Pasta and pesto. A picturesque beach and boardwalk lined with homes and buildings in coastal colors. Spectacular sunsets. These are the hallmarks of a stay in Camogli — a laid-back fishing village on northern Italy’s Ligurian coast that remains less frequented than a bustling Portofino or the hiking routes of the Cinque Terre (both to the east of this charming town on the Italian Riviera).
This summer we are getting ready for our most exciting adventure yet, so we are not about to embark on an end-of-season getaway (we’ve found that traveling to the Mediterranean in late August or early September is ideal). We are, though, thinking about eventually revisiting our 2016 vacation — perhaps one day with a third in tow! And it never hurts to reminisce about that welcome warm breeze carrying salt from the sea as we wade through this wave of stifling NYC summer humidity.
Where to Stay:
Simply stated: Hotel Cenobio dei Dogi, which is a roughly two-and-a-half-hour drive from Milan’s Malpensa Airport.
Located at the end of the promenade, this traditional seaside resort (it was apparently once an Italian villa) is equipped with everything needed for a perfect stay in Camogli, including a helpful staff and a free parking lot. From gorgeous views (especially from the rooms facing in the direction of the sea) and a beautifully manicured exterior …
… to charming interiors swathed in light, beachy hues (ours included a terrace overlooking the spa-like saltwater pool, perfect for both adults and kids).
Breakfast (located in one of the hotel’s three restaurants) is included … but this definitely isn’t your ordinary hotel continental breakfast. (I mean, it is Italy!) Plus, it boasts this daily view of the sea and coastline and the mountains in the distance. Never a bad way to start the day.
Want more blissful views? From the resort’s private beach, we were able to take in more of the stunning shoreline to the west …
… and to the east …
Like other locales along the Mediterranean, the beach is rocky, so splurging on daily lounge chairs and umbrellas (as well as some water shoes) is definitely worth it. Don’t, though, let the rocks deter you from taking the plunge (there’s a ladder descending from the small cape jutting out into the sea) and going for a dip in the salty water.
Where to Eat and Drink:
We’ll get to the pasta and pesto (as this region is the birthplace of the delectable sauce), but first a note about Revello, a focacceria right off the boardwalk where we indulged in some of the best breads we’ve ever eaten. Onion focaccia, focaccia col formaggio (cheese!), spinach quiche, delectable desserts … all fresh from the oven and the perfect snack (make that lunch) to tide us over to dinner and give us a break from the midday sun.
Our most favorite evenings (yes, we ended up repeating this drinks and dinner combo on our final day) were spent at Bar Dai Muagetti for sunset aperitivo and La Cucina di Nonna Nina for what felt like a truly home-cooked meal. Bar Dai Muagetti is basically down the road from Nonna Nina in San Rocco — which is a roughly 20-minute drive from Camogli — and only accessible (once you park your car by the old church) by a walking path along the cliff. The bar itself is built into the side of the mountain (in what is said to be an old WWII hideout) with outdoor seating that allows visitors to take in postcard-worthy sunsets over a glass of wine or beer and small plates. It does get a bit crowded, so reservations are recommended, but this was truly one of the most breathtaking experiences (let alone bar experiences), I’ve ever had … and, of course, these pics don’t lie.
After the sun set, it was off to Nonna Nina for a traditional Ligurian meal that lured us back during our short stay. We sat both times on the veranda of the house in the hills and indulged in dishes like seafood antipasti, grilled fish, peach amaretto cake, a half-bottle of regional Rossesse wine, and the most incredible trofie al pesto (which we craved so much that we each got our own upon our return). Oh, and despite some reviews to the contrary, we found both the owner and staff to be quite lovely and sweet — which obviously made the entire experience even more welcoming.
As for restaurants in Camogli, we enjoyed a delicious dinner at Ostaia da o Sigu, located on the promenade just steps from Cenobio. We shared a bottle of Syrah with trofie nero with seafood, spaghetti with anchovies, and a mixed seafood plate … all while watching the sun set over the sea. We were also able to take a break from seafood with a meat dinner at Braceria Le Gole di Cerbero just a few blocks off the promenade — but it looks like this steakhouse has unfortunately closed since our stay.
Where to Explore:
We took a ferry (as opposed to a three-ish-hour hike) from Camogli to San Fruttuoso to visit this remote beach located in the shadow of a picturesque historic abbey. And it was a good thing that we did not decide to climb there, as we got there just in time to snag two of the last remaining lounge chairs and umbrellas at 10:30 am.
We didn’t actually visit the abbey, but we spent the day relaxing, snoozing, swimming — and eating the most delicious lasagnette al pesto (scrumptious sheets of pasta brushed with pesto) and fried seafood at what was then beachside restaurant Da Laura. (The family-run restaurant still exists, but we were told that due to new regulations, all the restaurants on the beach were being relocated somewhere behind the abbey.)
Our Ligurian adventures (which also included a few hours in Genoa — a place we should have done a bit more research on before visiting so that we could really immerse ourselves in the city) only scratch the surface of this region. But I can’t imagine returning without retracing these memorable steps, soaking in the majestic sun, and basking in the warmth of the Italian Riviera. Until next time …