I had been talking about going to Camogli since the Christmas holidays.
For weeks, I kept telling my husband that we absolutely had to plan a day trip there but somehow never found the right moment to go – until this past Saturday.
The main reason for us not going there as often as we could is that traffic is a nightmare in Liguria these days. Camogli is only an hour away from where we live so it used to be a place where we would often go for a day trip but nowadays the highway is just roadwork after roadwork after roadwork and you never know how long it takes you to go anywhere.
the iconic view of Camogli
The only alternative route is the Aurelia, the old Roman road that runs along the coast, but when the highway is full of traffic, that one is a nightmare too. Basically, you end up being trapped for hours on end. This is why we go to Genoa and to that side of Liguria less often, these days – unfortunately!
But last Saturday we felt really brave and ventured out to see if we could get to Camogli easily. We were really lucky and got there quickly: I was super happy because I was finally able to see one of my favorite places in Liguria again!
one of the many places selling focaccia in town
Camogli is the place I always recommend to people visiting my region and looking for a home base to explore the eastern side of the region. It is perfectly located just outside Genoa, right in the center of an amazing area that includes Portofino and its natural park full of beautiful paths and breathtaking vistas.
Also, it is close to the Abbazia di San Fruttuoso, which you can easily reach by boat or hiking a panoramic trail, and it is a perfect location to explore the Cinque Terre as well. Driving is a nightmare in Liguria, it is impossible to deny that, but luckily you can visit most of the seaside locations by train and this makes things way easier.
a slice of focaccia di Recco, a.k.a heaven
Camogli is in a perfect location to visit Liguria but it is also very beautiful in itself, so you don’t need to go somewhere else to have a great time. The place is a tiny fishermen’s village and it is famous for its scenic church near the water, the colorful houses that line along the beach, and truly mouthwatering focaccia.
The village dates back to Roman times and was a very important port in the late Middle Ages. The origin of its name is unknown but, according to a legend, it means the house (ca’ is short for casa in Italian) of the wives (mogli in Italian), referring to the fact that the wives stayed at home while the seamen were at sea. Another legend says that it might refer to the fact that it seems that the houses are all piled (moggi is dialect for mucchi, which means piles and Camoggi is the name of the place in dialect).
the square in front of the main church
Camogli remained a prominent fisherman village and the home of a prestigious naval college until the late 19th century but the main activity is that of tourism, nowadays. Lots of people spend their holidays there while for us Ligurians it is a perfect place for a day trip, especially in spring, or for a dive in its clear waters in summer.
The first thing you have to do when in Camogli is to reach the seaside promenade and look for a tiny door with a sign saying focaccia. It is impossible to miss it because there is always a long queue in front of it. That is the door of the Focacceria Revello, where you can buy the focaccia di Recco (if it is closed, like last Saturday, just find another focacceria and the focaccia will be great anyway).
books with a view
Once you get your slice of focaccia, you must head to the seaside, find a lovely spot and eat it while basking in the sun. Eating focaccia di Recco is quite difficult because it is thin, soft, and full of melted cheese but it is absolutely worth the effort – if you can pair it with a glass of Vermentino wine, then it’s perfection.
Grabbing our slice of focaccia and eating it on the beach was exactly the first thing we did when we arrived in Camogli. The place was full of people – I hadn’t expected that – but we could find a spot anyway and enjoyed our quick yet super satisfying lunch.
walking to the lighthouse
Then we went for a long walk along the beach and up and down the stairs – Liguria style. Like in many other Ligurian villages, in Camogli there isn’t something absolutely memorable in terms of museums or monuments, the most beautiful thing is just to spend time at a slower pace, soaking up every moment and living life in close connection to the sea, as the locals do.
However, if you are interested in history, you can visit the Castello della Dragonara, probably built in the first half of the 13th century to protect the village and repeatedly attacked over the centuries. In the 16th century, the castle was abandoned as a defensive post, and it was used as a prison. In most recent years, it has also briefly worked as an aquarium.
the beachfront in Camogli
Nearby, you can take a look at the Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta, the main church built on a rock overlooking the sea. The interior of the church is baroque and inside you can see a painting by Luca Cambiaso, a famous Ligurian painter of the 16th century. If you want to learn more about the history of Camogli and its sailing tradition, you can visit the Museo Marinaro.
If you happen to be there in mid-May, you’ll experience the sagra del pesce, a cool fish festival that involves the whole town. It is formally known as the sagra del pesce di San Fortunato (Fortunato is the patron saint of fishermen) and it was started during World War II, when the wives of the fishermen offered fish to the Holy Virgin to thank her for her protection during the war.
the huge frying pan they use for the sagra del pesce
The event is famous for the huge pan in which they fry the fish. Before Covid, it was one of the most crowded events I had ever seen. What makes it really special, in my opinion, is the night before, when there is an amazing firework display followed by a bonfire competition between the two sides of town.
Personally, my favorite thing to do while in Camogli – besides eating focaccia di Recco, of course – is to walk all the way to the lighthouse and just sit there, staring at the sea, and then contemplating the colorful houses around the tiny harbor choosing the one I wish I’d own one day.
Now you: What is your favorite village in Liguria and why?
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