by tourism, although the industry has been an integral part of the town’s existence for decades. The harbor caters to both expensive yachts and a small fishing fleet, which can be seen unloading its catch each morning opposite the fish market. With a wide range of hotels and restaurants, visitors may never want to leave this relaxed and tranquil atmosphere. You’ll find most of the bars, cafes and restaurants spread along the seafront.
The low hill dominating the waterfront is an interesting place to explore. Behind the Castello di Santa Margherita are intriguing overgrown passageways. Further up the slope is the church of San Giacomo in Corte, which contains, among other sights, an illuminated Madonna eerily housed within in a rocky niche. Next door, the grand seventeenth-century Villa Durazzo is a monument to the glory of the Italian Riviera. The garden terraces are a public park and a pleasant place to sit and relax, or have an espresso at its café. Although the Villa is used as a study center, you can still catch glimpses of its frescoed interiors. The villa also hosts concerts and other public events.
The Piazza Mazzini, the main city square is one of the most attractive city sights. It is where the Municipio (the City Hall) is situated, surrounded by fine palazzos and colorful, making the entire area very cheerful and inviting. The central part of the square has a small rounded park with the statue of Giuseppe Mazzini, the politician, journalist and activist who spearheaded the movement that helped bring about an independent and unified Italy. Take a walk through the gorgeous village starting from the piazza and see the magnificent buildings which dot the cobble streets and small narrow lanes. You will pass Basilicia of Santa Margherita, Santa Margherita Castle, medieval columns, Margaritina Roisecco’s tower house, elegant Art Nouveau villas and stunning gardens.
The castle, built by the Republic of Genoa in 1550, was a defense against the increasingly frequent attacks by North African pirates. After World War II, it was restored and dedicated to the Italian victims of the conflict. The castle was constructed on a small cliff called San Temo and hosts art exhibitions and cultural events. Walking towards the Ferry Terminal you will pass a small park where the statute of the great sailor and explorer Christopher Columbus will hopefully remind you of The Italian Tribune and our Annual Columbus Day events.
Also in the town is the Basilica di Santa Margherita d’Antiochia, also called Oratorio di Nostra Signora della Rosa. According to legend, a beautiful stone rose was brought and donated to the church by local seamen. Santa Margherita d’Antiochia is patron saint of the city and this impressive house of worship rises above Piazza Caprera. The Baroque styled basilica was built in 1658 on a site of an older church, dating from the 13th century. It has Latin cross plan and is divided in three naves by the columns and cupola on its top. The interiors preserving valuable paintings and marble sculptures.
Convento dei Padri Cappuccini was built in the early 17th century. It is a small, simple but beautiful church with characteristic capuchin stripes on its front facade. The Order of Friars Minor Capuchin arose in 1520. They followed the strict teachings of St. Francis and adopted the austere worldly aspects of his life. The order was founded by Franciscan friar Matteo Bassi. The Capuchins adopted the hood (or cappuccio) which was the mark of a hermit and they also began a practice of wearing a beard.
While in Santa Margherita Ligure, take the opportunity to visit some of the marvelous places in nearby – Portofino, the picturesque San Fruttuoso monastery, the resorts of Camogli and Rapallo, Genoa and the Cinque Terre.
One should not miss the gorgeous village of Portofino. This tiny port town, nicknamed “Pearl of the World,” one of Italy’s most romantic and colorful little towns. It is truly stunning. Looking out into the distance at the yachts and fishing boats bobbing in the water is a magnificent sight. The town is also filled with history and outstanding sights – from spectacular buildings and luxurious villas, opulent gardens and multi-million dollar yachts anchored off shore. With the castle of San Giorgio on its doorsteps Portofino makes for a memorable experience and visit.
A tour to San Fruttuoso is a worthwhile short trip away when staying in Santa Margherita. It is a medieval village surrounded by a lovely beach and is the home to a Benedictine Abbey. It is a building dating from the early 13th century. If you decide to hike there, you’ll find the walk to be steep and difficult, but it does offer anyone intrepid enough to hike the trail, fantastic views of the coastline and sea. Once in San Fruttuoso, you’ll find several small seaside cafes and restaurants that overlook the glistening waters.
If you decide to visit the Cinque Terre, the train is unquestionably the fastest way to get there, but speed is overrated in this case. The ferry ride is a lovely way to see the landscape of the Italian Rivera. There are ten miles of its sheer rocky coastline, terraced hills and vineyards sloping steeply down to the sea. Five small villages are built into the rocks between the beach and the hills. Centuries old footpaths and mule tracks wind through the hills, hundreds of feet above sea level, leading through olive groves, vineyards, orchards and chestnut woods. The five villages that make up the Cinque Terre, from north to south are: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. The train takes about half hour from Santa Margherita, the ferry is best for a day long excursion.
You’ll find that a visit to Santa Margherita Ligure will renew you spirit and enrich your soul, without draining your wallet. It is an excellent choice for travelers who like to explore off the beaten path.