Exploring the Italian Riviera
A short train ride from Nice offers dramatic sea views on your way to Santa Margherita. An ideal off-season Italian Riviera town that’s literally walking distance to trendy Portofino on the Ligurian Sea. Bars, cafes, and restaurants are scattered along the seafront of this pedestrian-friendly town at the edge of the Gulf of Tigullio. The weather in Nice, Italy is mild during the winter months. Hotels on the water are reasonable and best of all you’ll have the place to yourself. During the Summer months, this area gets slammed with beachgoers.
A stroll through town will provide you with some lovely examples of art nouveau architecture and trompe l’oeil. This is still a fishing village, so don’t miss the afternoon ritual when the fishermen row toward shore in their brightly painted wooden boats to unload their catch amid eager restaurant owners and locals.
Around the bend lies Portofino, Italy. With its gaily colored, multi-tiered villas resembling birthday cakes clutching the verdant hillsides, the tiny harbor village looks as precious as a movie set. It’s not surprising since, for decades, this miniature fishing village has hosted its share of celebs, especially in the summer. Portofino is ideal for an afternoon of meandering through ancient gardens, sharing a glass of wine near the beach, and getting in a little high-priced shopping. Walk around the curvy road that hugs the sea to get to Portofino from Santa Margherita.
Don’t miss a visit to San Fruttuoso if you appreciate an experience out of the norm. You can’t drive in, instead, you can make the nearly three-hour hike over the hills if you have a rugged constitution, or you can relax on a 30-minute ferry ride from Santa Margherita. San Fruttuoso occupies a thumbprint of a cove beneath a mountainous bit of coastline. The isolated place has an eerie feel in the winter, which is part of its charm. It’s home to an ancient Benedictine monastery — a blend of Romanesque and medieval architecture — which sits at the water’s edge. The monastery still holds the burial vaults of the Doria family, leading aristocrats of Genoa. Another popular site in San Fruttuoso is the original bronze statue of Christ of the Abyss. However, you’ll have to get into your diving gear because it’s submerged offshore about 50 feet deep.