A pastel piece of paradise lounges along the Ligurian coast on the Golfo Paradiso, overshadowed by its more famous neighbors. That means Camogli isn't as glitzy and overcrowded as Portofino, at the point of the same promontory, or the better-known Santa Margherita Ligure and Rapallo, on the opposite side of the promontory. That doesn't make it less beautiful, though! The pretty painted buildings that line up along the shore look like an impressionist painting dappled with sunlight and reflections from the clear water scattering sun sparkles upward. With its seafront promenade to the excellent eateries and cafes, not to mention the beaches and the crystalline sea, it is a lovely spot, to be sure.

The name may come from Camulio, the Sabine and Etruscan word for the deity Mars, or some theorize from Camolio, a Gallic-Celtic god. Another more colorful story says it from the local dialect word "camoggi" - ca' moglie, in Italian, or houses of the wives, referring to the fishermen and seafarers' spouses waiting at home while they were out to sea. Unlikely, but a prettier legend.

The town has prehistoric roots, as evidenced by archeological finds, then a Roman presence from the 2nd century BC onward. Documents point to a church being built at the port area in the 5th century. It was sacked by the Lombards in 641 along with the other coastal towns in the area that were all set aflame. The Byzantines took over and Charlemagne divided the territory into counties, which became feudal holdings. From the Middle Ages forward, Camogli was tied to Genova. The Castello di Dragonara was built in the 12th century and it became part of the Repubblica Ligure in the late 1700s. Napolean's era of dominance brought more prosperity to Camogli as a center for mercantile trading, shipyards, and fishing trade. The tonnarella that was used for tuna fishing and processing is still there, now home to a fishing cooperative where you can buy the freshest catch directly from the fishermen.

The town has three patron saints, with accompanying festivities: Madonna del Boschetto, whose feast day is celebrated on July 2; San Prospero, who is celebrated on August 31, and San Fortunato, with the biggest party, held the second Sunday of May. The festivities include two big bonfires and the sagra del pesce, which brings out an enormous skillet into the piazza where fresh fish is cooked for everyone.

In the beginning of the 1900s, Camogli followed the example of Nice and created a seafront promenade, the perfect place for a stroll, a gelato, a sunset cocktail, with views of the water. Camogli has an archeology museum and a maritime museum, and is still an active fishing port, in particular the anchovies, bonito fish, and amberjack. Be sure to give them a taste.

The Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta is a gloriously gilded church right at the water's edge, and it seems to gleam and glow inside. It was built on a reef at the mariner's hamlet in the 1200s then amplified and redone over the centuries. Some stunning artwork is worth a look, like the Madonna del Rosario statue and that of St. Peter, along with paintings and the high altar. The Castello della Dragonara is on a rock above the sea, and seems to have grown out it spontaneously. It provides a beautiful backdrop to your beach day. It is open for special exhibits. The town's Teatro Sociale is a classic opera house theater swatched in red velvet with opulent box seating and a lovely ambiance for a show.

Its location beckons you to take a boat ride, so don't resist, and get a view of Liguria's glorious gulf and the glittering towns strung along it. Being part of the citta' di Genova, a visit to the region's capital and cultural city is in order, and of course the surrounding villages in the hills, and the towering mountains above provide plenty to explore, and trails to hike.

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