A real jewel and a place we fell in love with was Camogli. It’s a small fishing village and typically romantic seaside village located on the west side of the peninsula of Portofino, on the Italian Riviera. It’s famous for its pretty little port with multi-coloured palazzi lining the water. It’s characterized by highly-stacked and colourfully painted houses. This magnificent setting totally enchanted us.
We based ourselves in Sestri Levente as it is a great place to catch the train to many other places along the Italian Riviera.
One of the day trips we took was to Camogli. It’s not as well known as some of the other towns nearby like Cinque Terre or Portofino, therefore, less touristy and crowded. We hardly heard another English voice all day.
We came out of the station and was unsure which direction to go as we were high above the sea and there were lots and lots of steps down through narrow, windy walkways. We headed right and thought we would keep walking along the road to try to avoid some of the steep steps.
As we walked down a little way past some little shops we looked over the side to the sea and took a sharp intake of breath. The scenery was absolutely stunning. This had to be a photo opportunity.
A little further along the road, we looked in the window of a patisserie and was tempted to try some of their sweet treats. We picked out four, which we walked along eating and sharing. They were only small so we more or less had a couple of bites of each. They were really lovely. The only thing is by then it was 11 am and they filled us up. We kept putting off lunch as we were full but then when we decided we wanted to eat at about 3 pm most of the kitchens were closed until 7.30pm. We didn’t want to wait until then so we ended up with a snack with a glass of local wine, which was delicious.
We did consider waiting around to eat when the kitchens opened again but as we were using the campsite taxi service and it was a family member picking us up from the station we didn’t want to put them out and get back too late. It was a blessing we didn’t in the end because when we got back to the campsite we got chatting to another English motor-homer who told us that the train drivers were striking at 8 pm that evening until the next morning so it looks like we may have been stranded in Camogli.
A speciality in Camogli is the focaccia. Italian’s were flocking to them for their focaccia col Formaggio, a speciality from nearby Recco in which rich, gooey cheese is encased in millimetre-thin sheets of dough. They were being sold as a takeaway and the Italians were eating them from the paper on the bench’s outside facing the beach just as us Brits would sit and eat our fish and chips in the UK.
The harbour was packed with little fishing and pleasure boats. Most of the fishing boats were no larger than rowing skiffs. Along the quay, fishing nets are strewn on the ground and hung up on railings to dry. On the road nearby there are one or two shops where the daily catch is sold. In-fact the harbour smells of the sea and fish. We walked up to the old lighthouse which sits at the end of the harbour entrance just breathing in the sea air and looking back at the beautiful sight of the harbour and churches.
There was so much to take in we sat on a bench for about 45 minutes just looking around at all the surroundings and taking it in.. We particularly enjoyed taking the time to look up at the tall pastel-coloured houses that climb up and back against the hillside picking out the different features on each one.
It’s such a pretty village with typically painted facades. The facades are elaborately decorated and we soon realised that, in some cases, it wasn’t a window frame we were seeing it was a painting of one.
There are a number of churches. The Basilica Minore di Santa Maria Assunta that faces onto the port; It was built in the 12th century and features a double façade. Then, the Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Wood is built on the site where, according to folk legend, the Madonna appeared in the year 1500.
Camogli’s Fishing Traditions
For those visiting in these parts during the month of May, the fish fair is a must; held every second Sunday in May, it is famous in part of the use of a gigantic frying pan.
While we were strolling around we noticed signs of the village’s centuries-old fishing traditions such as religious statues, ships in a bottle and various symbols made of seashells and embedded in the walls of houses.
In the 17th century, Camogli was a rich fishing village, with the only Tonnara (tuna trap) along the Ligurian Coast. Villagers received stocks of free tuna.
Every year, the village’s fishing traditions are celebrated in the second weekend of May during the annual fish fry. The villagers use what must be the world’s largest skillet (about four meters across) to fry fish donated by the fish co-operative. The skillet is mounted on a wall in Camogli along with a plaque showing the history of the skillets uses over the years.
Getting to Camogli
Camogli is located along the Ligurian coast, about a 2.5-hour drive from Milan and is on the main rail line between Genoa and La Spezia, although not all trains stop there. Buses and boats also run there.
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