If you don’t make it to a Hollywood bash to stroll the rolled-out red rug, try ambling along the Ligurian version.
In looking for fun and different things to do, our hotel proprietor suggested the freshly unveiled and longest Red Carpet (Germany formerly held the Guinness title). Following the 8.33 kilometer path from Rapallo to Portofino was something we tried to complete twice. We might have failed in making the full-length to Portofino, but we sure enjoyed our visits to Santa Margherita Ligure.
The Red Carpet starts at the Rapallo Castle and ends at Portofino’s Church of San Martino. We got to walk on both ends just not the middle! It was fun to watch people on the promenades intentionally choose to walk on the carpet even when yards of sidewalk was available on either side of it. Okay, I admit it, we did, too.
When you make this journey, be sure to look around and up as you step along. There are grand buildings like the Imperiale Hotel, old gates, mosaics in front of doorways, and flowers spilling over rails or climbing up walls—and always—people-spying to be done.
Santa Margherita is beautiful
The old town is full of winding streets in turn full of businesses, shops, and restaurants. One beautiful structure not to miss is the Church of Santa Margherita d’Antiochia. The buttercream exterior draws you in with a promise of cool air and intricate paintings. As you gently open the door and quietly step inside, perhaps you’ll find that Mass is winding down. As the congregants turn to each other in the traditional greeting, “Peace be with you,” an elderly woman standing nearby will exchange a smile. You’ll have a moment of acknowledgment that you are sharing the same experience … and be humbled.
Other dominant buildings include the oldest civil monument, the Civic Tower, built in 1473 as a symbol of freedom, and the Saint Stephen Church, which is the oldest rural church of the village. There’s also the requisite castle, but finding information on it proves a challenge. Do you think they knew they were making the sea-facing front of it look like a face?
Dining in Santa Margherita
On our first jaunt, we enjoyed an afternoon respite at the Black Stallion located down an inviting alley. This was our first stop for an adult beverage in the afternoon (I think it was the first!) and to our surprise, the crisp white wine came with a generous bowl of potato chips and an array of focaccia pizza bites. We told the server we hadn’t ordered anything and she said, no, it goes with the wine. It was such a lot of food that we thought we should order another glass of wine for her efforts. But then, what would happen if more food came? We pondered getting drawn into an endless loop and not making it back to our hotel until the next morning!
The Ristorante Skipper was a highlight of our second visit for a couple of reasons. It’s located on the harbor and has several tables located on a barge adjacent to the pier. There is a cozy interior with charming decor. From the outside tables, you have a wonderful view of the boats, the strollers, and the city of Santa Margherita across the water.
The food was delicious—it’s easy to get addicted to the regional dish of Trofie pasta with pesto, the ravioli was tender as could be…and the dessert…ah, the dessert. If you know how to make pistachio tiramisu with a smooth and creamy pistachio sauce, let me know. My taste buds are still craving a repeat.
Navigating Italian Towns
The signs in Italy that separate the towns can cause a giggle—the city name with a red line drawn through it. What a clear way to let you know when you’ve entered a new municipality.
Santa Margherita doesn’t have the festival feel to it of Camogli. It’s relaxed but busy—like a city going about everyday life that may or may not include meandering tourists. Let me know if you plan on being one of those lucky visitors.