Gli sforzi e le fatiche sono ricompensati dalla magnifica vista che si può godere da quell’altezza: la prima visione di Genova e del Mediterraneo da quel punto non lascia spazio al rammarico (Lady Sidney Morgan)
We are just at a short distance, in fact 20 kms away from the administrative centre of Genoa, in a luxuriant valley, full of olive trees and pine groves; Camogli is a typical provincial seaside hamlet, a true gem, very difficult to find, with its dizzying colour palette views, a romantic small town nestled between the Ligurian sea and the mountains, which is the first of its merits, placing it among the favourite Italian and worldwide itineraries. It still has the magnificence of its past, its history and culture, being in an important position of the eastern Riviera, it was already known as a thriving seaside centre in the past.
The town has on the west side Monte di Portofino, lapping the Golf of Paradise. On the north there are Recco and Rapallo, from which the town inherits its cuisine, on the south and west it is flown through by the Ligurian Sea as well as Santa Margherita Ligure and Portofino. Camogli, the town of the thousand white sea vessels, has many beauties to mention, for example the seafront, the marina, the Regional Park of Portofino with its protected marine area, without forgetting the small hamlets of Ruta di Camogli, Saint Fruttuoso with its abbey and Saint Rocco of Camogli, a true example of well kept medioeval architecture.
How to get here
For those coming from the North, (we remind you that Camogli is at about an hour and a half from Milan, an insignificant distance), the A12 motorway Autostrada dei Fiori, Genoa – Livorno, Recco exit, or if you exit at Rapallo, you may continue your journey along the SP1 road.
If you are coming from the South of Italy, choose the A1 motorway till Florence. From there, take the A11 Firenze Mare, till the exit A12 Livorno-Genoa, from the toll booth of Recco, follow the signs for Camogli.
If you choose to travel by train and you are coming from Milan, you will reach your destination in a couple of hours. Camogli has its own train station, CAMOGLI-SAN FRUTTUOSO, which is on the Genoa – La Spezia line. If you are coming from Rome, it will not be so easy, as you will have to change train in Florence Santa Maria Novella and in La Spezia, it is inevitably a longer journey, but the train line is well served and the price of the ticket is affordable if you take a regional train and a Freccia train.
Your landmark airport is the Cristoforo Colombo in Genoa, which is connected with the main Italian airports and European towns. You may choose Milano Malpensa airport and then reach the train station of Milano Centrale and continue your trip by train, as explained above.
The ferry boats and motor vessels of the Golfo Paradiso navigation line, start from the port of Camogli,.
Also the Servizio marittimo del Tigullio offers stops at Portofino, Rapallo, Chiavari and Sestri Levante, to and from the Cinque Terre and the nearby hamlets.
How to move about
Urban and out door transport in Camogli is looked after by ATP (azienda trasporti provinciali). The bus service is also available in the Valleys of Scrivia and D’Orba, it’s an excellent service for the whole area of Tigullio, including users from Levanto, located in the province of La Spezia going to Varazze. If you don’t have your own means of transport and you want to enjoy the landscapes of the coast, the bus is the best transport. However we don’t suggest taking a bus in the morning and during high season, for the limited number of buses available for all people: students, tourists and inhabitants. As often happens in vacation places, free car parkings lack. The ideal solution could be one of the many security monitored parking lot available, in the area. So you can enjoy your day and take the buses to move around. However Camogli has good weather conditions and a long and well equipped paved cycle lane that almost goes as far as Genoa.If you don’t plan outings, you could rent a bike for each member of the family, it will be the right choise to enjoy a seaside holiday.The trekking paths starting from Camogli or from San Rocco, give you the opportunity to enjoy the views of Monte and of Chiappa, you could try the most difficult paths overlooking the sea, very close to the village of San Fruttoso di Camogli.There is a seasonal navigation service that allows the connection between the old port of Genoa, Recco and the nearby towns of Santa Margherita and Rapallo.
A bit of history...
