If sun lounges, harbour swims, and palm trees are your holiday kryptonite, then Santa Margherita Ligure is decidedly deadly.
Set on the Gulf of Tigullio between Rapallo and Portofino, the historic seaside resort town is one of the most popular on the Riviera – offering more space than the small towns of the Cinque Terre and attracting many a well-heeled holidaymaker in search of elegant fun in the sun.
After visiting Lake Como, we took the train from Milan to arrive in Santa Margherita Ligure for a brief, yet bountiful two night stay. Here, all the action centred around the long, palm-tree lined promenade and yacht-filled harbour where many hotels offer their own “private beach”. They’re not the sandy ones we’re used to, but rather large concrete/rock structures that extend into the bay. Each is lined with rows and rows of perfectly positioned, brightly coloured sun beds that hotel staff shift to match the movements of the day’s rays. We’d heard that finding the best one, and settling in for the day should be our primo priority – and gladly took on the challenge!
Sadly, Mother Nature had a different idea during our visit – and the overcast photos don’t begin to do Santa Margherita justice! Determined not to let the clouds cramp our style, we spent one beautiful day on the “beach” regardless (with a front row spot at the Hotel Metropole), and spent the rest of our time seeking out the delicious food & boutiques that this buzzing harbour town has to offer. Santa Margherita also provided the perfect base for a day trip to Portofino – an ABSOLUTE ESSENTIAL if you find yourself in the area.
All the tips on where to stay, eat & play below!
MUST STAY: There are plenty of hotels to choose from in Santa Margherita that cater to all budget types. For the best of the bay, book a balcony room at the historic Grand Hotel Miramare (housed in a beautiful white liberty building overlooking the promenade), or the equally prestigious Hotel Continental (on the opposite side of the harbour but in similarly stunning surrounds). Alternatively, do as we did and stay in more modest accommodation (Hotel Jolanda provided plenty of old world charm) – and use your extra pennies to buy sun lounge access at whichever private hotel beach you like. Genius.
MUST DO: Pottering along the Santa Margherita promenade (and the cobbled back streets) is enough to keep you amused for hours. Once all walked out, the best sun lounges can be found at the Hotel Continental, Hotel Metropole and Hotel Helios. And if lounge life ever dulls, take a day trip on the ferry – nearby Portofino, Rapallo or Cinque Terre are all excellent options.
MUST EAT: It’s easy to get caught up in the some of the more touristy dining options on the harbour that offer great views, but long, unrefined menus. The best food experiences can be found off the main drag. Our undeniable favourites were Vineria Macchiavello – an intimate wine bar offering a short menu of outstanding Italian dishes and Rêve Café Restaurant – an elegant restaurant set in a romantic courtyard with a similarly refined selection.