Posts Tagged ‘Liguria’

Golden Day Eighty-Nine: Louise Wright’s Camogli

LuluOne of my dearest friends is the wonderful Louise Wright, a card carrying Italophile, who received a degree in Italian Culture and Language from the Universita’ per Stranieri in Siena in 2003. For many years, whenever we are not traveling, we have a Friday afternoon tradition of calling each other up and talking and reading to each other in Italian.

Louise has been traveling to Italy for decades–visiting friends, discovering new places, and always seeking beautiful experiences that immerse her into authentic Italian life. One of her favorite spots is Camogli, a small seaside village on the Ligurian coast. I’m thrilled she’s joining in to share her advice for a Golden Day there… 

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I was first introduced to Camogli about 20 years ago while staying with my lovely Ligurian friend Patrizia and her family, who live a half-hour train ride south. The name, Camogli, comes from “le case delle moglie” (Houses of the Wives), as the town originated as a fishing village. It grew to be a maritime power: The City of a Thousand White Ships.  Today the soul of its origins remains–you still see men coming out of the doorways at dusk and heading away from the tiny harbor in a small lighted procession of fishing boats. The town is a delight, with tall painted buildings and much natural beauty surrounding it.

It’s easily accessible by train, and a relaxing base for day trips to Genova, Portofino, Santa Margherita, and Chiavari.  It’s bordered by Monte Portofino, a great place to hike.

Or you can take a boat to the medieval Abbazia di San Fruttuoso.

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My Golden Day begins with foccacia from Revello Focacceria (Via Giuseppe Garibaldi 197/A), followed by a swim in the bay.

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Then I’d take a short bus ride from Via Repubblica up to San Rocco (you may have to change at Ruta or make the pleasant, flat, walk from Ruta to San Rocco) and a half-hour hike down the trail to Punta Chiappa. (Bus schedules are posted at the bus stops).

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There your reward is  lunch at Trattoria del Mulino Da Drin, (Punta Chiappa-Camogli, 0185 770530, reservations a must, closed Tues in winter).

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Da Drin has a glorious view, with a terrace overlooking the Golfo di Paradiso, fabulous seafood (spaghetti with anchovies) and my favorite, Pesto al Mandilli=a light-as-air “handkerchief” of  hand-made pasta.

After lunch, a boat ride back to Camogli is fun and it’s very dramatic to return by sea.

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Click here for the boat schedules or they are listed at the Camogli port. They even have trips to the Cinque Terre and Portovenere during July and August, although I don’t think I’d pick those busy months to visit Camogli. You can take the boat both ways from Camogli to Punta Chiappa, or if you’re feeling robust, you may hike round trip–there is a trail from Camogli to San Rocco and then on to Punta Chiappa. 

Back in Camogli, the Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta is worth a look.

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It was built around 1200, and is quite beautiful inside. If you’re there on a weekend, you are sure to see a wedding–with elegant brides and grooms posing for photos.

Early evening, join the locals for the passeggiata along the seaside promenade, Via Garibaldi, with it’s exquisite sea and mountain views, and great people-watching. You may enjoy a gelato stop at Gelato e Dintorni (Via Garibaldi 104).

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Or or an apertivo at the elegant Bar Primula, (Via Garibaldi 140, Tel: 0185 770 351).

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Or head to the harbor for a cocktail at Bistingo Sea Bar (Piazza Colombo12, 0185 772 531 Closed Mon).

For a delicious dinner, I’d choose either Caffe del Teatro, (Piazza Matteotti 3, Reserve: 0185 772572, closed Thursdays)–a casual, budget-friendly place with indoor and outdoor tables that serves good pizza and salads…

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Or Ristorante Camogliese (Via Garibaldi 78, Must reserve: 0185771086, Closed Wed, except July and August).

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It faces the sea, with fabulous views. The best menu offerings are the local fish specialties and Pesto Trenette=pasta, potatoes, green beans and pesto.

Two hotels I’d recommend are, Hotel La Camogliese (Via Garibaldi 55, 0185771402)…

CAMOGLI-HOTELA simple old-school Italian place, right on the beach, with a lovely helpful management and delicious breakfast included in the price.

