Camogli, Italy

p3020031.jpg

I'll begin with a post about the city of Camogli, located on the Italian Riviera. I happen to know Camogli very well since my sister-in-law Cassie lives there with her Italian husband Stefano, and my father-in-law Ricardo coached water polo there for three years. It is an absolutely stunning city-- magnificent colorful buildings lined right up against a crystal blue sea. I think the best time to visit this region is during May or September, when it's still warm enough to appreciate the beaches, but not yet overrun by tourists. We did happen to be in Camogli this past Christmas for Cassie's wedding, and I have to say that the city offered a special charm in the dead of winter as well.

What to Do: The best things to do in Camogli are stroll the main promenade and visit the small shops and restaurants along the way. Must-dos include: 1) Picking up a warm foccacia in the morning from a local bakery: my favorite is a foccaceria right on the main promenade near the Spaghetteria Restaurant. You can take your foccacia and sit outside at a bar to enjoy it with a capuccino. Italy's capuccinos are by far the best I've had-- I recommend a little cafe called Auriga that has the absolute best terrace strutting out into the Adriatic Sea where you can sit and relax for hours. (You'll probably be back to Auriga later in the day for aperitivo). 2) Hiking up to San Rocco Church: if you walk down the promenade towards the grand hotel Cenobio dei Dogi and keep going through the parking lot, you'll eventually hit a trail that leads up to the church. The climb involves a lot of steps, but the view from the top is unbeatable. 3) Taking a boat to San Fruttoso di Capodimonte bay: down at the other end of the promenade, you'll find the marina-- this is where you can hop on a boat to take you to San Fruttuoso, a little gem only reachable by foot or boat. Pack a lunch and after visiting the charming historic Abby, stretch out on the beach for a picnic. 4) Eating pesto pasta: pesto is a Ligurian specialty, and you'll find it everywhere in Camogli. One of my favorite places is Sette Pance, a simple, family-run restaurant right on the central promenade.

5) Taking part in the custom of aperitivo: this is absolutely my favorite Italian pastime. It refers to the time in late afternoon when Italians gather to have a drink or two before dinner-- with the idea of "whetting your appetite" for the meal that lies ahead. My favorite (and I'm biased because it's owned by Cassie and Stefano) is Pachanka, a little bar with a great location right on the marina. Order a Negroni Sbagliato (which literally means "mistaken Negroni") which substitutes the gin with Italian prosecco. Try not to fill up too much on the delicious snacks that are offered for free!

6) Getting a late- night drink at the Pirati Bar: I don't even know what the real name of this bar is but we have dubbed it "Pirati" or Pirate Bar. It is down a little alley right around the corner from Pachanka. Once you enter, you have gone back in time to a world of sailing the high seas-- the low ceilings and dim lights showcase a room full of seafaring paraphernalia, including tables and chairs made fashioned from old parts of wooden boats. Order a hot rum com miele (rum with honey) that comes served in a ceramic goblet and your own honeycomb stir. The bartender is an expert on unique rums and can help you choose one to your liking, although they are all delicious. This place opens late and stays open very late.

Where to Stay: For Cassie's wedding we all stayed at the Camogliese Hotel at the very beginning of the promenade. The rooms are simple but the location is unbeatable and they do offer a very nice complementary continental breakfast.