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Santa Margherita Ligure, Cinque Terre, Portofino: hotel, restaurants, activities we liked there

Santa Margherita Ligure, Cinque Terre, Portofino: hotel, restaurants, activities we liked there

Jun 6th, 2006, 09:35 AM
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Santa Margherita Ligure, Cinque Terre, Portofino: hotel, restaurants, activities we liked there

Santa Margherita Ligure, three nights in May, 2006

We left Venice by train and arrived in Santa Margherita Ligure at 8:10 p.m. The taxi was 12 EUR (including baggage costs), and took less than ten minutes to arrive at our hotel, the Albergo Nuova Riviera. The hotel management prefers people check in by 6:00 p.m., but they graciously agreed to our later arrival because I’d called in advance from Venice to discuss our train schedule options and to request the late check-in. To arrive earlier would have meant more train connections, so we were happy to take just two trains: one train from Venice to Milan, then another from Milan to Santa Margherita.

We really enjoyed the Nuova Riviera, via Belvedere 10, www.nuovariviera.com. The little B&B hotel is located on a slight hill, on a quiet narrow road, in a nice semi-residential neighborhood, only 200 meters from the harbor and the center of town. They call it a “liberty villa with garden”, and you feel at home there.

The owner met us at the front gate, to assist with our bags from the taxi up to our room on the third floor. There is a beautiful staircase at the Nuova Riviera, but no elevator. Breakfast is included (very simple pre-packaged rolls, but nice cappuccino, also simple juice). Our room was very reasonable, 98.50 EUR for a double/twin with breakfast. (It would have been slightly less expensive if I hadn't gone through venere.com)

Actually, our room had three twin beds, and was quite large with a big wardrobe, a desk, a roll-top desk, and two upholstered chairs. The room had a unique rounded wall, with large windows, and also a ceiling fan. The bathrooms are relatively new, with nicely tiled shower stalls. It was sparkling clean and very charming.

The owner and his manager live there, I think, so they are there to say Hello and Goodbye whenever you are coming and going. It's a very personal touch, so you feel like you're staying in a private residence really. They are very helpful in answering questions, providing maps and directions.

Despite the late hour of our arrival, we were interested in dinner, so we walked down to the town. Santa Margherita feels very safe, and we were comfortable there walking at all hours to and from the hotel. We easily found a few interesting restaurants, and chose the Ristorante “A Lampara”, via Maragliano 33. It is a small and cute place, with some locals still there chatting. It was fine for our light, late-night meal.

The next morning was slightly overcast, and since we were planning on going to the Cinque Terre, I asked the manager at breakfast if he knew the weather forecast. He said it could clear, or it could rain; then he very kindly found the forecast on his computer and printed it out for me. Another example that service at the Nuova Riviera is very personal and friendly. In fact, my daughter had chosen to sleep in and skip breakfast that morning, but the manager insisted on preparing a tray for me to take to her in our room.

We decided to risk the weather and head to Cinque Terre, which was a good decision as it turned into a beautiful blue-sky day after all. We took the train to Vernazza, and had a simple picnic of yoghurt and fruit at the waterfront. Before leaving, I picked up a card from a hotel there, which looks nice, the Gianni Franzi, Piazza Marconi 1, www.giannifranzi.it.

We headed up the trail to Corniglia, expecting it to take about 1.5 hours, which was correct. It is a breath-taking walk, in more ways than one. The views are amazing, and the uphill stair stepping takes your breath away, too! Actually, in retrospect, I wish we’d taken the train all the way down to the southernmost town, Riomaggioire, then walked up to Manarolo, and on to Corniglia. Those two walks would probably be less strenuous than the one we selected, which is all uphill and all stairs. However, there were plenty of spots to stop in the shade and view the unbelievably clear water below, and the gorgeous coastline.

Once we arrived in Corniglia, we took a break in a pretty little piazza. We found a little market to purchase a bread, cheese, tomato and wine snack, while we decided how to spend the rest of our visit in Cinque Terre. I chose to take the train to the next town, Manarolo, while my daughter opted for the hike, since it was the one walk she hadn’t been able to do yet.

We decided to meet at the train station in Manarolo, and I set out to walk to the Corniglia train station. Again in retrospect, I should have just taken the hike, because it is a long walk down to the train station, on another seemingly endless stairway. I probably walked as far to the train station as the hike to Manarolo would have been. (I’ve since discovered there’s a free shuttle from the town of Corniglia to its train station.)