Or for something a bit more pricey, there’s the Hotel Casmona, (Salita Pineto 13, 0185 770015), that’s very nice as well.

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*A couple of other tips:
The Tourist Office  (Via XX Settembre 29), is  down the road to your right upon exiting the train station. They have trail maps for Monte di Portofino as well as Camogli.
On arrival at the Camogli train station, the steep steps to Via Garibaldi are a bit daunting, especially with luggage. If you are staying at La Camogliese,  follow the road left, (Via Cuneo),  winding down towards Via Garibaldi–it’s much easier to roll that luggage downhill on the road, rather than take the steps.

Grazie mille for the inspiration Luisa!

Golden Day Eighty-Eight: Matteo Scandolera’s San Remo

SANREMO-ANDREABOCELLIThe first image that comes to mind when I hear San Remo, is the annual Music Festival, that’s been going on in this elegant seaside town since 1951.
This grand event has launched the careers of many of my favorite Italian singers, including Andrea Bocelli who won the Newcomer’s Award there in 1994, with Il Mare Calmo della Sera. It’s always a kick to watch the videos that include international stars–such as this one from 2012 of Patti Smith singing “Because the Night”.

matteo3Matteo Scandolera was born and grew up in San Remo. He’s now the Director of LiguriaHomes, a top-notch real estate company that offers rentals and sales of beautiful properties all along the Italian Riviera.

I’m thrilled to have Matteo join in to give his insider’s advice for a Golden Day in his homeland:

There are many beautiful places in San Remo, the capital town of the Italian Riviera of the Flowers.

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Not to be missed is the old town, called La Pigna, where you’ll wander through steep streets, covered archways, amidst little squares and ancient churches–a glimpse of Medieval times.

casinoIn the newer part of town, you’ll see how this fishermen’s village was turned into an elegant seaside resort, during the Belle Epoque period. Towards the latter part of it–1905–the town’s famous Casino was built.

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Also, there is this very unusual Russian Church. In 1874 tsarina Maria Alexandrovna spent a winter in San Remo and raved about it so much back home, that the town became crowded with Russian visitors. This Orthodox church was completed in 1913 and is similar to the Church of of San Basilio in Moscow.

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There is an amazing 24km path along the sea (the old railway road), that runs from San Remo to San Lorenzo del Mare. It’s perfect for walking or biking–you can rent your bike at Nolo Bici.

Or during summer, you can go whale watching to observe dolphins and whales in their natural environment, and enjoy the fabulous view of the coastline seen from the sea

You can eat and drink very well in San Remo.

The best cafè in town is Cafè Ducale on the glamorous Corso Matteotti (#145), the main via of San Remo.

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Try the focaccia and typical West Ligurian pizza, called Sardenaira (with tomatoes, anchovies, onions or garlic and black olives), at Focacceria Maggiorino (Via Roma #183).

And believe me: The best gelato EVER is in a tiny shop, Gelateria Vecchia Matuzia (Corso Matuzia #97).

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As far as where to go for lunch and dinner, skip the tourist traps on the Old Port=Porto Vecchio. Try the Mini Bar da Antonio, (across from the beach, Corso Trento 17). It’s more of a kiosk than a restaurant, where the pasta with fish is incredible and the prices are budget friendly.

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For the best pizza, go to Spaccanapoli (Via Bixio 31).

SANREMOBYBLOSRISTORANTEFor more formal, 5-star dining, head to the nearby town of Ospedaletti and reserve a table at Byblos (Lungomare C. Colombo 6, 0184 689002).

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Or Acquerello (Corso Regina Margherita 25, 0184 68 2048, Closed Monday and Tuesday).

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The best place to stay is the Hotel Nazionale on Corso Matteotti, with amazing views over the sea and the Casino.

Grazie mille Matteo!

