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Camogli's wharf

A humble fishing village glistens on the Italian Riviera

May 22, 1997
Web posted at: 12:46 p.m. EDT (1646 GMT)

Text and photos by Daire Coco

(CNN) -- One of the most pleasant surprises on the Italian Riviera is the small fishing village of Camogli, tucked away between Portofino Mountain and the Ligurian Sea.

Camogli (pronounced kuh-moh'-lee) has a double meaning in Italian. The first translation, "houses close together," is apparent when you stroll through the town's narrow streets, which are lined by tall columns of pastel-colored homes. The second meaning, "houses of wives," is not so obvious; it refers to the fishermen's wives, who traditionally spent their time at home while their husbands were out at sea.

seaside and restaurants

But Camogli is more than just a fishing village. Although it may not reel in scores of international celebrities and luxury yachts like its more famous neighbor, Portofino, Camogli is an increasingly popular tourist destination. In the summer, the town's population of 7,000 almost doubles, as tourists and Italians who own vacation homes in Camogli arrive.

Camogli's biggest tourist attraction is its annual fish-fry and festival during the second weekend of May. Saturday's "blessing of the fish" festivities include bonfires and a spectacular display of fireworks. On Sunday the town pulls out what is said to be the largest skillet in the world (about four meters -- more than 12 feet -- in diameter) and fries up a huge helping of fish donated by the local fish cooperative.

Camogli is also home to the C. Colombo nautical institute (named for Christopher Columbus, one of Italy's most famous sons), which produces many of Italy's merchant marines.

Getting to Camogli

If you're planning a trip to Camogli, the best way to get there is by train. From Genoa, it's just a 20-minute ride. Driving is not recommended since parking is scarce, especially during the crowded summer months.

Once you arrive, you can get just about everywhere by foot. Just be sure to put on your walking shoes and be prepared to hike a lot of stairs.

A walking tour of Camogli

For starters, stroll along the harbor and boardwalk via Garibaldi and check Santa Maria Assunta and beachout the ice cream parlors, cafes and shops. You may even see some of the villagers knitting fishing nets.

Also be sure to visit the basilica Santa Maria Assunta, the largest of the town's five churches. It's beautifully decorated with art and gold left by many of the town's seamen when they died. Right next to it, you'll find an old castle which today houses a small aquarium. If you'd like to learn about the history of Camogli, stop by the Mariner's Museum (Museo Marinaro e Archeologico).

On Wednesday mornings, head to the local market for fresh produce and goods. If it's warm, you can relax on the beach, or go swimming or scuba diving.

Working up an appetite and sating it

Ristorante

The adventurous can set out on the 2 1/2-hour hike to San Frutuosso and its 13th-century abbey. Those who are looking for something more glamorous can continue to the wealthy resort town of Portofino. Or you can take a boat ride to either place in a fraction of the time.

Satisfy the appetite you work up with an authentic Italian meal. Stop by one Portofinoof Camogli's fine restaurants, and try some pasta, such as the trofie al pesto (handmade pasta with pesto sauce), seafood, or focaccia al formaggio (focaccia with cheese). The local specialty, chocolate-rum Camogliesi (a cream-puff with a chocolate mixture inside), makes a decadent dessert.

If you're looking for a restaurant with a view, try the Ristorante Rosa on the outskirts of town. The image of the sun blazing across the city's pastel ramparts and dancing on the sea will stay with you long after you leave.

Daire Coco is a writer in the CNN International newsroom. An enthusiastic traveler, she has been to more than 40 countries on five continents.

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