Rapallo—Even Before “La Dolce Vita”

Rapallo, like most italian towns has a long history. The first settlement seems to date back to 700 BC, nevertheless!

Like most Italian regions and towns Rapallo was subjected to different rulers, conquerors, even pirates; In 1549 Rapallo was raided of riches and young women by the pirates of the Turkish Dragut.

In 1557 after an apparition of the Virgin Mary to a peasant, the small community of Rapallo later built on the hill of the event, a shrine which is still a destination for pilgrims today.

Between the years 1579 and 1580 the nightmare of the plague penetrated into Liguria causing, according to a historical estimate, about 100,000 deaths throughout the region.

Italy is full of shrines to the Virgin Mary because of this or that catastrophe. Santa Maria della Salute in Venice is just one of the many.


However, Rapallo really bloomed in the 1960, when tourism set in. Among the various factors that gave birth to a new “economic revival” of Rapallo was the arrival of the railway from Genoa to Sestri Levante as I mentioned in Cinque Terre—Portofino in One Long Weekend.

Rapallo was the vacationing spot of choice of Soraya Esfandiary Bakhtiari—after her divorce from Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (Last King of Persia, now Iran)—for the joy of the very first “paparazzi.” Her tribulations and consequent love affairs made Rapallo even more famous.


In Rapallo there is everything you need for a nice holiday on the Riviera. The historic center is crossed by the caruggio (via Mazzini), parallel to the waterfront, with shops. The Vittorio Veneto waterfront is an elegant walk under the shade of palm trees; in the middle, the boats with which you reach the other places in the Gulf dock. It is a succession of outdoor areas with bars, ice cream parlors, hotels and restaurants.


I was particularly taken by the romantic music kiosk, located on the Vittorio Veneto waterfron, inaugurated on 3 November 1929, recalls the late nineteenth and early twentieth century Liberty style for its architecture.

The most important Italian and foreign composers in history are depicted inside the dome, painted by the local painter Giovanni Grifo: Giuseppe Verdi, Gioachino Rossini, Vincenzo Bellini, Arrigo Boito, Ludwig van Beethoven, Daniel Auber can be recognized among the depictions of the stalls. But I didn’t recognized any of them. See for yourself.

Giacomo Meyerbeer, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Hector Berlioz and Christoph Willibald Gluck; in the medallions of the arches are instead represented Johann Sebastian Bach, Gaspare Spontini, Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, Domenico Cimarosa, Georges Bizet, Amilcare Ponchielli, Charles Gounod, Gaetano Donizetti, Claudio Monteverdi, Georg Friedrich Handel, Franz Joseph Haydn and Giacomo Puccini.

Rapallo is all colored “apricot rose”, with many residences with “Trompe-l’œil” decorations. Not to miss is the “Porta delle Saline”, the ancient gate to the city é the numerous churches.

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I lived the most part of my life in Washington DC, now in Italy getting to know again my country. Plenty of surprises, for good and bad, and lots of nostalgia for DC.

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