Camogli

After a restful visit in Tuscany, Michael and I wended our way home to Nice, known for its "Garibaldi" style of painting and trompe l'oeil. Usually, walls are pink-brick, shutters are green and outlines are bright yellow, with architectural ruffles in paint, rather than three-dimensions.

We drove through Santa Marguerita, where we were amazed by the colors and trompe l'oeil on the houses by the sea. And by accident, found this marvelously painted house, reminiscent of the fabulously colored 30s houses in one of the Roman neighborhoods.

We drove on to spend the night in Camogli, the next town up the coast. Camogli means "home of the wives"--because the men are always away fishing. This reminds us of Burano, the colorful island off Venice, where the wives paint their little cottages in three or more colors when their husbands are away fishing--to tantalize them when they can't recognize their own homes on their return.

Camogli's tall painted houses are among the most extraordinary stights of the Mediterranean, using trompe l'oeil to add details. The village has just been written up in Conde Nast's TRAVELER by Ron Hall.

"Most people do a double take when they see a photograph of Camogli for the first time. Their initial assumption is that they are looking at yet another picture of Portofino, Italy's most photographed seaside village. Only upon closer examination do they realize that, although the architectural style is identical, they are looking at somewhere quite different.

"Portofino and Camogli are, in fact, immediate neighbors on the Ligurian Sea. Lack of space resulted in the use of tall, narrow houses (up to eight stories high), and in each case the two communities used the same ingenious methods to beautify their houses when, in the early seventeenth century, they wanted to reflect their villages' growing prosperity. In particular, both communities made astonishing use of trompe l'oeil to give their town a face-lift.

"On a typical Camogli/Portofino facade, the shutters are probably the only feature that are what you think they are. Virtually everything else--mullions, architraves, lintels, moldings, keystones, cornerstones, and decorative curlicues--are almost always fake, painted onto an otherwise flat, blank wall by specialist decorators who proudly sign and date their work.

Just the way colorists do today in "America's Painted Ladies." You see trompe l'oeil elsewhere along the Ligurian coast, in particlar at Genoa and Santa Margherita Ligure, but it is here at Camogli that it is at its most complete and most convincing. Camogli houses are astonishing in their color and attention to detail.

We hope you'll enjoy this mini-collection of the best of Camogli.