Three Ligurian Cities Beyond Cinque Terre

April 16, 2019

After Christina and I had traveled through a bit of Cinque Terre and Chiavari, we hopped on another train on the third morning and headed 19 minutes west to one of my favorite seaside towns in Liguria, Camogli.

The City of Camogli, or Camoggi in Genovese, has always been a fishing town. The name originally meant the Wives’ homes.  When their men went out on their fishing boats, the wives waited and prayed for their return. It is said that their houses were painted in many different bright colors so that their husbands could find them even in a storm. The steep hillside is covered with tall, stately homes overlooking the sea. The colors are magnificent, especially on a sunny day like the day we visited.

When we arrived by train, we were near the top of the steep cityscape. As we walked down and down, we enjoyed the colors of the homes and hotels. Then, we found the giant frying pan.

Every year in May, the city of Camogli holds La Sagra del Pesce e le sue padelle where all who arrive are fed freshly fried fish at no cost. This tradition began after WWII to help put the city of Camogli on the map for tourism and to celebrate San Fortunato’s Day, the patron saint of sailors. There are parades, fireworks and all kinds of activities. I plan to attend this year—it is May 12th.  Unfortunately, Christina will be back in the USA.

As we entered the huge, seaside promenade, Christina was nearly overwhelmed by the site of the city and the sea.

The colorful homes, complete with Trompe l’oeil, or faux painting, are common throughout the portion of Liguria I know and love. Also, Sunday is laundry day and we both love seeing it displayed. We both took photos.

With the shadows, the Trompe L’oeil, and colorful homes, it looks unreal.

So did the sea.

Christina was smitten with Camogli. As we sauntered down the promenade, checking little shops, we decided, since it was Saturday and filled with people, we had better find a restaurant where we could eat a local specialty. I had suggested Pansotti, a ravioli-type pasta stuffed with greens in a noci sauce—a white sauce made with walnuts. I must say, this particular Pansotti was the tastiest I have ever experienced and would highly recommend it and Xodo’ Osteria on your next visit to Camogli.

With stomachs happy and after chatting with other travelers, we walked into the heart of Camogli.

We tore our eyes away from the sea and walked toward La Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta.

Visitors arriving for sunbathing see the rear of the Basilica adjacent to la spiaggia, the beach. To enter, you must walk through an archway, enter the area where fishing boats rest, and walk up the staircase to the entrance.

The Basilica is a Baroque Masterpiece.

The traditional center aisle with two side aisles configuration is covered with art and gold leaf.

Mary, the mother of God, is celebrated with sculpture and painting, especially covering her Assumption.

The lighting is haunting and dramatic.

Baroque can be thought of as overkill, gaudy. But we loved it just the same.

One display calmed the soul with white.

I felt the centuries of prayers and offerings in this church. It was a time of contemplation for both Christina and me. Afterward, it was time to say farewell and re-enter the sunshine.

Outside, in the shadow of the Basilica, children were playing football,

People were descending another set of stairs to walk home,

While teens gathered by the wall overlooking the sea

and the Dragonara, the Dragon Castle, a personal favorite of mine.

This 12th Century fortress is closed to the public except when it holds art shows during the summer. I hope to enter it one day.

Christina and I spent quite a bit of time up on this outlook. It’s amazing to witness the culture of teens in Italy during their free time—outside, gossiping, laughing, playing ball, sun worshiping. They all have phones as do the kids in the States. But here they still spend more time outside, with one another. And what a place to do it, here in Camogli.

When we left them behind, we walked down several, narrow, caruggi, narrow backstreets, walking in shadow, enjoying every twist and turn. I fell a bit in love with the pink framed door and staircase—the door was open. The shrines were everywhere, all referencing the sea, the lifeblood of the town.

We also found fishermen working with netting—it was fascinating to watch.

It was time to say ciao, ciao to Camogli  before sunset.

We took a very short train ride and stopped at Rapallo before returning to Chiavari.

Last October, Rapallo was hit harder than most of her neighbors by a terrible storm. I wanted to see what shape the harbor and lungomare were in now.

When we reached the seaside, I thought it looked worse than when I had visited in January.

One of the locals explained that the project to pull the wrecked yachts off the bottom of the sea, rebuild the seawall,

and repair the street would take until next October.

The people of the city are quite confident that all will be well eventually. Christina was stunned by the damage—you can read about it but to see it in person is much more striking.  I felt encouraged by the words and attitudes of the people. They were out as they always are, near the water, watching the sun set amid the construction. The colors change the mood before we hopped a short train home.

On our fourth and final full day together, Christina and I decided to explore another gorgeous city nearby, Sestri Levante, famous for her food, her beaches her beauty and Hans Christian Andersen, who had once lived in Sestri Levante. The city is an old fishing town built on a peninsula with gorgeous, yet distinctly different beaches on each side (Both beaches were named to honor Hans Christian Anderson.)

Above is the Baia delle Favole, The Bay of Stories, and the first beach we located after walking from the train. It was another beautiful day.

Families were gathered on the walkways and near the water.

Below is the Baia del Silenzio, The Bay of Silence, a smaller beach area surrounded by stately homes.

Boats and families fill the beach.

Across the water were even more elegant homes.

And a very good bronze work of art along the beach side.

But we would be remiss if we did not explore the backstreets and the cuisine of Sestri Levante. We followed what looked like locals down side streets, away from the sea, and watched where the restaurants were that had people waiting in line. We found one and, while waiting, enjoyed a complementary glass of prosecco.

The wait was not too long and the food was excellent. We tried a farinata, a garbanzo bean flour round bread famous in Liguria. Ours included pieces of local whitefish and was delightful.  We also enjoyed trofie with pesto sauce. It was all delicious.

And the ambiance was excellent—winding street of colorful structures, sunshine and happy people.

I would definitely recommend La Schiamadda del Vinaccieri Ballerini.

As we walked back toward the first coastline, we discovered something we thought was impossible, a Fiat 500 pulling a travel trailer. Apparently, it can do it—Forza, Fiat 500.

I wish I could have seen it moving.

It was time to say arrivaderci Sestri Levante and head back to Chiavari.

Goodbye to the old and the new, the sea and the blue.

Until next time.

A dopo.

Ciao for now!

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