Visit Santa Margherita Ligure
The resort of Santa Margherita Ligure is one of the most attractive and charming in the Riviera di Levante - the eastern half of the Ligurian coast in north-west Italy - and is also well placed to explore local highlights such as Portofino.
Exploring Santa Margherita Ligure
You get one of the nicest views of Santa Margherita Ligure before you arrive, from the road between Rapallo and Camogli, high on the hill above the town.
Start your visit with a stroll along the promenade, pausing for a morning coffee or afternoon ice-cream along the way. The seafront is the main attraction at Santa Margherita Ligure, with its beach, lively harbour and promenade, and is very picturesque with palm trees, grand buildings and brightly coloured houses immediately behind the seafront.
There are two quite extensive areas of beach in the centre of the town, hence its popularity as a base for visitors exploring the region.
There are also a couple of interesting historic monuments here including a very sturdy small castle, built on the waterfront in the middle of the 16th century. You will also notice a square-tower castle called Castle Paraggi, from the early 17th century, although this is now a private house and has been substantially modified with modern windows, balconies etc.
Although the sea and beach are the main attractions, along with the numerous bars, restaurants and ice cream shops along the seafront, the rest of the town is also attractive with pleasant shopping streets to explore in the old town behind the harbour, which is centred around Piazza Mazzini.
As with many towns in this region, in Santa Margherita Ligure near the harbour and associated with a fountain you can see a statue of Christopher Columbus. Christopher Columbus was born in Genoa in 1451.
There are several churches in Santa Margherita Ligure of which the most important is the Basilica di Santa Margherita d'Antiochia. This church has its origins in the 13th century, but was rebuilt in the 17th century and the facade and right belltower in baroque style added in the 18th century.
You reach the basilica by following a long street straight up the hill from the harbour: you can't miss it, the church dominates the views from all directions! Even if you don't plan to enter the church it is worth walking up the hill, because just next to the church entrance there is an attractive villa and park that is open to the public, the Villa Durazzo-Centurion, which is surrounded by a nice park (open to the public) that includes a garden in typical Italian style.
Within Villa Durazzo you can visit some of the royal apartments and there is also a small art gallery with paintings by 17th and 18th century artists, while from the gardens you have lovely views across the town and also see various features of interest such as statues and a turtle pond..
In various other places along the seafront and around the town you can see other imposing villas and gardens, some of them now converted into impressive hotels.
Santa Margherita Ligure is very well placed for exploring the eastern Liguria coast, either by boat or train (there is a train station here, unlike Portofino a few kilometres to the south) and hotels tend to also be less expensive than those in more famous Portofino.
There are several places that you will enjoy visiting if you are using Santa Margherita as your base for a visit. The best known of these is the pretty village of Portofino, which should ideally be reached on foot along a lovely trail from here or on a short boat trip from the harbour. Boat trips to visit the 1000 year old seafront Abbey of San Fruttuoso also depart from the harbour in Santa Margherita Ligure.
Note: parking is very difficult in nearby Portofino, so many visitors park in Santa Margherita Ligure instead and catch the taxi-boat from here: it only takes 15 minutes, and you also then have lovely views of both Santa Margherita Ligure and Portofino from the sea.
Be sure to also visit Rapallo and Camogli, while the lovely villages of the Cinque Terre are a little further to travel but certainly beautiful enough to justify the trip, either by train or by boat, which provides a great opportunity to admire the Liguria coast.
You can find more local travel ideas in the Liguria guide.