San Michele di Pagana, beaches & a Van Dyck’s painting!

It is a fishing village that is located between Rapallo and Santa Margherita Ligure. Beautiful, crystal-clear sea, fabulous views and a surprise … a painting of Antoon Van Dyck! All these things make worth to staying here a while πŸ™‚

How to reach San Michele di Pagana?

by car – if you driving A12 motorway, exit at Rapallo and then follow the road signs to Santa Margherita Ligure, road SP227. You can get there in about 10 minutes. If you don’t use the highway, take the SS1 Aurelia state road that brings you to Rapallo and from there to San Michele di Pagana.

by bus lines 7 and 98 with bus stops in front of the train station in Rapallo. Tickets 1,80€

on foot – San Michele di Pagana is located about 2 km from the centre of Rapallo, so it’s a good ides taking a walk there on foot;) Especially because the road leads along the coast and offers beautiful sea views!


The first settlement was created here by the ancient Romans. Probably, also at that time, it was a fishing village. Then, in the Middle Ages, arrived the period of domination of the Republic of Genoa, followed by the domination of Napoleon Bonaparte. Throughout this period, San Michele shared its fate with nearby Rapallo, which became an increasingly important town in this area. Then, an important event placed in San Michele di Pagana was the signing of a peace treaty between the Kingdom of Italy and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia after the end of World War I.

Things to see & do

San Michele di Pagana is located on the seafront and stretches over 3 small bays: Pomaro, Trelo and Prelo and each have its own beach. Pomaro is the first bay when you coming from the direction of Rapallo, Trelo is located near the medieval part of the village and here you can find a large public beach.

And then, to get to Prelo, you need to go up the small hill, where the cemetery and the San Michele church are located and right behind it you will find the charming Prelo Bay with its small public and private beaches. I wanna add that this year (2020) on public beaches in San Michele there are no reservations on these public beaches (COVID-19 restrictions).

San Michele Arcangelo church

As I mentioned above, there is a church on the hill between Trelo and Prelo. It was built in the 12th century and then rebuilt several times. The current building was built in the 18th century. From the outside, the church is not very impressive, but when you get inside, you will be really surprised. The interiors of the church are literally wallpapered with paintings! What’s more, not of some local, anonymous artists … only world-famous painters. On the walls, you will find paintings of Luca Giordano, Guido Reni, Guercino and two 14th century plaques with images of the Virgin and Jesus painted by a Flemish painter. All works were donated to the church by Spinola, the rich Ligurian noble family.

However, the biggest attraction of the church here is a painting that was painted by Antoon Van Dyck. It represents the crucifixion of Jesus with the presence of saints Francis, Bernard and Francesco Orero – a local patrician who has ordered and bought it and then donated the painting to the church. It means that the painting was made to order just for this church. It also means that Van Dyck was in San Michele Pagana to make this picture, which is confirmed by the documents according to which he was in Liguria between 1621 and 1624.

Villa Spinola

Going from the church towards Santa Margherita Ligure, you will pass by one of the place symbols of this zone. Here at Villa Spinola, in 1920, after the end of World War I, peace treat between the Kingdom of Italy and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was signed. They were a part of so-called Rapallo Peace Treaties that included also the peace treaty between Germany and Russia signed after World War I in Rapallo. Currently, the villa is privately owned but can be seen from the road through the fence.

In my opinion, San Michele di Pagana is a wonderful surprising place between Rapallo and Santa Margherita Ligure. It is worth to stop here and visit the incredible church of San Michele, maybe get some sun on one of its beaches and then see the place where the end of World War I was signed. A great tip to visit in Liguria!


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