We easily met in Manarolo, which is quite small. I found a nice little gelato shop there, and we again had the pleasant task of deciding how to proceed with our day’s itinerary. After a short break, we caught the ferry boat back to Vernazza, in order to see the beautiful coastline from the sea. From Vernazza, we hopped back on the train to Santa Margherita Ligure.

It was a great day at Cinque Terre, and we were lucky to have the amazing weather. The air temperature was probably in the low 70s, with a slight cool breeze off the water.

Back in Santa Margherita, we headed to our cozy little hotel to rest awhile, then walked back into town for dinner. We found the Trattoria Baicin, via Algeria 5, and enjoyed a nice dinner for about 35.50 EUR, including a half-liter of house wine. We were pretty tired, but on the way back to Nuova Riviera, we stopped in an internet pub to finish some e-mail correspondence.

The next morning dawned sunny, which was perfect for our plan to visit Portofino. It’s a short, and slightly scary, bus ride on very narrow and windy roads. I watched as the bus barely cleared some very nice-looking sports cars on the road’s many curves.

Portofino is smaller than I expected, and much more expensive. It seems to be an upscale harbor, with one especially huge and glamorous navy-blue-and-white yacht sitting there, the “Princess K”. The K had beautiful lounge areas visible, and two uniformed (somewhat snotty) young men guarding the way onboard.

From the little harbor, we walked up the hill to a church, which has a spectacular vista of the sea and the coastline below. There is also a villa-type museum up there, but we opted not to go inside on the beautiful day. There were benches to sit and enjoy the view, and take photos.

Walking back down to the harbor, we wandered up and down the couple of little streets and looked at the numerous art and little gift shops. I was looking for a watercolor of the Portofino harbor to take home, and luckily found a cute little framed one that would be easy enough to hand-carry on the planes home.

We returned to the harbor to find lunch. There are several restaurants and cafes that ring the harbor, all with pleasant outdoor seating. We walked around and looked at menus, but we were surprised at how much we had to pay for a simple caprese salad and omelettes, especially with the extra charge to sit at a table by the water. The lunch menus and pricing there were about the same as dinners we’d found elsewhere. But, we certainly enjoyed sitting there drinking our wine, under an umbrella in the sun, watching the boats and the people.

The afternoon was so pleasant, we decided to take a ferry boat further up the coast to the next stop, which was a teeny and ancient monastery at Fruttuosa. The ferry made a short 30-minute stop there, so we could see the little place. There were actually monks chanting in the monastery, which was a lucky happenstance.

The ferry took us back to Portofino for a quick stop, and we continued on the ferry back to Santa Margherita. It was a very nice boat, and lots of fun to sit and watch the coastline glide by. Again on land in Santa Margherita, we found a little café for coffee and gelato, sitting at a little park harborside.

Santa Margherita was the perfect town for our stay, as it seemed much less crowded and touristy than our day-trip destinations of Portofino and Cinque Terre. We walked up and down along the harbor a bit, looked at the nice shops in town, then walked the short way to the hotel before dinner.

We’d heard other guests mention they had eaten twice at a restaurant in town, and we decided to try it for our last meal in Santa Margherita. It’s called Ristorante da Emilio, Piazza Martiri della Liberta 20. It had especially attractive outdoor seating, and the prices were also relatively inexpensive. Our meal included salad, cheese, veal, pasta, one-half liter of house wine, and cappuccino for 51.70 EUR.

The next morning we took our time over breakfast and packing, to check out around 11:00, and take a taxi to the train station. Next stop: Nice, France.

Jun 6th, 2006, 10:00 AM
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 2,395
Thanks for posting! Sound like you had a good trip. I liked staying in SML, too. Nice atmosphere and we had the best pasta w/ pesto at a waterfront restaurant there; I think it was called "Master" (weird name, yachting theme) where we were the only non-Italians and the owner just took charge of us and bascically told us what to eat. Fun memory.

annabelle2 is offline  
Jun 6th, 2006, 12:59 PM
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We took the ferry all the way to Monterossa, not Vernazza.
And I forgot to mention a really nice place where we stopped for salads, with tables right over the water. We weren't especially hungry, but the setting was so perfect and it was nice to sit for awhile. I can't remember the name of the waterside cafe, though, which is a shame because the prices, food and service were very good. It had restrooms on the outdoor deck, and the place had the feeling to me of southern California.
We then caught the train to Santa Margherita from Monterossa.
Jun 10th, 2006, 10:27 PM
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 279
Thank you for your post... I posted earlier about the train ride to Cinque Terre- anyway, I printed your post out and will use it to help me plan. Like you, our next stop is Nice... any thoughts? Thanks again!
Kathryncee is offline  
Jun 11th, 2006, 08:42 AM
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Kathryn, you will also find a thread I wrote about our three nights in Nice. We really liked that small city. I hope your hotel will be central, so you can walk the promenade and into old Nice.
I am not good at posting links to threads, so here's my report in full, including the names of good restaurants. Have fun!

