Several years ago I spent some days in Bergamo in order to attend the annual Euro VT meeting (see ex Virtual Tourist web site). I had some more days to spend somewhere after the meeting' s days,
I asked on Yahoo answers (www.answers.yahoo.com) about a nice place not too far from Bergamo. A member of that web site suggested a place named Zoagli. I had never heard about it. I checked on the web about Zoagli and soon I decided it was the right place for me to spend some days.
Zoagli is a nice sea side town located around 38 kilometers from Genova. It has a couple of beaches if my memory serves me well.
It' easy to travel to Zoagli by train. There is a small train station there.
I took a direct train from Genova Porta Principe train station; which is one of the train stations in this city. I was in Zoagli in one hour more or less.
I think there were several trains going from Genova to Zoagli every day. Zoagli is not an isolated place.
I booked a room at a simple hotel near the train station; Hotel Zoagli. Here they only serve breakfast.
I had a single room with bathroom with tube en suite. Fortunately it was on the back of the building so the trains running at night didn' t disturb much my sleeps.
Buffet breakfast consisted in cold cuts, cheese, eggs. Packed pastries. Bread, jam, honey, fruits. Yoghourts and cereals. There was a machine to get coffee (americano) and hot water to make tea. Milk, hot or cold was in a thermos.
This hotel has a communal room with television, a terrace and a cafe for customers.
Other than spending some time at the beaches in Zoagli you can have a stroll along its "passeggiate". These are promenades. Zoagli has two of these. They are made of stones.
The oldest is the Passeggiata Canevaro. It was built in the 1930' s; mostly with the money from the inhabitants of Zoagli. At night it is lit. The other; the Passeggiata dei Naviganti was built in 2003.
Be careful of the sea waves when you are walking on these promenades. Sometimes these can be really strong!
When I was in Zoagli I used to go at gelateria Simonetti' s to have two ice cream scoops around 5 or 6 p. m. This cafe was quite old and not nice, but the home made ice cream here was really good.
They had a good choice of ice creams flavours. The only one I didn' t like much was the coffee flavour. I liked much the banana one.
Once you bought your ice cream you can enjoy it at the main square. It is right under cafe Simonetti.
I think the restaurants in Zoagli were quite expensive. The only budget place to have lunch or dinner here was Acqua e Farina. It is not far from the main square.
This is a small take away place where you can have slices of pizza and some other savoury snacks. Unfortunately there is only a table with some chairs if you like to eat something inside this place.
There is a odd mansion situated some 700 meters from the center of Zoagli. It is Sem Benelli' s castle; well, it is a villa more than a castle.
This villa was built in 1914. Sem Benelli its owner was a Tuscan writer. He was born in 1877 and died in 1949.
Sem Benelli had to sell his mansion due to financial problems. I think this building houses several flats. I am not sure if part of it is opened to visitors.
I did two day trips from Zoagli. I visited Santa Margherita Ligure and Portofino.
Santa Margherita Ligure is a large sea side town. You can go there by train from Zoagli. It only takes around ten minuts.
Santa Margherita Ligure has some peeble beaches, a large church; the basilica of Santa Margherita di Antiochia and a villa open to visitors. Villa Durazzo - Centurione.
Villa Durazzo - Centurione was built in 1678 as a summer mansion. It is a complex which includes the main villa and two dependances.
I spent lot of time exploring the park outside this buildings.
There are some residents at this park.
If you are in Santa Margherita with kids, don' t miss this park; il Parco del Flauto Magico.
The creations inside the park are based on the Mozart' s opera the magic flute.
My favourite restaurant in Santa Margherita Ligure was pasticceria Oneto. It is a coffehouse where you can have salads, sandwiches, piatti freddi (cold cuts or cheeses) and aperitives (drinks usually taken before a meal) with lots of nibbles, as chips, olives and small pieces of pizza.
Portofino is a little village by the sea. It is visited by lots of famous and rich people. The main sights of this village is a castle; Castello Brown; a couple of churches and the so-called la Piazzetta; a square surrounded by colorful and tall buildings.
You can go to Portofino from Santa Margherita Ligure by direct bus. You can take it outside the train station, or at piazza Vittorio Veneto which is in the town center. I think the journey to Portofino took around 15 minutes.
As I read on the web you should take bus number 82 runs that runs every 15 minutes. It stops at piazza Martiri della Libertà in Portofino. From this square you have to walk for some minutes and you are in the town center. Portofino is a small town.
The main square; la Piazzetta is a pedestrianized small square with various colourful buildings overlooking the harbour. There are some tromp l' oeil decorated houses surrounding this square.
La Piazzetta is one of the few places included in the "locali storici d' Ialia" list (i. e. historical business places of Italy). This list includes many old shops, restaurants and cafes in Italy.
Castle Brown is more a mansion than a castle. It was built on Roman foundations. Around 1000 it was donated to the Benedictine monks of Saint Fruttuoso and was subsequently handed over to the consuls of Rapallo and in the 15th century to the Genovese. It was owned by the Visconti of Milan between 1425 and 1435. It was restored at the beginning of the 1500 and enlarged between 1622 and 1624.
Montague Yeats Brown; an English consul in Genoa bought the property in 1867. His descendants held the property until 1949, then sold it to an English couple.
Castle Brown has lots of rooms to visit. Inside this mansion can see many black and white pictures of actors, politicians and several famous people who visited Portofino in the 1950-60' s.
The church overlooking Portofino is dedicated to Saint George. It was originally built in 1154. It was rebuilt in 1691. It was restored and enlarged in 1760.
During the WWII it was destroyed completely. It was rebuilt in 1950. This church contains the reputed to be the relics of Saint George.
It is a simple church inside. The only thing that attracted me of that church was its portal. I suppose it is very old.
Outside the church there is a lookout point from where you can enjoy a very good landscape over Portofino