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  • San Fruttuoso, Liguria

San Fruttuoso, Liguria

The coast of Liguria (Italian Riviera) has many serene, undiscovered gems to visit.

Few are more serene and lovely than the small village of San Fruttuoso, midway between Portofino and Camogli and on the edge of the sprawling park to which Portofino lends its name.

San Fruttuoso, famed for its eighth century abbey, is located at the mouth of an inlet on the Portofino promontory.

The hamlet retains the allure of a hidden, secret paradise, helped in large part by the fact that there are only a few routes that lead here.

One is to take the boats that link San Fruttuoso to the nearby towns and villages of Camogli, Santa Margherita Ligure and, slightly further afield, Genoa.

Alternatively, take your pick from one of the three footpaths that wind their way between the rocks and the vegetation of Mount Portofino.

However, it is a walk well worth the effort and the views over the bay, in particular along the path from Portofino, is truly breathtaking.

San Fruttuoso is made up of a small beach, its monumental abbey, church, the Doria Tower and the few buildings that face the blue emerald mirror of the sea, set against a background of dark green pines.

Legend surrounding the retreat that would later become the abbey has it that in 259AD, Guistino and Procopio, disciples of the martyred bishop San Fruttuoso, were shipwrecked in a tempest and tossed here.

They found themselves surrounded by three lions that, rather than tear them to shreds, traced in the sands the outline of the church they had to erect in honour of the saint.

In truth, the monastery was built in AD711 when Prospero, Bishop of Tarragona and fleeing the Moors’ invasion of Spain, landed here with the San Fruttuoso’s ashes.

The settlement was later destroyed by Saracen invaders but reconstructed at the end of the 10th century by Benedictine monks. In the 13th century it was enlarged by the Doria family.

Today the abbey stands as one of the most significant examples of medieval property in Liguria.

There are obvious Byzantine influences in the architecture, notably in the cupola of the church bell tower. However, in large part, the complex that one can admire today dates from the end of the 10th century and the start of the 11th.

More recent restorations have remained faithful to its original Roman-Gothic architectural characteristics. Visitors will note the irregular span of the arched portico, necessitated by the positions of the rocks on which the foundations lie.

And the restored façade has done away with the old wooden windows and in their place have come panes in an almost invisible structure, which has given this hall within the building a splendid view over the sea and coast.

Just behind the abbey is the Andrea Doria tower, built in the 16th century to defend against Turkish pirates.

By the way, the small beach here was created only in 1915, by a violent storm that swept the flood’s detritus downstream.

If you’re taking a dip in the bay, go deep enough and you can admire the Christ of the Abyss statue, lowered onto the sea bed in 1954 and said to watch over local sailors.

To view houses and apartments in this part of the Italian Riviera, please visit our Property in Liguria page.