Nice, three nights in May, 2006

We arrived in Nice in the early afternoon on Friday, via train from Santa Margherita Ligure. The trip had been long enough, and was complicated when the Italian train quit one stop before our mid-point destination of Genoa. The conductor walked through and told everyone we’d have to get off the train and catch another one. No explanation given, simply 'get off and go catch another train'.

We had been seated relatively comfortably, with my huge bag safely stashed away, and we only needed to go one more stop to reach Genoa. But, instead, we dragged our luggage off that train and onto the next one, as directed. It was packed, standing room only.

We all stood there about fifteen minutes on that train, when another conductor came in and said yet another train would leave first, and we should get off and catch that one. So we again dutifully picked up all our stuff, and hauled it onto the next standing-room-only train.

Finally, it departed and we arrived in Genoa. Luckily for us, our train out of Genoa was late, too, so we were able to catch it. (It reminded me of Rick Steves’ saying that Italy is like a tangled plate of spaghetti: it’s a mess, but we love it anyway.)

Our Hotel le Grimaldi (http://www.le-grimaldi.com/) was a short cab ride from the train station, 10 EUR for myself, my daughter, my gargantuan bag, and her two small ones. We were greeted graciously at the hotel, which immediately struck us as a good find.

The hotel is actually two Belle Epoque buildings back-to-back. One side is much prettier to enter, as it faces a nice church. The other side is fine, too, but a bit boring. I think the side on rue Grimaldi is the plain one, and the other side on rue Maccarani is prettier.

The man at the front desk carried my bag to the room, and showed us around. There’s a business center on the ground floor, with free internet use on their two computers, and a free printer to use. (Also wi-fi in the lobby, I think for a fee.)

Our room was a ‘classic’, twin-bedded room, which was quite large (for Europe), had a little balcony, a sparkling yellow and white tile bath with fluffy bright yellow towels, and nice toiletries. It was 150 EUR plus tax, and 10 EUR per person if we opted for the hot/cold breakfast buffet. They suggested we check out the buffet served till 10:30a.m. the next morning, and if we were interested we could sign on for it. The deal is that you have to buy it everyday to get the 10 EUR rate. Otherwise, per day, it’s 15 EUR per person.

So the next morning, we were happy to find hot eggs, proscuitto, yoghurts, cereals, cappuccino, assorted croissants, juices, etc. We thought it a good deal and quite convenient, so we enjoyed it each morning.

It's an easy walk to the train station (w/o luggage) from Le Grimaldi, and a slightly longer walk to the bus station. Easy walk of a few blocks to the grand promenade at seaside, just past the pedestrian zone. Also not far walking to Vieux Nice. The neighborhood felt perfectly safe, and we walked back to the hotel late each night.

For our first dinner, I had brought the name of a restaurant I’d found on Travel Talk, and the front desk agreed it was a good one, a local favorite in old Nice. It’s called Acchiardo, at 38 rue Droite in Vieux Nice. We headed over for their opening at 7 p.m., and were very happy with it. Really friendly and attentive service, very quaint and casual atmosphere, with a good menu. I had a steak dinner, which actually included vegetables on the side. My daughter had two different salads. We had bottled water and a half-liter of house red wine. When the bill arrived for 28.50EUR, I thought they’d made a mistake because it was so much less than I’d been accustomed to paying in Venice, Florence and Rome. But, no, it was correct. (We would have maybe eaten there another night, but found out it closes on weekend nights, believe it or not.)

We walked all over old Nice, then through the pedestian area to the promenade and took that way back to the hotel. It’s such a beautiful walk at night. The Chateau hillside is all lit up, the palm trees are lit, and the waves look so pleasant. It was how we ended each of our Nice nights, with that walk back to the hotel.

The next day we decided to take the short bus ride on the #81, to visit the Villa and Jardins Ephrussi de Rothschild, near Saint Jean Cap Ferrat. (The bus is just 1.30EUR each direction, which you pay in exact change on the bus.) We didn't stop to see the Greek Villa, but it's also on that same bus route, near the Ephrussi. You can easily catch the #81 for your return trip to Nice, at any stop along the road.

