Rapallo: the idyllic retreat for artists

Nicholas Sterling

By the 1960s, Rapallo had become the elegant city it is today, a favorite winter retreat for wealthy Italians living in the Northwest.

Located in northwestern Italy, along the border with France, is Liguria, a mountainous region overlooking the sea that bears the same name.

Liguria’s coastline is dotted with charming towns such as Portofino, Santa Margherita, and Rapallo. The latter is a small coastal enclave located south of Genoa. During the mid-nineteenth century, and especially during winters, it was a retreat for fluent British families attracted by its excellent climate, the beauty of its bay, and the hospitality of the local population.

We can still see dated—yet attractive—hotels from the time when the British came to town. There are also impressive Italian villas that have already lost their luster while remaining beautiful. And who can ignore the English gardens, cafés, and restaurants that evoke yesteryear. Like a magnificent sentinel watching over its domain stands the majestic Castello Sul Mare, the Genoese fortress built in 1551 to protect Rapallo from Turkish pirate attacks.

By the second decade of the last century, the city no longer attracted tourists, but rather great artists and poets such as Gabriela Mistral, Ernest Hemingway, Gerhart Hauptmann, W. B. Yeats and Max Beerbohm, who found inspiration in its streets and corners. And long before them, Friedrich Nietzsche spent the winter of 1882 writing the first part of “Thus Spoke Zarathustra.”

During the winter of 1923, Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley Richardson, stayed in Rapallo in the modest Riviera Hotel. It was there that she told him she was pregnant, and the young writer and journalist angrily left the room with a loud bang. Four years later they divorced.

By the 1960s, Rapallo had regained its past glory and became the elegant city it is today, a favorite winter retreat for wealthy Italians living in the Northwest.

The city also boasts historical monuments well worth a visit, such as the Castello di Punta Pagana, headquarters of the Military Order of Malta; the historic Tower of Fieschi and the Civic Tower; the Santuario di Monteallegro; the Porta Delle Saline, and the Basilica of Saints Gervasio and Protasio with its leaning tower, or the Monastero di Santa Maria in Valle Christi. And last but not least—in summer—you can enjoy the glamorous beaches of San Michele di Pagana.

The best accommodation in the city is the Excelsior Palace Hotel, a luxurious five-star establishment whose origins date back to 1900 and is especially noteworthy for its exclusive suites and marvelous views over the bay of Rapallo.

Golf enthusiasts can also enjoy the nearby Club, just one mile from the historic center of the captivating city of Rapallo.

Credits photos: Archive Regional Agency in Liguria.

© | 2019