Golden Day Eighty-Seven: Pleasures of Rapallo

RAPALLO-PANORAMAWe’re moving on to the lovely seaside town of Rapallo, between Portofino and Chiavari, tucked into the Tigullio Gulf. I remember my first visit there, struck by the elegance of the promenade, imagining the writers, D.H. Lawrence, Ezra Pound, and Hemingway–who spent inspirational time here…

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The art of lacemaking has been going on in Rapallo since the Middle Ages, when women who mended their husband’s fishing nets began to turn their skills into an art form that produced beautiful things. I still have a sachet I bought at the charming Emilio Gandolfi shop (Piazza Cavour 1), that’s been run by the same family since 1920, and exports their products all over the world.

Danis Konstantilakis, from Greece, who has fallen in love with Liguria and created the Cinque Terre Villages website, has joined in to share her favorite places for a Golden Day in this little piece of Ligurian paradise:


Castello sul Mare

One sight you can’t miss, dominating the harbor, is the Castello sul Mare (Castle-on-the-Sea). It was built in 1551 as a protection against pirate attacks and now is open sporadically for visiting exhibitions.

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Rapallo’s seaside promenade, Lungomare Vittorio Veneto, is the centerpiece of  town, lined with palm trees, art nouveau style buildings, restaurants, and caffes.

rapallo-chioscoThe Chiosco on the Lungomare is an old fashioned band stand, where you can often hear live music. And be sure to stop at Frigidarium (Lungomare Vittorio Veneto 4), for the best gelato in town. It’s a small shop owned by Chicco (Francesco) Barbetta and his wife Anna, where the freshest ingredients are used to make delicious treats.

Rapallo-Villa-TigullioAnother pretty place is the Villa Tugullio, surrounded by a landscaped park, where indoor and outdoor concerts are held. Inside is a Lace Museum and International Library.

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In the summer months, you can catch a Tigullio Ferry from the harbor and enjoy beautiful coastline views, maybe even stopping in Santa Margherita Ligure or Portofino. Click here for schedules.

Rapallo-sanctuary-Montallegro-stairs-churchOr you may want to walk or take a funivia=cable car from Piazza Solari (8 minute ride, runs about every 1/2 hour) up to the top of Montallegro Sanctuary, where the Blessed Virgin Mary was believed to have appeared to a peasant.

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For lunch, dinner, or afternoon snack, enjoy Rapallo’s best seafood at Trattoria da Mario (Piazza Garibaldi 23, 0185 51737, Closed Wed, dinner reservations a must).

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A reasonably priced, elegant and comfortable hotel, steps from the promenade, is Hotel Riviera. It was built in 1905, aand it’s where Ernest Hemingway wrote a short story called “The Cat in the Rain.”, about an American couple on vacation in Rapallo.

Or if you want something more luxurious, with modern rooms, a garden, spa, and fitness center, check into the 4-star Europa Hotel, right in the center of town.

Grazie Danis!

Golden Day Eighty-Six: Fezzano…Lunch on the Gulf of the Poets

ART-VENUSSimonetta Cattaneo Vespucci was my inspiration to visit the Gulf of the Poets. This Renaissance Beauty, the Marilyn Monroe of Florence, was believed to be the model for Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and many of his other paintings.

Simonetta arrived in Florence at the age of 16, the bride of Marco Vespucci, who was a cousin of Amerigo, the explorer.  Her fans called her La Bella Simonetta, and said she was from Portovenere, where the Romans believed Venus arose from the sea.

Actually, Simonetta’s family was from Fezzano, a Ligurian village north of Portovenere, bordering the Gulf of The Poets. I took the bus (20 minutes) from Portovenere to seek out the Cattaneo Villa in Fezzano, which I had read was built in 1400, and was in the process of restoration.

The first distraction, opposite the Fezzano bus stop, is this gorgeous cemetery.


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The village was quiet that April day, just a few fishing boats in the cove…

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At the caffe, leather-tanned fisherman were drinking campari-prosecco pick-me-ups out of small champagne glasses. When I asked about the Cattaneo villa, I just got blank looks.

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I explored the upper part of town, found the St. John the Baptist church, alleys…scaffolding…nobody about except some elderly signoras walking their dogs…no signs of the Cattaneo villa…2012-04-25 12.12.29 2012-04-25 12.17.04

Back at the marina, the menu from Ristorante Mistral (Via Gallotti 40, 018 715 09533) caught my eye.

