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Hidden Beauty in Northern Italy

Il Mulino da Drin, at Punta Chiappa, on the Ligurian Sea.

Photo: David Cicconi

Visitors benefit from such a conserving mentality, which extends to friendships (they are slowly made but long-lasting), and this is probably most readily experienced in the protected landscape, its water, and its hills. Water is central to the local identity: the town is famous for its water polo team, Pro Recco, which this year won the Italian championship for the 23rd time. As for swimming, there is a town beach with chaises and umbrellas for rent and a small pool geared mostly toward children. But for truly spectacular swims, one must walk to the fishing village of Camogli. Here, a marked path leads into the steep, sunlit hills through the hamlets of San Rocco (with its Baroque church) and San Nicolò (where the church is Romanesque and more sober); it then slopes down through a wooded hillside before reaching Punta Chiappa, on the Portofino promontory.

At Punta Chiappa, I like to have lunch at Il Mulino da Drin, a restaurant that overlooks the Ligurian Sea. In a building said to date back a thousand years, Signora Faustina prepares foccacette—think focaccia col formaggio cut into small pieces, then fried and served with similarly fried zucchini blossoms flavored with anchovies. Afterward there is tomato-based spaghetti with frutti di mare, or lightly fried fish, everything washed down with a fizzy white wine.

After all the sun and water, the food and drink, I never hike back—no way. I return to Recco by boat. And I’m happy to be back, too, because for all the sunlight and sweetness of this excursion, home is best. Home is Il Bar Perla, where the spirited barkeeps Paola and Lori bring me a glass of Prosecco. And while children chase balls in the piazzetta and people venture into Capurro, the town’s excellent bookstore, I visit with my old lady friends, Maria Luisa and Dora and Giugi, and lift my glass to this indelible place, which, no matter what anyone says, I insist on calling la bella Recco. Maria Luisa lifts her glass, too—with one hand. With the other she shields her eyes and says, with the driest and most affectionate irony, “Recco is bella, for sure. As long as you look at it like this.”

Michael Frank is a contributing writer for Architectural Digest. His articles have been anthologized in Italy: The Best Travel Writing from the New York Times.

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