We are totally hooked on the Ligurian coast with its gorgeous beaches, bays and harbours and absolutely sublime food. Here are our favourite places.
Hotels: Villa Rosmarino, Via Figari, 38 16032 Camogli (www.villarosmarino.com)
Quite possibly our favourite short-haul destination, this small and utterly charming hotel nestling in the hills overlooking Camogli is a real find that you will want to return to as often as possible. Full disclosure: I loved it so much I got married here a few years ago. Run by Milanese duo Mario and Fulvio, this Genoese palazzo still has its pretty blush pink render and traditional Ligurian trompe l’oeil but inside it’s as fresh and modern as the super yachts that zig zag along the sparkling coast below. The smallest room, Terrazzo, is the best with stunning views – although to be honest, they are all good.
Hotels: Hotel Splendido, Salita Baratta, 16 16034 Portofino (www.hotelsplendido.com)
This is a serious blow-the-budget, Rod Stewart by the pool, A-lister hotel but it’s still one of our favourite places in the world. The views are unbeatable, the gardens are heavenly (book to have a massage on an outdoor bed here) and the bar is fabulously old world. Although you will have to drag yourself away from drinks on your own balcony, which is scented with the delicious smell of the ancient wisteria that winds along the front of the hotel.
Café: Gelateria Cavassa, via Lungomare Bettolo, 31 16036 Recco (www.cavassa.it)
Quite frankly any half decent gelateria has us in sugar-induced jitters as soon as we land anywhere in Italy but this one with its wonderfully trad wooden bar and classic line-up is one of our favorites; the rich, vanilla-y crema is a house speciality but the nocciola and cioccolato fondente are also sublime.
Café & Swimming: Bagni Sillo,Via Capo Tino 16030 Sori (+39 0185 701311)
Once you have got over the miracle that you actually found this place (the first path begins just opposite the train station at Sori) you will marvel at just how well the Italians do “beach” – although this is more a series of craggy platforms, each laid out with loungers and a rope balustrade. It’s irresistibly chic – in that pared-back, been-there-forever look that the Italians excel at. The food is delicious (come for lunch or dinner) although an aperitivo as the sun sets is pretty unbeatable.
Restaurants: Nonna Nina, San Rocco di Camogli (www.nonnanina.it)
The food at this small hillside restaurant is about as local as it gets (even the menu is written in local Genoese dialect); almost everything from the breads and focaccias to the pasta is homemade and there are lots of local specialities including fugassette (delicious fried focaccia stuffed with cheese) and trofiette (hand-rolled pasta with pesto) and understandably there is a real emphasis on local fish. If you are coming for dinner try and follow the path around the mountain towards Portofino where there is a sweet little bar set in the rocks along the pathway.
Restaurants: Trattoria Do Spadin, Via San Nicolò Capodimonte, 55 Punta Chiappa, 16032 Camogli (+39 0185 770624)
Perhaps the most wonderful thing about this waterfront gem is that you can only get here by boat (or a long walk along the hillside footpaths if you are fit and up for the trek). Either way you will be rewarded with abundant and delicious seafood – platters of fabulous fried local fish, exquisite pastas and so forth. If you come during the day you can easily spend an hour exploring the area around the restaurant. Be warned: opening times can vary according to the weather so do check in advance.
Restaurants: O Magazin, 34 Calata Marconi, Portofino (+39 0185 269178)
Our Italian friends are a bit sniffy about this restaurant that sits at the far end of Portofino’s harbour preferring the village’s more traditional old-timers like Da Puny. But this is by far our favourite destination for dinner in Portofino and here’s why: no matter how many times we try to recreate the spaghetti vongole or baked sea bass with lemons, olives and potatoes or the divine warm octopus salad, it’s never quite as good as it is here – even when we have trekked to Selfridges fish counter for the correct type of clams/bass/octopus. Save some room for the fabulous fruity ice-creams sold at the adjoining gelateria. If we had to eat a last supper anywhere in the world, it would probably be here.
Day Trip: San Fruttuoso (Boats depart from Camogli harbour to Punta Chiappa and Santa Margherita Ligure every hour in the summer months but more sporadically out of season.)
If you make the trip to Liguria then try to get out on the water whether you hire a boat or hop on and off any of the ferries that routinely go up and down the coast stopping off at Portofino, Santa Margherita Ligure if only to see the spectacular ancient abbey at San Fruttuoso.