Rapallo - Rick Steves is wrong (and so was I).
Updated: Jul 29, 2019
Rapallo. Dear Rapallo. I am sorry that you were a dubious choice for our 25 for 25 Tour. I will never doubt you again. Though Rapallo was not at its best, the victim of a once in a lifetime storm that took place in October 2018, it still shined brightly through their harbor side rebuild and deep harbor dredging.
At first glance, Rapallo has a gritty look and feel to it but its pedestrian-only centro storico Is a gem. Throughout the narrow vicoli, there are caffès, tavernas, enotecas, pattiscerias, gelaterias et.al. It is vibrant, authentic, and imperfect and it all works in a unassuming, glorious way. The harbor passegiata (or walkway) is under construction but is still beautiful and the in-town lidos are alive with sun worshippers and eager water sports participants.
The reason we selected Rapallo in the first place was because of its water taxi access to Portofino, Santa Margarita Ligure, and Cinque Terre - more on them in a different post. But because of the redredging, the ferries and water taxis were unavailable. That didn’t stop us. Santa Margarita was a mere five minute cab ride and had an open harbor.
We also selected Rapallo because it fit within the scope of our overall budget for the 25 for 25 tour. As much as we wanted to stay in Portofino’s Belmond Splendido, $1,700 per night was a budget breaker. Instead, we stayed at the Astoria Hotel in Rapallo that is owned by Alessandro and his wife. If two people were born to be hoteliers, it was these two. Also, you could not imagine a more friendly staff. While the room was on the smallish side, it lacked nothing and still had a terrific view over the Ligurian Sea. The included breakfast was also very good. We highly recommend the Astoria Hotel.
The food scene in Rapallo is also very good. Trattoria da Mario looks like a tourist haunt but it’s not. The food is very good and run by a family who has been at it for 50+ years. Sabina, the matriarch, will guide you to the right selections on the menu. Sapore di Mare is also very good. Do not miss their cheese focaccia which is really only available in the Liguria area. Sapore’s version is excellent.
Two places we’d recommend for drinks are Il Castello and Gallo Nero. Il Castello is perfect for a late afternoon Spritz overlooking the sea while Gallo Nero is the place to be when you want to have “one final-final” that turns into 3 last drinks. Gallo Nero is in the Centro Storico and is tucked away from judging eyes even though you will know no one!
When you are considering a holiday on the Ligurian Coast, give Rapallo some serious consideration. You won’t find hordes of tourists but you will find local smiling faces in abundance. I hope I have made my first indiscretion up to you, Rapallo. It won’t happen again. Ci vediamo!