Magic of Miles in Italy: Day in Santa Margherita and Portofino Area

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Trip Report Index:

1. Introduction
2. Transit Notes
3. Hotel Review: Bagni di Pisa Palace & Spa
4. Visiting Pisa
5. Visiting Lucca
6. Hotel Review: Westin Excelsior, Florence
7. Room Service Review: Westin Excelsior, Florence
8. Day in Florence
9. Hotel Review: Hotel Laurin, Santa Margherita Ligure, Italy
10. Day in Santa Margherita/Portofino area
11. Hotel Review: Park Hyatt Milan
12. Day in Milan
13. Room Service Review: Park Hyatt Milan
14. Retrospect

The town of Santa Margherita Ligure used to be a sleepy fishing village. Once it was connected by rail, it became a popular tourist destination after WWII. Still a charming Italian seaside town, it has remained a less touristy destination than Portofino. A short train hop from Cinque Terre and Genoa (and a 40 minute drive from Genoa airport), Santa Margherita is a good jumping off point for the busier areas nearby.

I had intended to drive to Portofino for a day, but just around the bend I was stopped by a police officer.

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She explained that there was some sort of event, Portofino was packed, there was traffic congestion, and apparently there were no remaining public parking spots. I was turned around, along with the other cars heading that direction. The city was an hour away by foot, but in the warm sun I felt relaxed and lazy rather than up for the trek. I decided to just enjoy the sunshine and relax in Santa Margherita instead.

If I hadn’t been to Portofino before and still wanted to go, another option would have been to hop on the ferry, which only takes 15 minutes from port to port. The Line 1 ferry leaves Santa Margherita at half past the hour, starting at 9:15am with the last boat at 5:15pm (in the summer). The return trip leaves Portofino every hour starting at noon, and last boat leaves at 7pm. Cost is 9,5 EUR roundtrip, and kids 5 and under are free.

Here’s a full ferry timetable and the official website.

It was a beautiful day to soak up some sun. As the golden orb traced its path across the sky, the only sounds were sea birds cawing, a group of children playing in the water, and the gentle lap of waves. Most hotels in the area have private beaches and offer lounge chairs, umbrellas, and some have wifi. The beaches are mostly pebbly though, so don’t waste time searching for a perfectly sandy beach.

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After I’d had my fill of sun, I wanted to explore the town some on foot. It’s easy to do so, with narrow cobbled lanes giving way to piazzas, and pathways along the waterfront that are lined with shops.

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Of course, there are plenty of gelaterias and pizzerias too. Between lunch and dinner, some of the restaurants close their doors to prepare for the evening. This is a good time to go visit the sights.

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There’s a historic church, and the gardens, flowers, statues, and fountains of Villa Durazzo are worth checking out. Perched on the top of a hill, it costs 5,5 EUR per person for entry and has a gorgeous view of the port below. Near the balcony of Villa Durazzo is a castle that was built in the 1500’s as a defense against North African pirate attacks. After WWI, it was restored and entitled to the Italian victims of the conflict. Photo HT: Wikipedia

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After a day of sightseeing, we headed to Ristorante Antonio for dinner. Located in Piazza San Bernardo, it’s just a five minute walk from the port. They have a casual patio, and if you don’t have reservations you may be seated there but the best place to dine is inside. I was there on a Saturday night, and the restaurant was lively. I lucked out and was seated inside within about 10 minutes since someone with a reservation hadn’t shown up.

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The restaurant filled up quickly. As in, not a single empty table. Waiters were rushing this way and that, and I only heard Italian being spoken around us. Settling in, we ordered water, prosecco, and some wine.

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Looking at the menu, I saw this humble note at the very bottom.

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That was a good sign. Then a waiter dropped of some complimentary bread puffs, and they were incredible. Hot, soft, and full of flavor, they were inhaled quickly. We were eager to see what would come next.

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The waiter explained that the menu changes nightly depending on availability. The chef goes to the market daily at 4am, and selects only the freshest seafood for the evening’s meal. All the pastas are made daily as well. I do love homemade pasta, and selected a starter of homemade gnocchi. The plate arrived, and they were little heavenly puffs in a creamy sauce.

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I ordered the seafood lasagna for the main, and it was spectacular. Fresh seafood, homemade sheets of pasta, hot, flavorful sauce…I cleaned my plate of every last morsel.

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My husband had the steak and potatoes, and he was as enthralled as I.

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Come dessert time, a guest’s birthday was celebrated in style with some serious candlepower.

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Fresh berries topped with creamy ice cream was the clincher for the evening. Things were slowing down a bit, so the friendly owner dropped by our table to talk. He said he tries to make each meal memorable when planning out the menus. Our waiter joined in and said that the restaurant is a popular place for locals and visiting Italians alike, but since it is set off of the main waterfront street there are less tourists that wander in.

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This restaurant’s dining experience was a treat. They don’t have a website that I know of, but I highly recommend a meal there. The staff is friendly and speaks English very well. Ristorante Antonio, +39 0185 289047.

Returning to the hotel for the night, I enjoyed watching a surprise fireworks display from our terrace. I wasn’t sure of the occasion, but it was a fun way to end a great evening.

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My time in the little seaside village was coming to a close, as tomorrow I’d be on my way to the bustling city of Milan.

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  1. Denise L
    Reply

    It is a shame that you weren’t able to get to Portofino as it is magical. However, considering it would have been so crowded that day, I think you made the right call to relax and savor Santa Margherita. It is a very pleasant coastal town.

  2. Merlin
    Reply

    I’m enjoying tagging along on your trips with the great pictures, information, and stories. I’m looking forward to more “magic!”

    • Melinda
      Reply

      Merlin, thanks for reading! Glad you are enjoying.

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