Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Lighthouse inferno, Camogli Italy.

Lighthouse inferno, originally uploaded by GadiHext.

CAMOGLI – 2km southeast of Recco – was the "saltiest, roughest, most piratical little place", according to Dickens when he visited in 1884. It's had its rough edges knocked off since then, and is one of the most attractive small resorts along this stretch of the coast, well connected by road, rail and boat. The town's name, a contraction of Casa Mogli (House of Wives), comes from the days when voyages lasted for years and the women ran the port while the men were away. In its day, Camogli supported a huge fleet of 700 vessels, which once saw off Napoleon. The town declined in the age of steam, but the crumbling arcades by the harbour and the dark flight of steps into the town centre still have the "smell of fish, and seaweed, and old rope" that Dickens relished.

The train station is just south of the beach; turn right towards the centre for the small tourist office, 50m north at Via XX Settembre 33 (Mon–Sat 8.30am–noon & 3–7pm, Sun 9am–1pm; tel 0185.771.066, www.camogli.it). Summer boats shuttle over from Genoa's Porto Antico in an hour (8), using the old harbour on the north side of town, separated from the unimpressive pebble beach to the south by a promontory occupied by the medieval Castello della Dragonara. You can wander up through the alleyways to the castle, though the aquarium it houses is currently closed for renovation.

The best hotel is the lavish Cenobio dei Dogi, in its own waterfront park at Via Cuneo 34 (tel 0185.7241, fax 0185.772.796; 160–200); once the summer palace of Genoa's doges, it boasts its own beach, pool, tennis courts, restaurants and tasteful guest rooms. La Camogliese, Via Garibaldi 55 (tel 0185.771.402, fax 0185.774.024; 50–65), is a friendly spot excellently situated by the water (take the steps down opposite the station); it has pleasant rooms and they don't insist on full pension. Otherwise, try the spartan Selene, Via Cuneo 15 (tel 0185.770.149, fax 0185.770.195; 35–50). The Camogliese hotel has a quality mid-priced restaurant (closed Wed in winter). The much pricier Vento Ariel on the harbourfront (tel 0185.771.080; closed Wed) serves only fish brought that day directly from the nets into the kitchen. Away from the sea, Don Ricardo on Salita Priaro (the flight of steps up from the fishing harbour) does affordable Mexican food, and Revello is a fine bakery at Via Garibaldi 183.

Fish aside, Camogli makes its living from ferries operated by Golfo Paradiso, Via Scalo 3 (tel 0185.772.091). Departures to tranquil Punta Chiappa, ideal for a spot of swimming and basking in the sun, and San Fruttuoso, are most frequent (May–Sept at least hourly; Oct–April 3 weekdays, hourly at weekends), with a special night excursion offering the most romantic views of the gulf plus three hours in San Fruttuoso for dinner or a stroll (July & Aug 3 weekly; 9 return). There are also boats east to the Cinque Terre (July–Sept 2–4 weekly), which stop beforehand at Portofino and continue to Portovénere, as well as plenty more west to Recco and Genoa.

"A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step." -- Lao Tzu
Copyright © Demetrios the Traveler


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