A church in Santa Margherita.
A church in Santa Margherita. Contributed

Haven in the heart of the Riviera

SANTA Margherita was the second stop of our cruise aboard the Azamara Quest.

This charming town was a favourite retreat for the well-heeled gentry of the early 1900's. Santa Margherita eventually faded from the forefront of fame, thus retaining much of its unspoilt charm.

A short ride in the ships tender landed us at the wharf of a wonderfully old-fashioned kind of Italian Riviera resort. Here visitors can take a walk along the palm-lined harbour and enjoy the balmy climate.

Situated between the Cinque Terre to the south and Genova to the north, Santa Margherita is located in the middle of the Italian Riviera but is a cheaper and less crowded option to popular Portofino which is a leisurely one hour walk west.

The town has some good shopping options, lovely cafes and interesting sights like its 16th-century castle and the 17th-century Basilica di Santa Margherita.

Santa Margherita is a combination of old and new. Wake up early enough and you can still find fishermen unloading their daily catch and locals gossiping on the benches that dot the harbour. In the summer season, numerous mega yachts lie anchor off the coast giving the atmosphere of a mini Monaco.

With decidedly less bling than Portifino, you wouldn't want to change a single detail of Santa Margherita's picture-perfect seaside promenade. Elegant hotels with Liberty facades overlook the compact harbour of this historic fishing village. With its esplanade, opulent villas and orange trees, the town provides a stylish alternative to its more celebrated neighbour.

The elegant old resorts of Santa Margherita make it an excellent option for a few nights stay on your Italian itinerary. Santa Margherita Ligure's most styling location is the Grand Hotel Miramare, which presents a gracious atmosphere in keeping with its splendid 1903 architecture and magnificent sea views.

The colour-splashed Ligurian coast packs in spectacular scenery and history and has been luring tourists and stars since the time of Byron and Shelley.

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