Camogli whispers tales of the past with its colorful facades touching the sea. In the heart of the tourist season, it buzzes with life, but I seek tranquility and only visit when fall crashes waves against the old walls of Dragonara Castle. Then, when the beaches are nearly deserted and the air carries a salty scent, I feel the echo of 'the city of a thousand white sailing ships'. Nestled in the protective embrace of the vast Monte Portofino, the village offers a view of the magical Golfo Paradiso, a world away from the hustle of Genoa.
A Dive into Camogli's History
Camogli carries the imprints of time, visible in layers of its history that trace back thousands of years before our era. Excavations in the area revealed silent witnesses: remnants of ancient settlements that tell us of people who found their home here 5,000 years ago. And the Romans, with their grandeur and aspirations, settled here around the dawn of our era.
The last turn of the century brought a refreshing change to Camogli's coastal area. The old wooden houses that once bordered the cozy beach gave way to the elegant promenade that now graces the village. Here, where the horizon meets the Mediterranean, tourists relax with a glass of wine, basking in the glow of the setting sun. And as I wandered the winding streets, local shops lured me with their treasures. In a special boutique amidst various curiosities, I couldn't resist the charm of a unique doormat. What a find!
Main Attractions in Camogli
Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta: This magnificent church is at the heart of Camogli and offers breathtaking views of the sea. Built in the 12th century, it's renowned for its stunning frescoes and architecture.
Castello della Dragonara: This castle, right next to the church, was built as a defensive structure in the 13th century. It's now a museum and a fantastic place to delve into the region's history.
The Harbor of Camogli: The vibrant and lively harbor is perfect for strolling and viewing local fishing boats. Surrounded by picturesque pastel-colored buildings, there are plenty of cafes and restaurants to savor fresh seafood and local dishes.
San Fruttuoso Abbey: Although not directly in Camogli, the San Fruttuoso Abbey is accessible by a short boat trip. This medieval abbey is situated in a secluded bay and provides a unique opportunity to explore a slice of untouched nature and history.
Regional Natural Park of Portofino: This park is also nearby and offers numerous hiking and biking trails with beautiful sea and nature views. Home to a rich flora and fauna, it's perfect for nature enthusiasts.
The vibrant shades that adorn Camogli are not just a feast for the eyes but also carry a deeper significance. As beacons for weary sailors, the buildings' striking colors and distinctive features, often specific to individual families, aided them in locating their homes from the sea. It's a tradition that has been preserved through generations.
I'd recommend spending at least a couple of days here, soaking up the atmosphere, delving into its history, and enjoying the fantastic Ligurian cuisine. From Camogli, one can also embark on excursions to other charming villages and towns, like Cinque Terre or Portofino, experiencing the Italian Riviera's diverse beauty.
Piazza Matteotti, with its killer view of the Teatro Sociale, is both a nod to the past and a leap into the future. The ground you're walking on, the benches you're sitting on, they're made from the remnants of houses that once stood tall here. Those old homes? Torn down for progress, to make way for a railway that'd cut right through Camogli.
Back in the day, folks were all about turning this place into a tourist hotspot. So, in their hustle to craft a shiny future, a lot of the old stuff had to go. Sure, there were sacrifices, but look at Camogli now - it's one of the most accessible gems on this coast. This blend of old and new, of giving up and moving up, is what makes this town irresistibly cool for visitors.
Diving in Camogli
Camogli, with its picture-perfect houses and fishing boats, hides an insane underwater world beneath the waves. While the town above shows off its charm, the depths of the Ligurian Sea boast a vibrant marine life: from swarms of colorful fish shimmying through corals to mysterious creatures of the deep.
A standout underwater sight? The 'Christ of the Abyss' statue, chilling in the peaceful San Fruttuoso bay. This bronze dude, with arms stretched up to the sky, is like a silent sentinel and a tribute to all those who've given their lives to the sea.
For those history buffs looking for an underwater thrill, nearby shipwrecks offer a glimpse into the past. Whether you're a newbie diver or a seasoned pro, Camogli's got dive shops ready to guide your underwater journey. May to September? Prime time for diving expeditions. And remember, while the deep blue calls, safety first. Dive smart, respect the ocean, and always have a buddy.
Christ of the Abyss
The Christ of the Abyss (Italian: Il Cristo degli Abissi) is a submerged bronze statue of Jesus made by Guido Galletti. The OG statue sits in the Mediterranean near San Fruttuoso, between Camogli and Portofino. There are also other casts of the statue all over, from underwater spots to churches and museums in the U.S. and even Grenada.
