One visit to Camogli leaves you eager to return for more.
Even these two Americans, who are notorious for dining early, took our leisurely time dining at Bagni Lido seaside restaurant in Camogli on the Ligurian coast north of Portofino. We had elaborate dinners, starting with raw swordfish cut onion-skin thin, melting in our mouths.
Camogli is a place that invites you to arrive with breathtaking views and asks you to linger with scrumptious meals and fine wines.
Although Camogli may claim to be a fishing port rather than a tourist destination, you could have fooled us. While the number of fishing boats in the Golfo Paradiso shows that there is still a great deal of fishing taking place, the swarms of people enjoying a hot May day sea side attests to it as a tourist destination. Only a half hour drive from Genoa, and not far by train from Milan, folks residing there wisely choose this spot for glorious beach respite.
One of the meanings of Camogli is, “houses close together” and what a lovely description. At under 6,000 people, it looks like all the villages of the Cinque Terre smushed together to form this charming, equally as colorful town. The buildings rise up from the coastline in a maze of winding streets and corridors. The gentle hills and steep stairs help you roam through the various shops and restaurants, enabling you to find whatever hits your fancy. In this store, it could be a comically rounded ceramic fish-shaped dish cast in sea-foam green. In that coffee shop, it could be indulging in an after lunch Macchiato that you’ll never find stateside.
We missed the annual fish fry by two weekends and what a sight that would be to see. The Italians, with their frequently humorous approach to life, take a massive frying pan (12 feet across) and whip up a “blessing of the fish” dinner. What fun!
The promenade is astounding whether you are strolling along, basking in the summer sunlight, or sitting on a rock wall watching the bathers frolic in the cool water and step their way expertly across the stone beaches.
Dining on the coast gives you the opportunity to watch the setting sun cast multiple shadows in the Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta. If you’re particularly lucky, you’ll look up at the right moment to see the warm glow reflect in the glass of a tower window, evoking thoughts of medieval fireplaces and warm mead.
Which, a few hundred years ago, you probably drank in the dining room of the Castel Dragone on the nearby cliff. It has a ragged history of being torn down and rebuilt, but lucky for the visitor, has remained whole since the 14th century.
Camogli’s Harbor attests to the fishing history of the city with boats of many colors and sizes bobbing in sync with the ever-moving waters. It’s hard not to spend an hour simply photographing them from various angles.
It’s easy to arrive in Camogli by regional train from Rapallo or Santa Margherita, by car as long as you know parking is limited, or you can opt for the ferry. Every view into the town, from the shore, from the hill at the train station or on foot from a car park, invites you to be delighted and entranced by the colors, the people, and the stone streets.