The understated neighbor of glitzy Portofino, Santa Margherita is a beautiful, old fashioned seaside town.
One hour north by train from Cinque Terre, it’s the ideal place to spend an afternoon wandering. We began our tour of Santa Margherita Ligure at the harbor. Taking in the panoramic view, we saw how this former fishing village naturally transformed into an idyllic retirement destination.
The Oratory of San Erasmo (“Protector of the Fishermen”) is a unique 18th century church. It serves as a reminder of the importance of maritime initiatives to Ligurian residents. Along with a fascinating decor of crucifixes, it houses ship models and vestiges of the sea. In nearby Durazzo Park, we strolled beautifully manicured Italian Renaissance gardens, complete with palm trees in all shapes and sizes. Afterwards, we made the climb to the impressively lavish Baroque Church of San Giacomo (St. James), beautiful inside and out.
Aside from its location, the most alluring draw of Santa Margherita Ligure is its beautifully painted facade buildings.
These buildings feature Trompe l’oeil (“trick of the eye). Ancient Greek and Roman muralists were the first to experiment with this art form. In Liguria, Trompe l’oeil surged in popularity during the Baroque era. Historically, this region wasn’t as wealthy as other areas in Italy. To give the illusion of more impressive homes, painters created clever designs. The painted exterior additions ranged from ornate shutters and flowering window boxes, to lifelike balconies and sculptures housed in alcoves. In some cases, it was difficult to discern if the adornments were real or not. Artists had mastered the three-dimensional effects with such precision, it gave the town its own unique aesthetic.
Like our style of traveling, we appreciated that this art form has nothing to do with money. It shows how limitations actually make us work harder to find creative solutions. Most of all, it proves that with imagination, there’s always a way to turn what seems impossible into reality.