In 1879 the Rome-Genoa line, an important connection in the structure of the Italian railroad, was completed. Umberto I, who at that time had been king of Italy for a year, decided to travel the entire tract that connected the capital with “La Superba“. The itinerary included a brief stop in the station of Santa Margherita Ligure and then in Portofino. The king already knew of the local amenities made famous by writers and poets and he loved the little city whose name reminded him of his illustrious spouse. The royal coach arrived at 4:45 in the afternoon of August lst. Santa Margherita Ligure to which on November 26, 1863 was added the adjective “Ligure” to distinguish it from the many other municipalities in the kingdom with the same name, was a rich city, the richest with this name.
Many emigres had made fortunes in America and the same king could certainly realize this just by looking at the beautiful residences right behind the station. The activity of fishing gave employment to many people. It was thus that when the king asked the mayor Gio Batta Raggio “Sir, how is the population of your city?” he replied “Sire, a part are fisherman and the rest are rich!!“. A winter tourism of the elite had already begun and this had contributed not a little to the enrichment of the city. Margherita of Savoia, queen and mother after the regicide of 1900, was a guest in Santa Margherita Ligure in 1904 in the “Grand Hotel”, the seventeenth century palace that had belonged to the Chiavari family, to the Durazzos, and now the Centuriones who have rented it to the Maraglianos.
She stayed in the splendid room with the magnificent view that was then called “the queen’s chamber”. Margherita, as is known, appreciated not only the nobility with the magnanimous ancestry, but also the nobility with the illustrious intellects. In those marvellous days of the month of May, in addition to the aristocrats of Germany and England who were vacationing there, she socialized with personalities prominent in the local culture such as Attilio Regolo Scarsella, an important historian and author of the memorable “Annals of Santa Margherita from its Primordials to 1914 written for use by educated Santa Margheritans and from which I have profited in writing this article.
Umberto I di Savoia
Portofino, a World apart.