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I peeked in to find Chef Giovanna and waitress Stella, a charming, welcoming duo.

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They set up a table for me facing the beautiful view, under an umbrella pine. I asked for pesce, and this most beautiful lunch arrived…

2012-04-25 13.36.17Followed by Walnut Torte…

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Naturally, chatting with Giovanna and Stella, I asked about the Cattaneo place…again the blank looks came at me. Allora, the mystery remains… I’ll be back…Striking out on the first try simply leads to its allure. And in the meantime, Grazie to Simonetta for a delicious Golden Day.

Golden Day Eighty-Five: Centro Storico Genoa with Beautiful Liguria

GENOA-BESTANNAMERULLAPHOTOOne of my 2012 highlights was meeting Anna Merulla in the centro storico of Genoa on a spring Sunday. I’d found Anna through her Beautiful Liguria blog, where she gives us an insider’s view of the region and expresses her passion for the food, history, and culture with gorgeous photos and recipes–including one for risotto and porcini, that is calling out to me this cold winter day. Beautiful Liguria is also Anna’s  travel concierge company that offers everything from tour planning, hiking excursions, weddings services, cooking lessons, and personal shopping in this region.  

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It was a Golden Day for me to meet Bella Anna in person on the steps of Genoa’s San Lorenzo Cathedral–she’s absolutely charming, overflows with enthusiasm for her beloved home, and was the perfect guide to take me through the labyrinth of Genoa’s Centro Storico

GENOA-CARUGGIThis unique area, squeezed between the port and Renaissance palaces, is said to be the largest Medieval city center in Europe. It was created by rich merchant seamen of Genoa’s 13th and 14th centuries heydays, when each family staked out separate territories, building their own churches, palaces, and squares—cramming in additions as they grew more prosperous. Dog-legged alleys (called caruggi), that were once the scene of chases and back stabbings between feuding families, are now enchanting to poke around and discover centuries old artisan shops, bakeries, boutiques, and cozy restaurants.

I’m so grateful Anna’s joined in to give us her advice for a Golden Day in Genoa’s Centro Storico…
GENOA-PIETROSWEETSHOPStarting off in Via Soziglia you’ll certainly notice Pietro Romanengo fu Stefano. Its  windows display candied fruit, chocolate, bonbons, preserves, and desserts. The products are made with the same recipes used centuries ago by the “confiseur-chocolatier”. In fact, the company was founded in the second half of the 18th century. It’s had a great reputation all over Genoa since it opened, and provided the sweets  for Prince Umberto’s wedding with Margherita of Savoy in 1868. Today the store is internationally famous, still preserving its traditions and high quality.
DSCN2290Next door, in Piazza Soziglia, there’s Fratelli Klainguti, a bar/pasticceria shop dating to 1826, where the composer Giuseppe Verdi loved to spend his time tasting the pastries. Here they serve not only caffè under crystal chandeliers, but also a wide variety of cakes, pastries,  and homemade gelato.

GENOA-DROGHERIANext, on Via San Bernardo, you’ll find the old shop Drogheria Torielli (Via di San Bernardo, 32). The store is a kingdom of scents and flavors–from spices, herbs, homemade chocolate, tea, rice, imported curries, essences and body care products that come from all over the world. I love  stepping into this place with its white wooden shelves, on which are arranged all the products with hand written labels in a beautiful calligraphy. The owners are two brothers, the fratelli Torielli, who have served their clients for fifty years.

  GENOA-POLLERIAWalking north on Via Macelli di Soziglia, you’ll find typical butcher shops, fish shops and greengrocers. When you get to Vico del Fieno, you’ll see the chicken shop Polleria Anne e Sergio. Entering the store is like stepping  into the past. The shop is exactly as it was on the day they opened in 1910, with marble counters where the chickens are cut by the owners any way a customer wishes. The quality of the food is high and the products are fresh from the farmer.

