A lovely old villa by the sea, of Genoese inspiration but tucked away on a quieter stretch of the coast, harbours a sophisticated boutique retreat. We’re just above the Ligurian coastal town of Camogli here, a venerable fishing port of tall buildings typically painted in a pastel pastiche, east of Genoa on the edge of the Portofino promontory. No shortage of chic in this neck of the woods, then, with Portofino just around the headland, but Villa Rosmarino does it quietly, without the swank. The villa dates back to the beginning of the 1900s, a country residence complete with olive groves and an oil mill on the ground floor. When Mario and Fulvio found it a century later, it emerged from 30 years of total neglect to become the stunning home and design B&B it is today.
From the outside it’s a four-storey block of a building, busy with large, green-shuttered windows and trompe l’oeil paintwork covering for more substantial decoration, in keeping with Ligurian tradition. It stands in it’s own small park: majestic gates, a parking area, gorgeous gardens of fragrant, flowering greenery and an ample pool. Little could be salvaged of the original interiors, so indoors became a perfect reflection of Mario and Fulvio’s tastes, indeed of who they are. Furnishings are contemporary and also ’50s and ’60s vintage, Italian and Scandinavian: very refined, artfully restrained. Their collection of artworks – photography, painting and sculpture – is on display. Six meticulously appointed guest rooms have wooden flooring and those large windows looking onto the gardens or over the bay (Golfo Paradiso, no less); their décor is minimalist and white but each is different from the last. In the bathrooms resin floors, stone panelling and washbasins sculpted in Carrara marble.
And that’s not all. This is a home, a low-key sort of place to settle into and experience: that’s the concept. There’s a large dining room with a fireplace, a communal table and design seating, all begging you to unwind in good company. Breakfasts are held rather than served here, and if Mario feels like cooking then you’ll really be in luck. And the library, a long room with a terrace overlooking the pool and bay, the walls packed with works of literature, art, design and communications (this is the world Mario left behind), and more inviting sofas and chairs the better to sit back and take quality time out. To cap it all, Villa Rosmarino isn’t nearly as expensive as you might expect for this class of hospitality. Then, if you still really want to go out and explore Liguria, there are unforgettable marine panoramas, beautiful tiny coves Mario can recommend for swimming, surprising monuments, Portofino and Santa Margherita Ligure on the same promontory and the Cinque Terre (another UNESCO World Heritage site) a little further down the coast, and historic Genoa itself in the other direction. All, naturally, boasting the finest of the fine local cuisine.