It was a nice visit, especially to see the views of the sea down below on both sides of the hillside. I thought the price was a bit steep, at 9.50EUR for an adult, because the Villa isn’t really all that interesting (sorry!), but the gardens are pretty. There’s also a nice little café there, for a light snack or drink or meal, which was a welcome break from all our walking.

While we were there, a very strong wind came up, which caused quite a bit of white caps in the water below, and chased everyone in from the patio tables. The wind stayed with us for the rest of the day, but wasn’t terribly annoying.

From the Villa, we did the easy walk down to the port of St. Jean to walk around and check it out. There are nice boats in the little harbor, with cute restaurants and shops. It’s very tiny, so doesn’t take long to walk from end to end of St. Jean. We spent just about an hour and a half there, then caught the #81 back to Nice.

That evening, we returned to old Nice for dinner. We loved that neighborhood’s little streets, overall atmosphere, and cute shops. We found the Restaurant la Tapenada, 6 rue St. Reparate and had a very nice dinner. It was probably about 60EUR for the two of us, on their fixed price menu, with a bottle of house wine. Very nice little place, with friendly and attentive service. They even let my daughter trade her dessert for a salad. So she had two salads to start, one after the other, and they timed the arrival of our main courses perfectly. We were completely happy with our meal there.

The next day we decided we’d stick to the coast and see Antibes, which is a short 20-minute train ride from Nice. We were glad we’d chosen Antibes, as it’s beautiful. The sea wall makes a nice walk, and the Centre Ville is very charming.

We wandered its streets, shopped in a tiny clothing boutique, found a little place for omelettes (nothing special, but nice enough), then headed back to Nice by train after about four hours total. It was a good choice for a quick day-trip.

That evening we weren’t very hungry, so opted for the simple Pasta Basta, once again in old Nice. It was a nice meal, although not extraordinary. Good prices and decent service.

All in all, we were very impressed with Nice and the surrounding area. It’s a very pretty city, with a friendly attitude, sitting on a lovely shore. There are many options for things to do near Nice. We’d considered St. Paul de Vence and Digne, but with the beautiful clear weather, we were drawn to stay at the seaside, and were glad we did.

Jun 11th, 2006, 01:50 PM
Join Date: Jun 2006
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Thank you SOO much..
Kathryncee is offline  
Jun 11th, 2006, 04:01 PM
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Kathryn, you are very welcome. I hope you have as much fun as we did! Bon Voyage!
Jul 13th, 2006, 07:52 AM
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topping for another poster
Nov 27th, 2006, 08:05 AM
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Jan 25th, 2007, 01:09 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,823

I enjoyed reading your reports. How long was the train ride from Genoa to Nice? We are considering driving to Genoa from SML (we will be there for a few days after a few days in Lenno) and taking the train so that we can drop off the car in Genoa and rent another one in Nice for our week in that area. If we drive from Italy to France, I'm sure we will pay a hefty fee for dropping off in another country.

Thanks for any info, Maureen or anyone else.
Marianna is offline  
Jan 25th, 2007, 01:17 PM
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Marianna, I'm sorry I don't remember exactly how long the train ride is from Genoa to Nice. I don't think it's very long, maybe 1.5 hours or so, and it's a pretty ride in some stretches as I recall. Maybe someone else knows exactly.
Jan 25th, 2007, 01:29 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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I could check the Rail Europe website. I'm sure it tells how long it will take. It is something for us to think about - train vs. driving.
Marianna is offline  
Jan 26th, 2007, 04:00 AM
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For anyone who is interested you can see my pictures of Portofino and the coast here: http://www.stayinpiedmont.com/pages/new/pictures2.html


Piedmont_Phil is offline  
Mar 31st, 2008, 03:36 PM
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devedi is offline  
May 7th, 2008, 05:20 PM
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wherenext is offline  
May 7th, 2008, 06:26 PM
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Thank you for this good and concise trip report. Liguria is on my list of places to visit in Italy.
Castellanese is offline  
May 7th, 2008, 10:05 PM
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Well, I guess I'll add a link to my trip to Santa Margherita here as well. The trip started in Venice, but this is the section on SML.


I remember the wonderful Da Baicin. I had a pasta in a nut sauce. It was so good, I wanted to lick the plate.

luvtotravel is offline  
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