Once an old fashioned fishing village, Santa Margherita Ligure is now a captivating seaside destination.
Just one hour north by train from Cinque Terre, this town is a delightful place to spend a day or weekend. We began our tour of Santa Margherita Ligure at the harbor. Here, the Oratory of San Erasmo (“Protector of the Fishermen”) is an 18th century church that reminds Ligurian residents of the importance of its maritime origins. Along with a fascinating decor of crucifixes, it houses ship models and vestiges of the sea.
In nearby Durazzo Park, under towering palm trees, we strolled beautifully manicured Italian Renaissance gardens. Afterwards, we climbed the steps to the lavish Baroque Church of San Giacomo (St. James), stunning both inside and out. Looking out at the views, it was easy to see how the town became an idyllic alternative to its glitzy neighbor, Portofino.
Aside from its setting, the most alluring draw of Santa Margherita Ligure is its painted facade buildings.
Each of these distinct buildings feature a Trompe l’oeil (“trick of the eye”). Essentially, this style of painting gives the illusion of more impressive homes. 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. As such, painters created clever designs for the exterior of select homes. Additions ranged from ornate shutters and flowering window boxes, to lifelike balconies and sculptures housed in alcoves. In some cases, we found 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. Instead, it serves as an example of how constraint breeds creativity. It shows how limitations can actually lead to better solutions. Most of all, it proves that with imagination, there’s always a way to turn what seems impossible into reality.