Some of the pieces found in the area of Castellaro date to the bronze age. The majority of the objects are of every day use, pottery and house objects, that have drawn the attention to two huts, perfectly preserved, the first housing unit of Camogli, which is located in the upper part of the town on old and unnatural terraces, similar to the typical ones we see nowadays. Camogli was inhabited in prehistoric era by sheperds and farmers.
During the Roman imperial era, Camogli was a very popular hamlet. Even if there aren’t important traces of the Roman age, the many roads that are still there, belong to that period, as well as the paved roads that connect the hamlets of Rapallo and Recco, in the area of Chiesa Vecchia di Ruta, we understand that Camogli was small but at the same time a boomtown as regards trade.The name Camogli appears for the first time in a liturgical hymn of the middle age, in honor of Saint Giovanni Bono, and also in several Genoese chronicles and notary deeds of different nature.
Its name has caused heated discussions, some believe that this name comes from the Etruscan god Camulio, others think that it comes from the celtic god Camoli, the majority of people believe that the eponymous comes from the language, associating a Greek-Ligurian word “cam” that means low and “gi” that stands for land, low land.Joking, the husbands in Camogli are convinced that the word Camogi stands for the house of the wives where “ca” is the short for casa -house and mogli stands for mogli-wives.During the period of the Marine Republics and in virtue of the robberies made by the Saracens for years, the town stood out thanks to its port authority. The inhabitants of Camogli helped Genoa, the major of the Republics, in the conquest of Siria. Its navy expanded and so did its wealth.The castle of Dragonara was built as defense for the hamlet. The prosperity of a small enclave of fishermen and farmers was also helped by the friendship with the town of Genoa.Camogli was also prepared for the epidemic of plague that followed. The development of the town was also helped by the refurbishment of the houses and by the continuous, almost obsessive care for its historic monuments.An increasing number of workshops was created in the inner roads of the town centre, the Carroggio. When Napoleon arrived the fleet was increased. Bigger ships were built and the commercial routes expanded far and wide on the Mediterranean Sea.With the expansion of trade and the increase of many officials, Camogli becomes, during the Napoleonic era, a small Babylon of vessels. As Siria had done in the past, the town helps the French to conquer Algeria.After the umptheeth conquest , Camogli be comes the town of the thousand vessels. The social conditions of the population improve and thanks to its navy the town becomes quite modern, considering that the twentieth century had just started, the town had its own working aqueduct and all the houses had electricity.
Following the history of great part of the natural beauties of the Ligurian Gulfs, Camogli attracts the elite of the high bourgeoisie and becomes, ceasing its life as town of adventures and seamen, an important touristic centre, the right place for lovers of outdoor trips; confirming also, during the dark years of the world wars, a strong civic minded sense and a talent for architectural human rigor, almost stylistic. Nowadays values haven’t changed.
The beauties of the Ligurian lands are no longer unknown to us. We know well the duo sea and sky, helped by the peaks overlooking the sea and the pointed rocks. The landscapes are often uncontaminated and at a first glance have never been tamed by man.
We might be wrong thinking this, because as it happened with the Cinque Terre, the whole area of Golfo Paradiso, even if it is perched where the buttress are, it hosts from time a well advanced civilization. The very popular Rapallo and Santa Margherita located on the riviera, where some of the most popular bars are, the most exclusive areas of the Region during the summer season, is replaced and even preferred in the winter to Camogli, Recco, Sori and Bogliasco, quieter, picturesque and cheaper, affordable for everyone on the east side.At a stone’s throw we find Tigullio supervising beauties almost of its own, such as the Via dell’Ardesia in Lavagna or the trails along the stone walls, scattered with olive groves and vineyards, both planted in terraces facing the sun, the sea and the saltiness rich in iodine. The Baia del Silenzio (Bay of Silence) in Sestri Levante, is not so far away, this is another “paradise” that you can visit at the magic hour of sunset.
Honorable mention goes to the Golfo Paradiso /Gulf of Paradise, there is a dispute between its wonderful valleys, thanks to a perfect ecosystem, a bond between the sea and the Ligurian Appenine. The warm streams that come from the sea and the humidity during the winter that comes from the mountain ensure the woods just round the corner, after the rich and wild promontories, seldom reached by the light of the sun.