GENOABOTTEGASTOCCAFISSOYou can find stockfish at the famous Bottega dello Stoccafisso in Via Macelli di Soziglia. It arrives in Genoa from Norway and is soaked for eight days in the large marble sinks of the store. After this stage the fish is ready and it can be prepared as you like. Genoese  love Stoccafisso (Stockfish) and Baccalà (Dried salted cod) and they use them as basic ingredients in many Ligurian recipes, such as Buridda,, a stewed stockfish dish that can be accompanied with a white wine from the Cinque Terre.

GENOA-PANIFICIOAt the Panificio Grissineria Claretta (Via della Posta Vecchia 12r), you can taste one of the best focaccia of Genova. The shop was opened in 1952 by a family of bakers from Turin. Their secret is preparing their products with high quality ingredients. Here you can taste classic focaccia and focaccia with onion (Focaccia con la cipolla) from 7 in the morning to 7 p.m. Traditionally Genoese eat focaccia with cappuccino for breakfast, for lunch, and in the evening with a glass of wine.

GENOA-CHOCOLATEROMEOLook for an old door in Vicolo dei Castagna, with a hand-lettered wooden plate on which is written “Viganotti”, that welcomes you into Antica Bottega Romeo Viganotti, a traditional chocolaterie where recipes from the founders of the early 20th century are still used.  Even the equipment is orginal! I assure you that the scent of sugar and cocoa will capture you as soon as you enter the store. You will feel like in the shop of the film “Chocolat” by Lasse Hallstrom.

GENOA-FRIGGITORIAIf you have visited the Aquarium and are searching for a quick lunch of fresh seafood and farinata, right across Via Sottoripa, you’ll find the perfect place: Friggitoria Carega, a “Stand Up Trattoria”.

GENOA_PRIEROSSEOr for a delicious meal, go to Ristorante e Prie Rosse (Via di Ravecca 54R, telefono 010.2512591, closed Sunday at lunch), that serves meat, salumi, mushrooms, and cheese from all over Italy, along with very good wines. The best thing to do here is to ask the waiter’s advice for the best offerings of the day.

GENOA-B&BA wonderful place to stay is the Unique B&B Genova, located in the hilltop Castelletto area. Rooms are romantically designed, with views of the city and sea below, and the hosts will give you a warm welcome to Genoa.

Grazie Anna, I can’t wait to return to intriguing, delicious Genoa!

Golden Day Eighty-Four: Lerici with Megan McCaffrey-Guerrera

LERICIMegan McCaffrey-Guerrera  is a California native turned Ligurian. Her longtime passion for Italy inspired her to move there, where she married Cinque Terre native Luigi, and created Bella Vita Italia, a company that offers customized itineraries, trip consulting, rentals, and excursions up and down the boot. Clients rave about Bella Vita Italia’s services, that tailor all details to individual desires, and give travelers insiders’ experiences for the memory books.

When Megan has a moment away from her work and new baby Pietro, she blogs about her life in Lerici and her beautiful travels in Italy (including great photos and advice)–I especially enjoyed a recent post: I *Heart* the Valpolicella, where she rhapsodizes about this Veneto wine region and clues us in on a choice place to stay there.
I am so grateful this travel expert has joined in to share some tips for a  Golden Day in her home base of Lerici. This seaside village, on the Gulf of the Poets in southern Liguria, is a real gem…

LERICISCENESo here’s Megan:

A wonderful way to spend a morning in Lerici is to take a walk  along the “lungomare” from the village center to the neighboring village of San Terenzo, with several white sand beaches along the way and gorgeous views over the Gulf of Poets, Portovenere, and the islands of Palmaria and Tino.  It only takes about 25 minutes each way.
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You may want to begin with a caffe in Lerici–either at Il Pontile for the Lungomare location, literally a jetty on the harbor, or Bar Costa (Piazza Garibaldi, next to the ferry boat stand), for my favorite latte macchiato in town! For focaccia, try Rizzoli in San Terenzo or L’Ambrosia in Lerici. And for gelatoRana Galosa in San Terenzo is absolutely the best in the Gulf!  Try “Veramore!”

