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The village of Camogli sits centre stage in a natural amphitheatre created by the olive trees and umbrella pines which embrace Paradise Gulf. Baptized the “City of a Thousand White Sailing Ships”, the town has remained virtually unchanged from the days when its captains sailed forth from the harbour to conquer faraway seas. In the town’s historic centre, the parish church, the Dragon Castle and the colourfully decorated tall houses huddle around the old harbour, which still bustles with the activity of its fishing trade. Brightly painted “gozzi”, the typical Ligurian fishing boats, bob alongside rows of nets and the little rowboats used in the tuna fishery, the last one remaining in the Ligurian sea. The castle’s terrace affords captivating views of the harbour and Camogli’s little back alleys, known as “carruggi”. The religious images of the Madonna still hanging along the carruggi were placed there over the course of centuries by the townsfolk as a votive offering for the protection of their fishermen away at sea. A splendid example of “risseu”, the old technique of arranging grey and white stones collected on the beach into geometric patterns, commonly used in seaside villages, can be admired at the entrance to the Basilica of Our Lady of the Assumption. Camogli’s parish church is only one of the town’s many places of worship, which also include the Oratory of Saints Prospero and Catherine, the Monastery of Saint Prospero, Saint Ann’s chapel and the shrine dedicated to of Our Lady of the Woods. Starting at the harbour, a walk along the seafront promenade in Via Garibaldi affords ample opportunity to stop and sip a coffee, munch on some focaccia or leisurely savour local dishes in any one of the characteristic cafés or restaurants, while enjoying poetic views of the sea. The natural beauty of the sea is a major attraction for numerous scuba divers who enthusiastically explore the wonders of the underwater world off the coast of the Portofino promontory, in recent years designated a protected marine reserve. The town’s folklore comes alive in its typical celebrations. The most popular is the Fish Festival, dedicated to the martyr Saint Fortunato, patron saint of fishermen, which is held the second weekend of May. The festivities begin on Saturday evening, with the religious procession followed by the traditional bonfires on the beach. On Sunday, the main attraction is the so-called “padellone”, a huge frying pan with a diameter of 4 meters, where enormous quantities of fish are fried and given away to visitors.
Another characteristic festival takes place on the first Sunday of August, when boats of all sorts are decorated to take part in the procession which goes by sea from Camogli to Punta Chiappa, where Mass is held at the shrine of the Madonna. The priest, accompanied by the altar boys, leads the procession aboard Camogli’s most famous boat, the “Dragun”. When night falls, Camogli is illuminated by scores of votive candles, placed in the sea by swimmers and boaters. Softly rocked by the waves, the candles are slowly carried off by the current, in a silent salute to the sea.
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