Back in July, before I packed up my last pair of shoes and moved to Oslo, I spent a week in Santa Margherita Ligure. This is a city of about 12.000 citizens located on the Italian Riviera in the Ligura region of Italy. Liguria stretches from France in the West until Toscany in the East and its capital is Genova. While it is not the easiest region to travel to – this time I came with bus from Nice, France and last time I flew to Florence and caught the train out to the coast – it is one of the most beautiful regions of Italy, with its rolling, green hills, long beaches and clear turqouise ocean.
Apart from Portofino’s hustle and bustle of insanely wealthy people, the rest of the region is a lot more laid back, as it is centered around hiking in the Cinque Terre and dipping in the azur blue Mediterranean sea. And eating lots of gelato. At least two a day. Possibly three. And thus gaining a few kilos, despite all the hiking.
The region is famous for its seafood, pesto, olives and wines, though tourism is the greatest souce of income in the cities along the coast. The region only has tourism in the summer months, and typically people in the restaurants and shops in Portofino and Cinque Terre will work around the clock from May to September, and may be forced to collect unemployment benefit in the remainder of the year.
Last year, I fell head over heels in love with the quiet, outdoorsy and sunny atmosphere in Cinque Terre so when I received a great offer on a holiday in Santa Margherita, I jumped at the chance. And my, did I have a great time. While Cinque Terre is very outdoorsy and quiet, with few bars and little shopping except for local food stuffs, Santa Margherita is a larger city with a great selection of eateries and shops. Also a much larger city than its neighbour Portofino, it has a cosy pedestrian area with lots of cool shops, restaurants and bars. The city is really well maintained and the locals are very friendly – and open to haggling in the sales season (remember that in Italy it is common to have unannounced sales. They don’t tell you about them , but suddenly distract 40 % from the price at the till). Add to it the pretty mansion and church on the hill, the long beaches and the port that runs along a large part of the city, and you have a really nice holiday destination. Or final destination, if you like me, dream of settling down in Italy one day. Now, it only I could find a direct flight there…
Here are some highlights from Santa Margherita Ligure, followed later this week by my highlights of Cinque Terre and Portofino. Enjoy!