Bay of San Fruttuoso
The Bay of San Fruttuoso amid nature, sea and religion
It's a small beach of white pebbles dominated by an ancient abbey, and all around is the dense Mediterranean scrub of Liguria. We are between Camogli and Portofino, on the Riviera di Levante. Emerald green waters mirror the vegetation amid the cliffs. The Bay of San Fruttuoso is tucked away in an impervious place, which has helped it to preserve its unspoilt beauty.
A gem among the Ligurian Mountains
Typically, one arrives at San Fruttuoso Bay by boat, embarking from nearby places or from Genoa. The moment you catch sight of the cove is marvellous. The water is crystal-clear, allowing glimpses of the pebbles, and gently laps the shore. The greenery behind shimmers; the abbey adds a sacred and solemn atmosphere to this sanctuary of nature. We are in the Portofino Regional Natural Park, in a protected marine area. Here, you can rent sunbeds and umbrellas while on the beach, or walk on the nearby rocks and linger. Take a dip, or make arrangements for snorkelling.
The pleasures of the table and a special stay
There is a small bar perched on the rocks, where a sunset aperitif is a marvellous experience. There is also a restaurant offering refreshments, which is open for lunch and dinner, right next to the church. Tables overlook the sea, enhancing the pleasure of a plate of trofie al pesto, the region's most famous recipe, or spaghetti with seafood. A few rooms allow you to stay for several nights, from May until October.
The Abbey and the Monastery
The difficult access, as well as the presence of a freshwater spring, made the site suitable for the foundation of a sacred building in the 8th century. The church and monastery have undergone a series of restorations since then, and today are owned by FAI, the Italian Environmental Fund. The complex is well worth a visit, especially the cloisters and the tombs of the Doria family, a very powerful Genoese lineage. Stop to admire the archaeological finds, then take a stroll through the tiny village. You will not find shops and boutiques, but only a handful of houses, in an authentic atmosphere.
A statue anchored to the seabed
The sea of San Fruttuoso Bay conceals a surprise in its depths: the Christ of the Abyss. 300 metres from the beach and 15 metres deep, the statue was laid, or rather sunk, in 1954. 2.50 metres high and the work of sculptor Guido Galletti, it depicts Christ with his arms pointing upwards. Diving to admire it up close is also suitable for those of average experience, given the shallow depth, but can only be undertaken under the supervision of certified guides.
If you are an experienced swimmer, you can also swim there, but be careful of the boats navigating the sea. The water is crystal clear and the view is also clear even just from the surface.
An alternative? Reaching the work of art by kayak or paddle-board.
San Fruttuoso Bay can also be reached via numerous paths, starting from San Rocco or Portofino, in about two hours.
But you will fall in love with the landscape, set between mountains and sea, to the point that you will want to continue exploring. We are in Portofino Park, a protected area with 80 kilometres of trails, perfect for an amazing nature trek. As the coast opens up to you from above, revealing the intricate geography of gulfs, inlets, bays, harbours and promontories, you will wander through chestnut and olive trees, pine and holm-oak forests, orchards and citrus groves. Step by step, you will breathe in the clear air and the scent of heather, strawberry trees, mastic trees, euphorbia and myrtle. You are likely to encounter hedgehogs and squirrels that dwell peacefully here.
If you decide to leave for Portofino, stop to visit the whole village. The small harbour is one of the most famous in the world and is teeming with luxurious yachts. You can follow them from the shore, sitting in one of the many elegant restaurants. Then head upwards, where the villas hidden among the greenery are legendary and the walk along the path between maritime pines and dry stone walls is a real pleasure. You can also walk to Camogli, a typical seaside village with colourful houses lining the beautiful, short promenade.