This Italian coastal town has the charm of Portofino without the crowds

An upscale oasis for celebrities and jet-setters, Portofino stands out among the many places to visit on the Italian Riviera. Golfo Paradiso, a small stretch of the Ligurian coast in northern Italy, is home to some less famous and equally characterful gems. Italians and savvy international travelers have been quietly flocking to the nearby coastal town of Santa Margherita Ligure for decades to enjoy the sunny Mediterranean vibe – and all the delicious food, beautiful beaches and warm hospitality that vacations here involve – without fuss or fanfare. By Lindsay Cohn

The former fishing village captivates today with its enchanting architecture, beaches, shops and restaurants. Santa Margherita Ligure also offers proximity to the city of Genoa, a port and a train station, so it is an ideal base for exploring the relaxed rest of the region as well as the popular Cinque Terre.

Getting There

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Santa Margherita Ligure is located about 35.4 km southeast of Genoa. Depending on where you are coming from, it may be a good idea to land at Genoa Cristoforo Colombo airport and then take a taxi or bus. You can also take a direct train from major Italian cities such as Rome, Florence and Naples to Genova Piazza Principe and then take the regional service to Santa Margherita Ligure station.

Best time to visit this Italian coastal town

Italian coastal town
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The Italian Riviera comes alive in summer with locals and tourists sunning on the sand, frolicking in the warm water and dining al fresco. This is also the time of year when ferries run frequently between Santa Margherita Ligure and Portofino, as well as the lesser-known villages of Camogli and San Fruttuoso. For these reasons, it is both the busiest and most expensive period in Liguria. If you’d rather save a few bucks and deal with fewer crowds, consider visiting in late spring or early fall when the weather is still nice, but the peak season vacationers have left.

The best things to do

Saint Margaret
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Santa Margherita Ligure dates back to Roman times. It was in the second half of the 1800s that nobility across Europe discovered its potential as a vacation haven. Tourism really took off in the middle of the 20th century. Today, Santa Margherita Ligure offers visitors a fascinating insight into what makes Liguria so wonderful.

A dynamic seaside resort, it is full of heritage, culture and incredible landscapes. Unique in the region, Santa Margherita Ligure offers stretches of sand to spread out a towel. Visitors will find a handful of beach clubs like Bagni Vicini just steps from the ocean. The infinitely picturesque Chiesa di Santa Margherita dominates the square where the daily markets are held.

History buffs also won’t want to miss Villa Durazzo, a sprawling property with manicured gardens, cobblestone walkways, and a 17th-century mansion-turned-museum. Not far from there stands the church of San Giacomo di Corte. It is worth visiting the Abbey of Cervara and also visiting the Castle of Santa Margherita Ligure.

One of Santa Margherita Ligure’s main selling points is the easy access to Paraggi and Portofino beaches for shopping, dining, and a generally glamorous atmosphere. It’s also convenient to take a boat to Camogli and San Fruttuoso, or take a day trip to Cinque Terre.

The best places to stay

Accommodation
Image credit: Courtesy of Grand Hotel Miramare

Santa Margherita Ligure doesn’t have a ton of hotels, although it is larger and therefore better equipped to accommodate visitors than some of the smaller neighboring villages. One of the region’s grandest respites, the art-nouveau Grand Hotel Miramare offers elegant rooms and resort-style amenities like a curved saltwater pool, fine dining restaurant, spa and health club. beach.

The classic yellow facade reflects the cheerful but heritage-rich demeanor of Hotel Sant’Andrea, a restored villa with spacious rooms punctuated with four-poster beds and a relaxing garden patio.

On the more modern side of things, Blu di Te House offers individually designed rooms, a hidden spa sanctuary, and a rooftop terrace with a pool that overlooks the glistening Gulf of Tigullio.

Best places to eat and drink

Italian coastal town
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Liguria has many culinary distinctions. It is legendary as the birthplace of pesto and prepares some of the best focaccia in Italy. Santa Margherita Ligure is a fantastic place to sample the local flavors of the region.

There are many high-end restaurants – including Trattoria da Pezzi and Angolo 48 – that serve traditional Ligurian dishes at reasonable prices. Popular choices include Ristorante Antonio, DuCoq, and Pizzeria Il Delfino. Meanwhile, Zi’ Ninella Ristorante reigns supreme for elevated meals at a fixed price. More casual open-air restaurants dot the boulevard across from the sea. And if you venture a few blocks, bistros and aperitif bars spill out onto the cobbled lanes.

This story first appeared on www.travelandleisure.com

Main and Feature Image Credit: katatonia82/Getty Images

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