The resort town of Santa Margherita Ligure on the Italian Riviera is often outshined by its famous neighbor, Portofino, but deserves no less attention. The larger of the two, Santa Margherita Ligure feels less overrun with tourists while offering similarly quaint cafes and boutiques, pastel-painted buildings, and glorious views of the sea.
A popular holiday destination among Italians, Santa Margherita Ligure is much less well-known among international travelers, making it an attractive alternative to other coastal towns in Liguria, like Cinque Terre and Camogli, which are often expensive and crowded.
You can easily explore the town's sights during a half-day walking tour and still have time to relax on the beach before sunset. Attractions include a 16th-century castle (Castello di Santa Margherita Ligure), the Chiesa di Santa Margherita d'Antiochia and adjacent Santuario di Nostra Signora della Rosa, the tiny Oratorio di Sant'Erasmo set directly on the water's edge, and Villa Durazzo, known for its 19th-century English-style botanical garden.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Santa Margherita Ligure has a number of beaches: The most popular are the Spiaggia Minaglia, the Spiaggia Regina Elena, and the Bau Bau beaches along the road to Portofino.
- The town is relatively level and compact, though Villa Durazzo is set on a hilltop just outside the center, so some uphill walking is required.
- With its mix of indoor and outdoor sights and beaches, Santa Maria Ligure is an ideal destination for families on a private tour.
How to Get There
Unlike Portofino, Santa Margherita Ligure has a train station, making it easier to access from elsewhere in Italy. High-speed trains from Milan, Rome, Florence, and Venice connect through Genoa (Genova), just a 30-minute train ride away. From Portofino, you can take the bus or ferry.
When to Get There
Santa Margherita Ligure is a seaside town and so is best visited during the tourist season from April through September when shops and restaurants are open. Many businesses shutter for the winter.
Cervara Abbey (La Cervara)
Along the coastal road between Santa Maria Ligure and Portofino, the 14th-century Cervara Abbey—also known as the Complesso Monumentale La Cervara, Abbazia di San Girolamo, or San Girolamo al Monte di Portofino in Italian—is a beautiful complex including a church, cloister, and gardens. The abbey is located within the confines of the Portofino Regional Park (Parco Naturale Regionale di Portofino) near Paraggi Bay (Baia di Paraggi).