This original bronze dude was dropped into the Mediterranean on August 22, 1954. Sitting around 56 feet deep, divers say it's about 8 feet tall. Inspiration struck Guido Galletti after hearing about the Italian diver, Duilio Marcante. The statue's spot is near where Dario Gonzatti, the first Italian to use diving gear, died in 1947. It shows Jesus offering a peace sign, with his head and hands lifted up. The statue was then dedicated in memory of Marcante. Due to corrosion and stuff growing on it, it was pulled up in 2003 for a touch-up. A hand that got knocked off, probably by an anchor, was replaced. They plopped it back in the water on July 17, 2004, and gave it a deep clean for the last time in 2018.B & B Diving Center S.A.S Via S. Fortunato, 7, 16032 Camogli GE - Phone: +39 0185 772751 - Website: http://www.bbdiving.it/
Camogli, a sweet blend of history and natural beauty, isn't just for exploring its alleys. It's got some dope hiking trails too. The nearby Portofino peninsula, with its rugged coast and lush forests, is the backdrop for some of the region's best hikes. Most hikers kick off their journey from the village of San Rocco, starting from the main parking lot. This trail transitions from the scenic Via dei Cipressi to the Via San Rocco. The iconic San Rocco church is kinda the crossroads.
For the hardcore adventurer, there's the challenging trail to Punta Chiappa. It's a beast, but the views are 100% worth it. You can also grab a boat back to Camogli if you're feeling a bit wiped out after the hike.
Anchovies and More Anchovies
Camogli is famous for its fresh anchovies, perfect for salted preparations. Every year, a grand fish festival is held. People come from near and far to attend, though the locals frequently try to leave town. As you walk through the alley leading to the promenade, you will notice the gigantic frying pan. For the event, it's removed from the wall, placed on the beach, and set over a fire. Dozens of chefs fry baskets of fish in hot oil, handing them out to visitors. There are thousands of people, but it's worth attending if you enjoy a 'lively buzz'.
Camogli, once the beating heart of a thriving fishing industry, has seen many of its original fishing boats vanish over the years. Nonetheless, the spirit of the sea remains deeply rooted in the traditions and culinary habits of this charming coastal town.
The tonnara, a fishing technique with roots deeply embedded in the area's history, reflects the residents' timeless connection to the sea. It's a vivid reminder of the traditions that the people of Camogli have cherished and preserved.
But the bond with the sea is also evident in the local kitchen. Consider the capponadda, a delightful local salad where the freshness of tomatoes blends with the rich flavors of tuna and anchovies. It embodies the simple, yet rich tastes of the Ligurian coast.
For those with a sweet tooth, there's the irresistible camogliesi al rum. These tempting chocolate treats, infused with the warm depth of rum, are a sensory delight. They capture the essence of Camogli: a mix of tradition, passion, and the unmistakable taste of the Mediterranean.
How to Get to Camogli
Camogli is easily accessible by train, with a stop on the Genoa-Pisa railway line. There's also a daily boat service from Genoa's old port area, and buses connecting the village to neighboring towns. A ferry departs for the abbey of San Fruttuoso and Portofino (only when the weather is good and the sea calm) and makes a stop along the way at the pier near the Lo Spada restaurant in San Rocco.
Looking to stay in Camogli? Here are my recommendations
Hotel Cenobia dei Dogi
The hotel offers a range of interesting amenities such as a private beach and a large garden. It's quite a sizable hotel located about a 10-minute walk from the Camogli train station. A bonus is the free parking. Free Wi-Fi, complimentary breakfast, 105 rooms.
Hotel La Camogliese
This is a true family-style hotel located at the beginning of the promenade. Rooms are simple and clean with free Wi-Fi and breakfast. Sometimes they offer a nice discount during the off-season. The staff is very helpful. Parking can be reserved nearby for €18 per day. 21 rooms.
I Tre Merli Locanda
This hotel is right in the center of Camogli. If that's not an issue for you, it's a good choice. It's situated in a pedestrian area which means it can get quite noisy on summer evenings, but the view of the fishing harbor makes up for it. The front desk services are basic, and parking can be reserved about 500 meters away. Wi-Fi and breakfast are included in the room rate, 5 rooms.
Soffio di Mare
Though still centrally located (30 meters from the beach), this place is much quieter and also has a garden. It's technically a B&B, but unfortunately, it doesn't offer breakfast. Instead, there's a kettle and a fridge in the room. Located close to the train station, it offers free Wi-Fi and public parking nearby, 4 rooms.
This beautiful villa dates back to 1907. Each room is unique, but they all have lovely marble bathrooms and stunning sea views. The hotel is stylish, comfortable, relaxed, and was recently renovated. Quietly located, it's about a 10-minute walk to downtown Camogli. Free Wi-Fi is available in the lounge, breakfast and parking are complimentary. There's no air conditioning, but due to its high location, it catches a refreshing sea breeze making the temperature pleasant. All rooms have a ceiling fan. Important: The hotel is not suitable for children and has 6 rooms.