Santa Margherita Ligure – A short stay in the Italian Riviera

I continue this series documenting our vacation in Italy in May 2017 on a rainy day in Mumbai, which is very similar to the first day we had in the Italian Riviera Town of Santa Margherita Ligure.

When I was planning this second trip to Italy, I was just skimming through the other parts of my Rick Steves guide book after finalising Milan, Varenna and the Cinque Terre. I came across the section describing other towns in the Italian Riviera and the name Santa Margherita Ligure just appealed to me. I had never heard of the town before, so I searched for it online and the pictures looked good. Plus it was a short hike away from the famous resort town of Portofino. So I crammed a day in the little Riviera town into my itinerary and I am glad that I did.

We arrived at Santa Margherita Ligure station which is an hour and a half by train from Vernazza, where we were based before this. As we reached the station it started drizzling. Neither the skies above nor the weather forecast was very promising. So we wore our rain gear and walked to our hotel Jolanda which is a short walk from the railway station.

As we reached the hotel the rains took a break. Incidentally the hotel also didn’t have our room ready. So we took the opportunity to rush to the beach and the waterfront after keeping our luggage at the hotel. As it is a very compact town we were just a short walk away from the public beach. This beach was the sandiest of all the beaches I had been to in the region but it still doesn’t hold a candle to the beaches back home.

We walked along the beach which was mostly empty except for another family with a kid who was enjoying throwing pebbles into the sea. Considering the impending rains we scooted along at a faster pace than we would have if it was sunny and took a lot of photos of the pleasant looking shoreline. I made a mental note to come back here after sunset as I thought it would look better all lit up.

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Impending rains at the beach in Santa Margherita Ligure
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A Kid enjoys throwing pebbles into the sea at SML

As a patch of blue appeared from the otherwise grey skies we walked towards the Church of Santa Margherita d’Antiochia which is in the centre of Old town. The church square was filled with people shopping at the various stores lining the square. But as usual the beautiful church was empty, not that I was complaining. The church is  decorated ceiling to floor with baroque architecture – gilded ceilings and pillars, paintings in each nook and cranny & chandeliers all over. It looks magnificent. Photos never do such places justice but I nevertheless made an attempt.

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Santa Margherita d’Antiochia Church in SML – A great example of Baroque architecture

From the outside you can never tell that the plain looking church exterior holds the palatial architecture inside. We sat in the pews for a few minutes as is our norm and ventured back out into the church square. I had not taken photos of the exterior before we went in so I did it now before we doubled back to the waterfront and the park lining it to enjoy this sunny interlude.

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Santa Margherita d’Antiochia Church at SML – bathed in sunshine

We had bought some delicious looking plums and strawberries from the local vendor in the church square and we finished them all off sitting in a nice little public park that lines the waterfront. The park which is lined by palm trees has statues of Christopher Columbus, who is supposedly from Genoa and Garibaldi, the unifier of modern Italy looking all regal with small fountains at their base.I love these small towns where  locals walking their dogs, reading their newspapers and going about their daily routine outnumber tourists like us enjoying the atmosphere.

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The park lining the waterfront at SML
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Christopher Columbus points away in SML
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Enjoying the waterfront before the rains

Sadly the good weather didn’t last very long and soon it was grey overhead. As it started drizzling again we reluctantly left the waterfront & went back into old town to search for a good place to have lunch. I had read about a gourmet grocery store called Seghezzo here in Santa Margherita in my research which sold freshly made pasta and other delicacies as take away. We decided to get our lunch there and found the store in the narrow main street of old town,  by now it was raining steadily. Using my ragtag Italian to communicate with the staff who knew no English, I managed to find a vegetarian pasta option for the better half and a few non vegetarian options for me. We got the same reheated and took it back to our hotel to enjoy the meal in the comfort of our room. The pasta was fresh and delicious and the meatballs and fried chicken I had were lipsmackingly good. Now we knew where to get dinner from if it didn’t stop raining!

We got back to our hotel in the pouring rain and collected our luggage and went up to our room. The hotel Jolanda is a nice mid range hotel with comfortable rooms and a great location, sadly I have no photos of the room. We had been walking & trekking all over the place since we had got to Italy. So when we got this rain enforced rest, we gladly took it and had a nice post lunch siesta like Italians do.

We had planned on going to Portofino in the evening but it continued to pour so we had to shift those plans to the next day morning and keep our fingers crossed, hoping that the weather would improve. For now we had nothing to do except sleep or watch the only english news channel on the TV.

I got bored of both and as we were staying here only for 1 night this was my only chance to take night photos of Santa Margherita Ligure. Some rain wasn’t going to stop me from doing that. So I put on my full rain gear and carried an umbrella to protect the SLR when taking photos and went out.

As could be expected, the whole town was almost deserted. I went first to the beach where I had scouted for places to take night photos and took a few photos of the lit up shoreline. I was the only person mad enough to be on the beach on that rainy night!

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Santa Margherita Ligure at night

I left the beach after I was satisfied with the photos & walked along the wet waterfront.  The relatively bustling park where we had been just a few hours back was now lit up but empty. Statues always look more dramatic all lit up so I took a few more photos of Messrs Columbus and Garibaldi.

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Giving company to a lonely Columbus
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Rains in the waterfront park at SML

I walked all the way upto where the old and new parts of town meet and looked back at the lit up waterfront and the beach beyond. It was a beautiful sight, sadly the rains   started to get heavier again and I had to put my SLR away after taking a few photos.

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Santa Margherita Ligure – Beautiful at night

I walked back through old town and visited the church square which now only had a handful of people scampering about with their umbrellas. The church looked beautiful lit up so I took a quick photo before I moved on,

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Santa Margherita d’Antiochia church  all lit up

I walked through old town, took a few photos of the deserted streets, picked up dinner again from Seghezzo, where the same staff recognised me and quickly pointed out the vegetarian options for the night! It was Mushroom Ravioli & ice tea for the better half and seafood pasta and a small bottle of wine for me & the most delicious artisanal chocolate for dessert. (I got some packed the next day which I relished for a month after I got back home)

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Deserted streets at 9 pm on a rainy night in SML
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Empty outdoor seatings in Old town on a rainy night in SML

I walked back to the hotel fully satisfied of my rainy evening walk. It would have been a shame if I had missed roaming those beautifully lit streets and waterfront. We enjoyed our delicious dinner and drinks in our comfortable room and retired for the night.

We were hoping & praying that the clouds empty themselves out that night and spare us the next morning when we went to Portofino. But that is topic for another post, another day.

Till then,

Ciao!

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