The grassy slopes of Val Fontanabuona, well represent this kind of scenery, the opposite of hostile, located north compared to our destination but of easy access to the major infrastructures.During the winter the Mistral wind, coming from France, cuts the green with occasional whitewash, enables the view of deers and roe deers, occasionally the foxes and unique wolf.
Places of interest
To begin with it is worth paying a visit to the historic centre. It is small and cozy, built around the marina, close to the castle and the basilica of Santa Maria Assunta and the row of coloured houses, typical of the Ligurian area. The basilica is located in via Isola (Island road), so called for its distance from the coast, which for years has made the plot, a cluster of solitary rocks . Built in Baroque style and dedicated to the same saint, the interior is fully gold covered, the marble and crystal stand out, as well as the work of the nineteenth century frescoes made by Nocoló Barabino, the delicacy of the stucco ceiling.Even the small square opposite is the protagonist, it is tiled with small pebbles just like the “Risseau.”
The current Dragonara Castle, or if you prefer Castel Dragone is a good example of a Ligurian defensive building, located in front of the rocks, it consists of a squat rectangular plan and a tower. It is believed that the original shape of the castle, apart the enlargement, is virtually unchanged since the nineteenth century, demonstrating once more a past of pirate raids. Another characteristic historic building worth mentioning, is the Civic maritime museum, built by Gio Bono Ferrari in the period between the two world wars. Merged in recent years to the archaeological museum and the public Camogliese library, it gathers the remains of the city in prehistoric times.
The place of worship par excellence in Camogli is the Shrine of Our Lady del Boschetto. The first chapel was built in the place where it is told that the Virgin Mary appeared in 1500 to a shepherd asking her to be honoured. It is also and perhaps known better for the collection of votive related to the history of the sea , to the injuries, to the graces received or for simple requests for a good catch.
Its structure has three naves, preserving much of the baroque elements, a triumph of friezes and richly worked marble.
Accommodation, tourism and events
The protected area around the slope of Monte di Portofino is one of the most beautiful landscapes that Camogli has to offer. Its small beaches, the coves, hidden among the cliff rocks, the cleanliness of the sea and the pale shade of indigo that can be seen on sunny days, have given to this place the name Divers Paradise.
Do you remember the white sailboats? Pride of the city and strongly wanted by the shipwright Ido Battistoni, the new (so to speak) boat called The Dragun, in 1968 stops working as a boat and becomes a magnificent two sails with twelve oars. The Dragun, was built along the lines of the pirates xebecs, after the launch, the Dragun sailed across Europe, from Besancon to Paris along the rivers and the canals to the rowing expedition in Argentina.
Talking about festivals, every year on the first Sunday in September the celebration of the apparition of Our Lady del Boschetto takes place, she is the patron saint of fishermen and sailors. In her honor, the case, containig the remains (probably fake as the weight is approximately 550 kgs) , is carried in procession through the roads of the village. The case is carried on the shoulders by twenty people, the overweight seems to crush the porters, but evey time the arrival of the Madonna is perfect, tearing applause and emotions of true faith from the whole community. Since 1952, the second Sunday in May there is an event that attracts not only residents but all the lovers of good food. The Fish Festival, a day entirely dedicated to frying fish inside a huge frying pan, with the capacity of 2000 litres. The pan is placed on a scaffolding attached to the marina, which has become together with this “symbol” of stainless steel a beacon for tourists, the event is followed by the major regional television stations and not con country televisions.
“Stella Maris”, is the festival dedicated to a mosaic depicting the Virgin,it is celebrated the first Sunday in August. Early in the morning a cannon shot indicates the start, the Dragun, described above, leads the priest to the altar of Stella Maris located on Punta Chiappa. It is a moment of silence for the community, it doesn’t have major pleasure events, but it gathers people on the beach in the evening; after the xebec returns, followed by all the boats of the procession it greets the people with hundreds of candles floating on the sea.
