Seeking Santa Margherita


MfitaliathWe flew into Milan, rented a car and drove straight to our first destination, Santa Margherita. Located just east of Portofino, Santa Margherita is one of the most picturesque towns along the Golfo del Tigullio on the stretch of the Italian Riviera known as the Riviera di Levante.

We had been to Liguria once before to stay in Camogli, a smaller, less-traveled village west of Portofino. Santa Margherita is bigger than Camogli, with more business and tourists, fancier shopping, and the constant zip and buzz of cars and scooters along the coast road (Camogli has only a pedestrian road along the water, so it is much quieter).

Our plane arrived early in Milan in the wee hours of the morning, and by the time we hit the Autostrade with our rental car, I was bleary-eyed and dead tired. But, the incredible ride to Liguria, where the road drills westward tunnel by tunnel through the hilly landscape, requires alertness, and Italian drivers will not let up for any slow moving traffic. To get through the drive, we stopped off along the way at an Autogrill for some roadside refreshment. I am a huge fan of the Autogrill, which truly puts to shame those Roy Rogers-anchored rest stops (excuse me, "Travel Plazas") on the New York State Thruway. Not only can you find panini grilled to order and an espresso bar, but even liquor (not that I wanted any) and pitcher-size containers of Nutella (no joke).

Ordering an espresso and pastry was an early test of my barely functioning ability to order in Italian, and it was rough, but I awkwardly made my way through the custom of ordering at the counter, receiving a receipt, then heading to the stand-up bar with my brioche (turned out to be a croissant, or cornetto, actually), and ordering my caffe. With that small jolt of caffeine in me, we returned to the road.

Just as I began to fear that I was actually going to succumb to the fatigue and jet lag, we finally arrived at the coast. After driving in the shadows of so many dark tunnels, we finally emerged to see the stunning blue water before us. Immediately, the vision of sun-drenched days on the beach, ice cold caffe shakerato, insalata di mare, and trofie, lasagne, and trenette with pesto pushed us forward for the final leg towards our destination.












Beautiful pictures, Josh! How funny we were both in Italy at the same time. Can't wait to hear about the rest of your trip...


Hey Adam,

Thanks. It is funny timing. I'm enjoying reading about your trip as well. I've always been curious about traveling to (the former) Yugoslavia, and I've never been to Greece.


Oh, Josh, how lovely. We just had to cancel our hoped-for trip to SML & Rome, so I'll be forced to experience it vicariously through you...



Josh: Those trips to the Autogrille are great places to stock up on everything. Hope you got some Pocket Coffee (my stash melted during the last heat wave.) They're perfect for those lo-o-o-ong car trips, especially those early-morning ones, when that little caffe ristretto begins to wear off en-route.


Hi Debbie, I remembered you were planning a trip. I'm so sorry it had to be canceled. I hope you can get there someday (maybe next summer?).

Hi David, good tip! I saw the Pocket Coffee but didn't get any. Last visit, we bought Freddo Freddo and Caldo Caldo (self cooling and self heating coffees) at the Autogrill, which tasted so-so, but were fun:


Hi Josh,

What beautiful photos. I can wait to see the rest. It's been so long since my last trip to Europe.


Josh - such gorgeous photos, it makes me want to head for Italy right now. Is the MF photo 'grandma on scooter'? :)



I just got back from gorgeous Liguria six days ago and can barely let go after three weeks in Camogli. I was so glad to see your pictures. Have you tried to make focaccia yet at home? Did you get any recipes for torta? Howsabout that pansotti and walnut sauce? Please tell us more. And also, do be honest about which town you like better buzzy flashy Santa Margarita or Calm and Tranquil Camogli.

Ciao and thanks again for the great pix!



Hi Laura,

Welcome back! I haven't yet tried to make focaccia (or focaccia col formaggio) yet, but I plan on making a stab at it. I also picked up two Ligurian cookbooks (in Italian), and hope to try my hand at translating the recipes, including the ones for pansotti. I think I'll wait until it cools down to try cooking anything though!

Which town do I like better? I like them both. I was amazed at the difference the addition of vespas and cars made to the atmosphere in Santa Margherita versus Camogli. Camogli is definitely slower and more relaxed, and it does have the best focaccia in the world, but Santa Margherita was fun as well and is a little more cosmopolitan. Everything is relative, of course: As buzzing as Santa Margherita is, it's not nearly as flashy as Portofino, and in the end, these are all very small towns.

We also spent an afternoon in Chiavri, which we liked too.

I would definitely go back to either SM or Camogli.


Ah, Milan, the city I spent my honeymoon. I was so happy. Now I am too but then all seemed magical. Maybe I convince my husband for a second honeymoon.


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