Joining the Jet Set in the Italian Riviera

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Santa Margherita and Portofino are part of the Italian Riviera. The towns are bustlings in the summer time when the jet set crowd stops over with their grand boats and designer handbags. I was fortunate enough to discover them myself this summer thanks to the nuptials of my boyfriend’s friends.

The playgrounds of the rich and famous may not be the scenes that suit my humble Finnish spirit the best. Surely I do look for from my holidays beauty, comfort and small luxuries. Nonetheless, authenticity and adventure always come above travelling to places which are tagged purely as sumptuous.

Thanks to a wedding invite to the nuptials of my boyfriend’s friends, I had a great reason to discover one of these places where the jet set crowd likes to hang out – the Italian Riviera.

One of my first discoveries of the jet set life was that the Riviera is definitely best reached by a private speed boat or at least by an own Ferrari. Santa Margherita Ligure is not an easy place to reach by public transport. A somewhat disorganised journey included a Volabus from the Genoa airport to the Principe railway station, followed by a regional train service towards La Spezia end station.

Italians are definitely not renowned for their well functioning infrastructure and timeliness. That is why this 2-hour transfer time lasted at least 3 hours. Thankfully, I had remembered to wear light clothing and sunglasses since leaving London in the early morning as the noon sunshine was quickly raising the temperature above +30C.

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One of these would be perfect for going back and forth to the Genoa airport…

Seeing Santa Margherita opening in front of your eyes is enough to forgive any mundane worries. There is no point letting a little delay to bother your mood as small glitches and confusion are part of the Italian charm.  Santa Margherita is a very attractive seaside town with nicely maintained buildings, palm trees and pedestrian boulevards.

Grand boats float in the vast harbour, the smell of pizza and pasta spread from numerous Italian restaurants, and designer shops offer glitzy high heels and elegant dresses to the customers.

Darkly tanned Italians look glamorous in their fashionable sunglasses and pampered older ladies are to be seen with their hand-bag-sized dogs walking around the main roads.

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Santa Margherita is a very attractive seaside town with nicely maintained buildings, palm trees and pedestrian boulevards.

Despite many of its plusses, Santa Margherita was just a little too crowded, a little too noisy, a little too dated to really overwhelm me. In some parts I felt like stepping back in time when encountering dated seafront bars and cafes, colourful sun beds parked only centimetres apart from each other and obviously very wealthy but obviously not very tasteful locals stamping away with their blingy handbags.

Maybe its just me and my natural drawn towards solitude, but something more secluded is real luxury to me.

Nevertheless, I really enjoyed a little wine bar Ingrosso e Minuto for its friendly service and great plates of food like meat tagliata, a breakfast spot Pasticceria Arte Dolce Caffetteria for cappuccinos and cornetto con crema, restaurant 48 Ristobar for some more unusual choices in the Italian cuisine like a tuna tartar and a cocktail bar Sabot for frozen daiquiris.

A cocktail bar Sabot close to the seafront was great for an afternoon snack after spending the day on the beach. They also offered sporadic Wi-Fi connection if you are desperate to find out what is going outside the Jet Set world!

A cocktail bar Sabot close to the seafront was great for an afternoon snack after spending the day on the beach. They also offered sporadic Wi-Fi connection if you are desperate to find out what is going outside the jet set world!

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Pasticceria Arte Dolce Caffetteria’s lovely little terrace and delicious pastries were a fantastic start for the day.

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Deliziosi!

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As the coastline was quite narrow, it is not really the place to go for solitude and seclusion!

I adored the boat trips we took to the neighbouring Portofino and San Fruttuoso. A walk along the seafront to Portofino was also fantastically beautiful. Stops on the beaches such as Paraggi were to die for. If only we could have stayed in Hotel Splendido near the Paraggi beach…

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The harbour of Portofino.

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Grand boats stopping over at Portofino which for a cute, little town offers an impressive selection of designer shops: Louis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada…

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I adored the beautiful seafront walk from Santa Margherita to Portofino. Even Silvio Berlusconi is supposed to have a house along this road. We didn’t bump into him though – luckily!

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Paraggi beach near Portofino is very close to Hotel Splendido where I would have loved to have stayed over. Prince Rainier of Monaco is said to have proposed to Grace Kelly in these sceneries.

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Clear waters of the Ligurian Sea.

The wedding, which was the main reason for our trip, was spectacular. The ceremony was in the Basilica di Santa Margherita d’Antiochia, a beautiful baroque style catholic church. The reception was held in Villa Durazzo, which used to be in the 17th century a summer house for the Durazzo family. Now it is a unique site  which hosts a museum, events and concerts throughout the year.

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Basilica di Santa Margherita d’Antiochia where the beautiful wedding ceremony took place.

Basilica di Santa Margherita d'Antiochia is a beautiful baroque church where the wedding ceromy was held

Basilica di Santa Margherita d’Antiochia is a beautiful baroque church where the wedding ceromy was held

Villa Durazzo was an amazing place for a wedding. A magnificent set of aperitivi was served in the villa’s beautiful garden followed by a fantastic dinner al fresco and a first dance dramatised by fireworks. Champagne was flowing the whole night and treats from a huge mille-feuille wedding cake to an ice-cream van, a ham and cheese board and confectionary were served like there was no tomorrow. Oh, if anything, that was real dolce vita!

Villa Durazzo was a spectacular venue for a wedding. However, if you don't get an invite there, you should still go, because it's open for public on most days. The garden and views are definitely worth it!

Villa Durazzo was a spectacular venue for a wedding. However, if you don’t get an invite there, you should still go, because it’s open for public on most days. The garden and views are definitely worth it!

Fantastic food in a beautiful setting is a cornerstone of an Italian wedding.

Fantastic food in a beautiful setting is the cornerstone of an Italian wedding.

Like all things sweet, the holiday with the jet set was quickly over. Looking over my photos reminds me again of the beautiful sun sets, clear waters, elegant boats and the Italian flair of Santa Margherita and Portofino. I may not be made for the Riviera or return anytime soon to the jet set life but I’m glad to have had a chance to discover it once.

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I was left missing the beautiful sun sets of the Riviera!

Contacts:

48 Ristorbar
Via Palestro 48, 16038 Santa Margherita Ligure, Italy
Tel: +39 0185 286650

Sabot
Piazza Martiri della Liberta 32, Santa Margherita Ligure, Italy
Tel: +39 0185 280747

Hotel Splendido
Salita Baratta 16, 16034 Portofino, Italy
Tel: +39 0185 267 806
E-mail: reservations@splendido.net

Villa Durazzo
Piazzale San Giacomo 3, 16038 Santa Margherita Ligure
Tel: +39 0185 2931 35
E-mail: info@villadurazzo.it

Basilica di Santa Margherita d’Antiochia
Piazza Caprera, Santa Margherita Ligure, Italy
Tel: +39 0185 290290

(c) Nordic Odyssey 2013. All Rights Reserved.

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4 responses to “Joining the Jet Set in the Italian Riviera

  1. Oh wow Kristiina this looks like an incredible trip!! Interesting to hear your take on it, think I would probably feel the same way about the crowds and showiness of the place, but it really still looks amazing. Sooooo missing Europe still…

    • Thank you Elly! The beautiful landscapes and sun were definitely the best part of the trip and you can’t blame the crowds from wanting to see them too. At the same time, having lots of people around created a bit of a buzz in the town which you might not get if you visited the area off-season. You should come to Europe soon!

  2. Pingback: Hiking in Cinque Terre Italy | Nordic Odyssey·

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