Italy. Santa Margherita
Twenty-five years ago, we rented our first summer house in Santa Margherita. It was our introduction to the Italian Riviera. Our children were little and we spent six weeks in a hillside villa perched high above the town. It was our first time living on the Riviera for an extended period of time, and of course we were in love. We managed to enjoy the aperitivo hour every day after we returned from the beach, and those times are etched in our memories—so many good times in a beautiful setting.
Santa Margherita is located at the seaside, three kilometers from Portofino. It boasts all the bells and whistles of a Riviera lifestyle: glamour, fashion, and great food. This city, like Genova, boasts trompe l’oeil paintings on buildings. Shutters and moldings are sometimes painted on the buildings to look three-dimensional, when these details are not really there. This art form is the signature architectural element of this region of the Italian Riviera.
Just around the corner from Santa Margherita, roughly three miles away, is the jet-set haven of Portofino. It’s a sliver of land compared to Santa Margherita, which is a full-blown mini-metropolis. Santa Margherita has markets, shopping, beautiful parks, broad pedestrian walking streets, and old-fashioned grand hotels. We enjoyed all the perks of Santa Margherita when we lived there. We lounged, napped, cooked, and spent most of our days at one of the beach clubs located on Paraggi Beach, situated between Portofino and Santa Margherita. This popular tiny crescent of sandy beach was divided into three family-owned beach clubs.
One of the most useful perks of beach clubs are the tiny cabanas that visitors are provided. Cabanas are the only form of privacy for beach patrons. We would stuff all of our one of the most useful perks of beach clubs are the tiny cabanas that visitors are provided. Cabanas are the only form of privacy for beach patrons. We would stuff all of our belongings in the tiny changing rooms, and change into our swimsuits in shifts, before heading to our rented beach chairs and umbrella.
We shared showers and ate lunch at the clubs alongside many Italians vacationing from Milano. It didn’t matter that the guests were from different countries: we were just all families on safari, taking in the sights at the local watering hole. Much to our surprise and delight, an apero after a day at the beach could be enjoyed right on the beach at the beach club restaurant—so posh and so perfect.
Of course, Santa Margherita has many other options to sit and enjoy cocktails and nibbles. The beautiful Grand Hotel Miramare has an exquisite terrace that overlooks the sea. This Art Nouveau hotel reminds me of something Wes Anderson might use as movie set. Aperitivo there is classic and fancy. Its blue and white façade is a bright beacon on the seaside promenade.
Just past the Grand Hotel Miramare is an inlet with a variety of bars, all great places to grab an early evening nip. We often sat until the sunset, plotting where to grab some fried fish.
Santa Margherita has a lovely park that embraces the harbor like a giant hug. You can take a boat to nearby Portofino, and enjoy apero in two towns in one evening. Any way you choose to enjoy it, apero by the sea or at a beach club makes summer nights the best part of the day.