Back in Lerici, you may also enjoy a walk up to the medieval fortress.  While the inside is nothing special, the panoramic views of the Gulf of Poets are SPECTACULAR.

Another nice walk is from the village center to the charming village of Tellaro (about 30 minutes) through the area known as Fiashcerino with some of the most beautiful, old villas on the Italian Riviera jutting down into the Mediterranean below.  Tellaro itself is a well-intact seaside village with typical colorful “terratetto” homes and a charming old church right on the sea.

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If you are up for hiking, there are a couple of fantastic routes from Lerici up to the area known as Zanego and then down to Tellaro.  Another good one is on the ridge of la Rocchetta to Montemarcello where you have views of both the Gulf of Poets to the west AND the Carrara marble mountains to the east.

Or you can  rent boats in the Lerici harbor for the day at Oltre Mare found at Calata Mazzini (about €180 for the full day).
LERICIFRANTOIOAs far as restaurants, Il Frantoio (Via Cavour 21, 0187 964 174) and Bonta Nascoste (Via Cavour 52, 0187 965 500), both specialize in local Ligurian dishes. At either we recommend the seafood antipasto: 6-8 little tasty dishes ranging from octopus salad to stuffed mussels to swordfish carpaccio, YUM!
On the main piazza, there is La Mano di Fatima (Piazza Garibaldi 27, 0187 969 255), the best in a sea of average trattorias.  They serve a fantastic focaccia di Recco (which we like as an appetizer).
Lerici is a great base to explore southern Liguria and Northwest Tuscany. In an hour or less you can be in such places as Genova, Portofino, Santa Margherita Ligure, Cinque Terre, Portovenere, Parma, Pisa, Lucca, or Via Reggio.

A couple of good places to stay in Lerici are Doria Park – a nice, family-run 3-star hotel that has been recently renovated.  They serve an abundantly delicious breakfast until NOON!

Or check out Piccolo Hotel del Lido, a modern, chic 4-star, right on the water with its own private beach club.  Rooms are small but well equipped with large bathrooms (double size showers!) and each room has there own rooftop terrace.
Albergo Hotel del Lido____

 

Grazie Megan, for bringing me to sunny Lerici on this cold winter day…

 

Golden Day Eighty-Two: Vernazza

Andi Brown’s Once in a Lifetime blog sparkles with her lively passion for Italy. You’ll always find stunning photos there, and she covers the range of Italian experiences from recipes to rock bands, to one of her recent posts, that had me nodding along and smiling: Top 10 Cheap Thrills in Italy

Though Andi’s traveled all over the globe, she has always been drawn back to Italy. She brings her love and decades of experience traveling there to her Consultation Service, where she customizes Italian travel itineraries, designing fabulous trips to fit any budget, giving visitors the chance to experience authentic Italy–from family run businesses, to cooking classes, to wine tastings.

I’m so grateful to have her join in to share her thoughts on a Golden Day in a beloved place in the Cinque Terre: Vernazza…

Vernazza is no longer a backdoor, undiscovered place.  It gets down right crowded during the day in tourist season.  A few years ago I questioned why I was there that first busy day. 
Then evening began to fall, day trippers and hikers disappeared.  Vernazza became my Vernazza again, the one I fell in love with almost twenty years ago.

I love waking up in the town, seeing the harbor, and even walking up to the cemetery at the top of the village.  It’s probably a bit morbid, but there are so many unanswered stories, so much history and so much sameness in our humanity through loss.

Like so many who visit the Cinque Terre, I enjoy hiking. My route is Vernazza to Monterosso–it’s less steep going in that direction,  and the cool of the morning is perfect hiking weather. From Monterosso, I’ll train to Riomaggiore and finish with a leisurely stroll down the Via dell’Amore–that stretch is super easy and paved.
If you go, remember to bring a sharpie to sign the wall or a padlock if traveling with your lover…grafitti is much encouraged here! Mine is by the octopus.

(Yikes! As I wrote this, a huge rock slide injuring hikers has shut down Via dell’Amore–read more about it here.  I know they will work hard to repair, but I don’ t have any idea when it will reopen. …Always check for trail closures before heading out!)

