Relais del Maro

Borgomaro, Liguria, Italy Book from

Reviewed by Abi Dare
A friendly guesthouse in inland Liguria; 20 minutes' drive from the Italian Riviera, yet worlds away in terms of peace and price
Whilst you've probably heard of Portofino and Santa Margherita (coastal playgrounds to the glitterati), you might not be so familiar with Liguria's hinterland. So let us fill you in. A peaceful, mountainous area layered with larch forests, olive groves, vertiginous footpaths and old stone houses, it's a far cry from the bright lights of the Italian Riviera, yet it's an easy drive from beaches for relaxed day trips.

Borgomaro is the main village in the area's Maro valley - population 884 at the last count. Pastel houses line the river, there's a lovely 17th-century church, and children play barefoot in the square; it's an enchanting slice of rural Italy. Relais del Maro has a plum position in the centre of everything, and is run with big smiles by owner Elena and her mother. An albergo diffuso, it's spread over 3 ancient buildings which were once home to their ancestors and premises for a butcher, barber and baker. Now beautifully restored, they house 14 immaculate bedrooms, a breakfast room and a library-lounge. There's also a flower-filled garden overlooking the village, with a tranquil pool and a bubbling Jacuzzi. If your idea of luxury includes lazy siestas, relaxed walks and time to read, this place will top your wishlist.


  • The experience of staying in an authentic Ligurian village; you feel part of local life
  • Elegant guest rooms with beamed ceilings and very comfy beds
  • Excellent breakfasts of local produce (complete with Prosecco for that holiday feeling!), plus delicious light lunches and homemade afternoon cakes
  • Lots of options for easy day trips (hilltop towns, sweeping beaches, Dominican convents), as well as beautiful walking trails
  • A commendable commitment to slow living and the environment - the albergo was restored sensitively, with the aim of keeping Borgomaro alive


  • Guests staying in Casa del Borgo and Casa del Fienile have to walk to the main house for breakfast and to use the pool (5-10 minutes respectively)
  • The church bell - though you'll soon get used to to it
  • Some rooms are smaller and darker than others due to restrictions imposed by the old buildings
  • WiFi can be patchy, although they have installed a faster line

Best time to go

Spring and autumn are glorious, with rich colours and soft light. The coast is heaving with Italian tourists in July and August, but if you're happy to potter locally then you'll escape the worst of the crowds. Borgomaro has a paella festival in May (usually the third weekend) and a mussels and Porchetta festival on the second weekend of July. During both, the whole village is set up with tables, and there's live music and dancing.

Our top tips

The spectacular Alpine path under Mount Toraggio is Europe's most rewarding nature trail. You'll hike past straight, Dolomite-like rock faces, along strenuous switchbacks and through beautiful larch forests. Allow at least 6 hours, pack water, sun cream and binoculars, and consider taking a guide.

Great for...

Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique B&B
  • 14
  • Breakfast (+ light lunches on request)
  • All ages welcome
  • Closed: 1 Nov 2016 - 6 Apr 2017
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service
Room: Room 16


The rooms are spread between 3 restored buildings. The décor in each house is slightly different, but all mix antique furniture and pretty floral fabrics. Mattresses are excellent, and the ensuites come with powerful showers (a couple have tubs, too).

The 6 rooms in Casa Madre (the main house) feature green walls and pops of cherry red in the cushions, lampshades and curtains. We stayed here in one of the studio-style rooms, which have little kitchenettes (fridge, hob, cutlery, pans) hidden in cupboards. We loved the view of the church, and waking to the sound of the river gushing beneath our window after a wonderful night’s sleep. Casa Madre also houses the only Suite, which has a Jacuzzi tub in its bathroom.

The rooms in Casa del Borgo are more rustic in style, with muted blues and creams beneath original beams. Our favourites here are Standard Room 11, which has a romantic canopy bed and a built-in closet where Grandpa Pepin hid from search parties during the war, and Standard Room 12 with its freestanding antique bath.

Those wanting maximum privacy should book into Casa del Fienile, an old barn on the edge of town where you'll find 2 Small Doubles. They’re darker and more cramped than the other rooms but make cosy hideaways; Room 21 has a vaulted ceiling and a wardrobe which was part of Grandma Evelina's dowry.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Satellite tv
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet


Breakfast is a highlight, served on the ground floor of Casa Madre or under the sun on the terrace. All food is sourced locally: biscotti and pastries from the nearby baker, traditional Robiola di Roccaverano and Testun Piemontese cheeses, homemade jams and tarts, fresh fruit and juices. There are bottles of chilled Prosecco, too, should you wish to start your day in style.

Complimentary afternoon cake is laid out around 5pm, along with coffee and all manner of teas. You can also order light lunches such as pasta, charcuterie plates and cheese boards, accompanied by excellent local wine.

In the evening, you’ll need to eat out. We strolled up the road to Censin Da Bea, a rustic trattoria set in an old watermill. There’s no menu; instead, dish after dish emerges from the kitchen and you help yourself to whatever takes your fancy. We gorged ourselves on local salami, focaccia (a Ligurian speciality), salad, slow-cooked bean stews, just-caught eels and tiramisu, before waddling back to our room full but happy. Should you want something simpler, there’s a pizzeria just a few doors along from Casa Madre.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Children meals
  • Complimentary afternoon tea
  • Lunch by arrangement
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Organic produce
  • Restaurants nearby


  • Wander around atmospheric Borgomaro, with its 17th-century church, narrow alleys and crumbling houses
  • Walk coastal and mountain paths, keeping your eyes peeled for marmots and chamois in the forests, and whales and dolphins out at sea
  • Or hike in the Mercantour National Park with its Alpine lakes and wild mountain goats. The magnificent waterfalls of Arroscia are also worth the walk
  • Beaches are a few km away. Spiaggia d’Oro, Bagni Manè and Bagni Oneglio are the best - sandy and popular with families. Laigueglia is backed by shops and restaurants; Balzi Rossi on the French border is emptier and fringed by beautiful red rocks
  • Drive to Apricale, an ancient village that clings precariously to a mountainside, and Taggia, which has a famous bridge and a Dominican convent filled with valuable art
  • Visit the town of Cervo, balanced on a hilltop high above the coast. Its steep, winding lanes lead up to a castle with sweeping views, and there are cafés with panoramic terraces
  • Bring bikes and cycle the lovely coastal trail from San Lorenzo to San Remo and on to Ospedaletti, which winds 24km along a disused railway
  • Head to Sant'Ampelio, whose sunset is said to be one of the best in the world

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Cycling
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Mountain biking
  • Sailing
  • Scuba diving
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Well being
  • Whalewatching
  • Wildlife
  • Wine tasting


Children are warmly welcomed. Babysitting can be arranged, and there are plenty of safe, family-friendly beaches nearby.

Family friendly accommodation:

All rooms except Room 22, a Small Double, can fit a baby cot. Some Standard Rooms and the Suite have double sofabeds (often on a separate level) and can sleep up to 4 plus a baby; others have space for a rollaway bed.


Available on request

Children's meals:

There are plenty of child-pleasing options at breakfast, and lunches can be adapted on request. The kitchenettes in the studio-style rooms are handy for preparing snacks


  • Airport: 1 hour
Kid Friendly:

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