At Essential Sailing, we love the history, culture and cuisine of the places we visit almost as much as the sailing to get there. Our Captain’s Blog brings you a taste of what to expect from our luxury crewed sailing holidays around the French and Italian Riviera. In this blog we find out why Santa Margherita is not far from paradise.
Sit back and be inspired.
Beloved by writers from northern Europe and America in the 19th and early 20th centuries, Santa Margherita is a lively, smart resort town. It is a chic place, with plenty of old world charm, and set in a pretty lush bay full of exotic plants.
A hundred years ago, before mass tourism, it must have seemed not far from paradise, and today it is still a lovely spot outside the high season. The coast that stretches west to Portofino and east to Rapallo is the quintessential Riviera with villas dotted in forests of pine and cypress trees, lush gardens and pleasure boats bobbing in the harbour. Santa, as the town is affectionately known, is also nicknamed the Port of Milan as it is popular with well-heeled Milanese and, as a consequence, there are lots of upmarket hotels and good restaurants. That said the fisherman still mend their nets on the pavement near the fish market. There’s lovely walking and plenty of watersports. To appreciate Santa Margherita at its best you need to book a room with a sea view and unfortunately that means that there’s no budget option here.
Although it was most likely settled in Roman times, Santa Margherita makes its first appearance in the history books when the eastern part of the town, then called Pescino, was sacked by the Lombards in AD641. The Saracens arrived in the 10th century and sacked it a second time. Santa Margherita was taken by Genoa in 1229. As a result, it was attacked by Venetian ships in 1432 and in 1549. At the end of the 18th century it was Napoleon’s turn to take control and it was he, in 1813, who united the two towns Pescino and Corte, to create Porto Napolone. Two years later, when it was annexed to the Kingdom of Sardinia, Santa Margherita got its original name back. In the past, the townsfolk made a living making lace and fishing for coral in the sea off Sardinia.
The town has long been a Mecca for writers. Luigi Pirandello, Eleonora Duse and Margaret Duley (the first Newfoundland writer) all stayed at the Imperiale Palace Hotel. Friedrich Nietzsche, André Gide and Samuel Beckett also visited when they stayed in neighbouring Rapallo. Many famous Hollywood stars like Clark Gable and Tyrone Power have also holidayed here over the years. Santa Margherita was also the hometown of the poet Camillo Sbarbaro.