Camogli is only a short drive from the extremely popular villages of the Cinque Terre and the Portofino peninsula, but is much less visited than those villages and much more relaxing to visit, while losing little (if anything!) in terms of charm to its more famous neighbours - the area around the small beach and harbour is especially attractive.
For several hundred years Camogli was an important base for shipping in the region and once described as 'the city of a thousand sailing ships'. It has rather diminished in naval importance over the centuries and is now a small, pretty fishing town surrounded by the forested slopes of the Portofino Regional Natural Park.
Note: if you are arriving in Camogli by car, park at the top of the town and explore on foot: there is limited access to vehicles in the town itself. As you descend from the car park towards the town Camogli is pleasant if unremarkable, giving you little hint of how lovely the seafront area is. It is an unmissable highlight of your tour along the Liguria coast!
It is here around the harbour and seafront, attractively surrounded by tall pastel-painted (motly shades of orange) houses that your visit will focus. At ground level many of the buildings have now been converted into cafes and shops to divert your attention and where you can find an ice cream or have lunch.
While enjoying our ice-cream we were also amazed by the colour of the sea here which was a most unusual milky blue-white, almost as if someone was shining bright lights from under the water!
The seafront is essentially divided into two parts: the eastern section with a beach and promenade, and the western part with a harbour. The beach is of stone and pebble rather than sand, and very popular in summer.
From the beach area where you arrive you can stroll along the seafront promenade as far as the small Castello della Dragonara. The Dragonara castle dates from the 15th century and now holds occasional exhibitions.
Also on this headland is the other important historical monument in the town, the Basilica Santa Maria, which also overlooks the harbour. Originally dating from the 12th century, the basilica has been substantially modified over the centuries and now has an interior in the baroque style and a neo-classical facade.
In the town behind the harbour, many of the houses in Camogli feature various decorative and trompe l'oeil effects - often painted seashells. This adds to the enjoyment of exploring the town and distracts your attention slightly from the steepness of the cobbled streets! You will also find a larger supermarket in the town centre than most of the towns in the area.
Italy This Way comment: you will see these paint effects a lot in Liguria, on both houses and baroque style churches, but here in Camogli they are particularly widely used: take another look at the shutters and windows of the houses as you pass and you will see that many of them are simply painted on the walls!
Note: we stayed in a hotel near Camogli when exploring the Portofino peninsula and it was an excellent base with parking much easier here and also regular trains and buses from Camogli station to Rapallo and Santa Margherita Ligure from where you can get a boat to Portofino.
One highlight of the year in Camogli is the second Sunday in May when a great fish festival called the Blessing of the Fish (Sagra del Pesce) is held - large amounts of fresh fish are fried up along the town waterfront and distributed to all present. And its free!
Local attractions and excursions
If you are passing some time at Camogli, the boat trips out to the Punta Chiappa - a good place for some quiet and sunbathing - and to the abbey at San Fruttuoso (in a remote location on the peninsula to the south-east of Camogli) make for popular and enjoyable excursions. You can also walk to San Fruttoso but it takes at least a couple of hours so bring walking shoes and water!
Hiking in the surrounding countryside is also very rewarding - for example the walk to the summit of Mount Portofino, from where there are lovely views out to sea, or to San Rocco, or perhaps the ancient roman style church of San Nicolò di Capodimonte. All are very enjoyable.
You can also organise boat trips from Camogli to other highlights along the Liguria coast such as the Cinque Terre and Portofino or visit one of the other resorts along the Paradise Gulf coast such as Sori.
Where is Camogli?
You can find more local travel ideas in the Liguria guide.