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10 September 2013

Going Around the Italian & French Riviera (Part 1): Rapallo, Santa Margherita Ligure, Camogli & Portofino

Italian & French Riviera. Just the mere thought of it triggers a dreamlike picture of a summer holiday in the coast of Italy and France. Sunbathers, beautiful colored houses, sandy beaches, rocky cliffs, clear waters, color coordinated umbrellas, castles and blue skies. When you imagine a picture like this, the only thing you would like to do is jump right in and be a part of the scene.

Two weeks ago, I went to the northwestern side of Italy and southeastern France. I have been there a few times already. Twice at the famous Cinque Terre and a few times in scattered areas of both countries. The Italian Riviera is the stretch of coastline between Tuscany and France and is inside the Italian region called Liguria, while the French one is on the southeastern corner of the country and is popularly known as the Cote d'Azur. The coastline is quite long and incredibly beautiful where you can find sandy beaches and rocky cliffs with colored houses built on the sides, long walking paths connecting the towns and terraced landscapes. It's an outstanding site from whatever angle you are positioned.

For a week, I went to the other towns at the Riviera that I have been reading about. The Ligurian Tourism Board had been helpful in guiding me to the right direction on which towns to visit. I visited most of their suggested places but I had to skip a couple for lack of time. That gives me more reason to follow this route again next summer. I also added a couple of towns from my past visits.

I took a large number of pictures and it had been hard trimming it down to a manageable number. And it had been more difficult to trim down the number more to make them fit in this post and the ones after this. I have 14 Italian (2 of which are from past trips) and 2 French towns to show you from the latest trip which I am dividing to a succession of posts. For this first part, I am featuring Rapallo, Santa Margherita Ligure, Camogli and Portofino. All of these 4 towns are connected to each other with just a little distance in between them along a picturesque coastline road. 

Rapallo (pictures from the topmost until the picture of the castle below). On its seafront is the Castello sul Mare (Castle on the Sea) that was built in 1551 to defend the city from pirate attacks. 

As you arrive at Lungomare Vittorio Emanuele, the town's main road running along the sea with walking paths, you will see the main buzz of the town. The hotels and restaurants line up the road, a large pedestrian walk, palm trees lining the road, the Castello sul Mare and areas for bathing and a small jetty for the ferries going to nearby Santa Margherita Ligure, San Fruttuoso (the 11th-century abbey accessible only by boat), Portofino, Cinque Terre and Portovenere. Visit Tigullio Ferry to learn more. 

Santa Margherita Ligure (pictures below). Not far from Rapallo is this beautiful seaside town. It is more frequented by tourists and is much busier than Rapallo. The long stretch of beach is organized well with umbrellas and chairs. Along the seafront is a 16th-century castle designed by the same architect of the one of Rapallo. It was also erected to protect the town from pirates. Like Rapallo, ferries also depart from here to the other towns nearby and Cinque Terre. Visit Tigullio Ferry to learn more.

Camogli (pictures below). Beautiful Camogli. Obviously, I am biased. This is one of the towns that captivated me. When I stopped and took the picture below, I couldn't help gaping at the view. It was breathtaking! Yes, it did take my breath away! The walk from one end of the town (where we parked) to the other end (where the castle is) was like a real Riviera scene that you usually dream about. Restaurants, hotels, bars, shops housed in the colorful old buildings where on one side while across the pedestrian road is the sandy beach. Before arriving to the castle, there's the church to be seen and the small harbor. Ferries to the nearby towns depart from here. Check the links of the previous towns for the ferry line.

Portofino (pictures below). It is frequented by the rich and famous as evidenced by big yachts docked at the town's small harbor. The town itself is small and charming with alleys lined with small, colorful old buildings with restaurants, bars, shops and cafès. If shopping is in your mind, then this small fishing village is the perfect spot to choose among the known expensive brands. Castello Brown sits on a hill dominating the small harbor of Portofino. There are ferry connections to the neighboring towns too.

I hope you enjoyed this post. Part 2 will come up soon, probably in-between some recipes I am going to share. Summer is officially over. The temp is dropping and the kids are all back to school. This season had been hectic for me but I am thankful that I was able to travel a lot. I saw so many new places, tasted new flavors and went through new experiences that I was able to share with all of you. It's fun to travel with company. 

Thanks! Until the second part!