Christmas Eve, at midnight, at the Abbey of St. Fruttuoso, is an event for everyone, not only for worshippers! In the church, after the Holy Mass, enriched by the voices of the choir and by a sort of Michelangelo atmosphere, the guided tours to the baptistery start, a toast cards and tastings, and for all those who love walking in the moonlight, a romantic trip in the village.
A typical dish envied by the rest of Italy, are the anchovies; in Camogli, there are many ways of cooking this fish, salted o just brushed with lemon juice, chopped fennel and pinzimonio (a sauce of oil, vinegar, salt and pepper); marinade, boiled and served with daily catch of the tunny fishing nets, in tasty fish soups and stews.
All oily fish however, from snapper to kingfish, is well appreciated by the worldwide seafood cuisine. The cuisine of the Gulf is a real treat for all lovers of slow food, and of all those very simple and tasty dishes of the Mediterranean tradition.
Characteristic of the entire Ligurian basin, in this respect, is the preboggion, a poaching of wild herbs, a great fellowship of what the earth has to offer to good food. All the products of the kitchen garden, onions, potatoes, tomatoes and the first fruits of the woods of every season, mushrooms, wild onions, squash and courgettes, are used and accompanied by olive oil of the Ligurian Riviera and combined with cereal grains and bread and butter.
A striking example is rice with milk and chestnuts, served with plenty of butter or Parmesan cheese. Trofie and all the ong pasta , often homemade by the housewives, finds its use with the various sauces: meat sauce, walnut or pesto sauce, boiled tomato sauce with herbs from the kitchen garden, and game.
Lean meats and proteins of wild animals, of course slaughtered according to strict criteria rules, abound among the hilly landscape which flows into the sea, like any other inland area.
Wild boar, hare and rabbit, are delicious stewed or made “alla Ligure” with pine nuts, olives and rosemary, are served with a side dish (potatoes or vegetables) or you can find the wild boar charcuterie starters.
The excellent dairy production, ricotta, cheeses and precinseua can be found at favorable prices in the the market stalls, all these products are of controlled origin. Honey, preserved food and jams not to mention the favourite of all snacks the focaccia.
Due to the proximity to the village of Recco and also for its unique ingredients, the most consumed type of focaccia is the Recco focacciam made with cheese.
Farinata, which is made of chickpeas is an excellent substitute to bread and butter; it is served hot with crescenza cheese or stracchino cheese, warm, or inside a focaccia for a snack.
Remember that even if all the recipes have a sort of modern twist inside luxury restaurants for the most demanding palates, it is in the agritourisms that excellent food can be found, here all the dishes are home made.
Main courses, desserts and appetizers, will not only exalt its typical timeless ingredients, but will be a good reason for another visit in Camogli.
Real Estate market
Camogli is like a happy island where it is possible to spend a quiet holiday at the beach, without formality, or walk among the beautiful nature with its extraordinary landscape, where blue and green merge
A simple rent could become a purchase, because in Camogli it is possible to take a break.
The real estate market offers convenient prices at the moment, this allows the investment as there is a good relationship between quality of life and prices per sqms.
Families and couples are privileged, Italians prefer the summer season, foreigners prefer the village during the quiet autumn and spring.
During time the investments made by Germans, French and English added up to those made by Russians, who have understood that Camogli is a “Paradise” for all ages and the purchase-investment will increase in value in the future.
Camogli is in the province of Genoa, it is one of the last oasis of calm that you can find, staying among the authentic beauties of the east coast. Small ups and downs of scented pine woods, protected by the promontory of Portofino, located at more than six hundred meters above the sea level, and at just a few steps away from the Gulf of Tigullio, with immediate access to the major roads (it is strategically located on the beautiful Via Aurelia).
Camogli is a fishing village but is also much more than this. It is what is left of the traces of the pirates with its Dragone Castle, guarding the horizon. With its historic centre which reminds us of forgotten cultures and of its sunny coast.
Recco, Rapallo and Santa Margherita, close to the town, are just some of the necessary steps, admirable for being so tied to tradition, but also popular among young people for the best parties and the entertainment, you will ever find.
Camogli has nothing to envy to the most popular destinations in Liguria, but it is the sum of a well-kept place, with a wonderful weather and good food.