Walking down the streets of Santa Margherita is akin to walking onto the pages of the latest Vogue magazine. The breezy beach fashions are such a contrast to conservative Genova that if I didn’t know better I would think I was no longer in Liguria at all. Canvas bags and bronzed bodies, the roads are a sea of cute girls on Vespa’s, their long wet ponytails testimony to an active day at the beach.
I love sitting on the city’s park benches and watching the mixture of kids and tourists devour cones of gelato while chatting on their mobiles or snapping photos of fountains and Madonna statues. In the winter Rapallo, Santa Margherita and Portofino are sleepy villages filled with farmers in Apes but in summertime they’re taken over by cruise ships, sail boats, fancy yachts and vacationers.
I really like this area but sometimes it’s frustrating to deal with all the people in the supermarkets, at the beaches and just generally everywhere you go. However, just a few weeks ago my husband and I found a hidden gem just beyond Rapallo that I am almost hesitant to mention only because I want it to stay our own little secret.
I’m sure others know about this place, but then again, maybe not. The village is called Zoagli. It’s just after Rapallo on the way to Chiavari and so small you almost miss it. We were on the scooter and heading back from Chaivari when I spotted a sign that said “Marina Restaurant”. I asked my husband to drive down so we could check it out and lo and behold, there was a gorgeous little beach with a seaside bar and restaurant tucked into a protected cove!
I counted less than 6 people on the entire beach and knew instantly that I wanted to return. The following day we packed our swim gear and headed back for a nice lunch and a refreshing swim. We paid 40 Euros for 2 beach chairs and an umbrella. Not super cheap, but by Portofino standards a good deal. The Marina is called “Marina di Bardi” and it’s worth checking out.
We also ventured into the center of Zoagli and were happy to discover a very long seaside walkway that wound its way around the coast all the way to the train station. In the main piazza there were many restaurants and cafes and straight ahead was another very large beach. We even got coaxed into buying home-made lemonade from a group of 8-year-old girls who set up a small table in the Piazza! Of course it’s days like this that I left my camera at home and wished I hadn’t!