From Riomaggiore, I’ll train back to Vernazza. Right at the Vernazza train station is my favorite caffe, The Blue Marlin (Via Roma 43)–great for espresso or beer.  It’s not what you would expect to find in this little village–it’s got an energetic vibe, always filled with young people.

Or, I might treat myself for gelato at Porto Dody Gelateria Artiginale (also on Via Roma).  It’s a sentimental favorite–the owner died during the last year’s flooding while helping to save his family.

In the evening, I love to take the Vernazza to Monterosso walk again, as the sun is fading, just to the top of town for amazing views.  There is an area with a romantic view and a bench to enjoy it.

Here are a few of my favorite places for dinner:
Trattoria da Sandro (Via Roma, 0187 812223).  This amazing place, just re-opened after being badly damaged in last year’s flooding. Have the octopus salad for a starter, then either the Troffie al Pesto or the ravioli with walnut cream sauce.

Pizzeria Vulnetia.  This is our go-to place for good pizzas. It’s a fun place with friendly service–unless you are a crabby snob, they don’t have patience for that!  Order THE best tegame alla Vernazza (potatos, tomatos and fresh anchovies). Giuliano has been serving us there for years.

For romance, reserve a table at Ristorante al Castello (Via Guidoni 56, 0187 812296), on the edge with cliff side views.  I had an amazing pasta and shell fish dish here.  It’s a strong family restaurant with guarded family recipes.

Stay overnight or you risk missing the beauty, charm and soul of this place.
Okay, it’s not that easy. There are No Real Hotels Here BUT…. Martina Callo rents several rooms. The very top room, #3, (up something like 79 stairs) has its own terrace and a view that makes you reluctant to head back down all those stairs.  Her website is pretty marginal at http://www.roomartina.com

Giuliano Basso had rooms that I loved but they were destroyed in the flooding and I honestly don’t know if they will reopen by next season.  I’m heartbroken, he built the B&B by hand, each stone laid down with such a love and passion.

Finally, I encourage travelers to help bring back Vernazza, as the residents still work to rebuild it from the devastation of last October’s flooding, that buried the town in 13 feet of mud and debris, killing 3 residents.  I have loads of info on my blog about what happened and how you can help. Here are some photos from SaveVernazza that show how far the town has come…

Grazie mille Andi–for lots of inspiration to return to Vernazza!

Golden Day Eighty-One: Portofino with Margie Miklas

There’s a new book on my reading list: Memoirs of a Solo Traveler – My Love Affair with Italy, by Margie Miklas. Margie is an Italian-American writer, photographer, and critical care nurse, based in Florida. Her memoir recounts her dream-come-true-3-month trip to Italy, where she visited 50 towns, from Val d’Aosta to Sicily, and also searched out her grandparent’s village, meeting long lost cousins. Brava Margie!

I also recommend checking out this Italofile’s blog, Margieintaly, which features a mix of up to date Italy info and her beautiful photos, some of which she’s turned into notecards and sells in her Etsy shop.

I’m so grateful she’s joined in to share with us a Golden Day in Portofino…

Portofino is small, a half moon shaped harbor, filled with million dollar yachts, and  just under 500 permanent residents. My favorite activity is to explore this beautiful place on foot and take a walking tour.

But first, stop at  the Bar San Giorgio (at the harbor’s piazetta), it’s the best place in town for a caffe, gelato or prosecco–pricey but worth it for the view and ambience.

From the piazzetta, after checking out all the shops, art galleries and boutiques, head uphill along the harbor and after 15 minutes you’ll arrive at St. George Church. Around the right side are fantastic views of the rocky coastline and the Ligurian Sea.

Ten minutes further uphill is the 14th century Castle Brown, a great place for photos. Click here for Tour Info (Open daily in summer, weekends in winter,  0185-267-101 or 0185-269-046).

For lunch or dinner, one of the most highly rated restaurants is Ristorante Puny, (Piazza Martiri dell’Olivetta 5, 01 8526 9037, Reservations essential, Closed Thurs),  also perfectly situated in la piazzetta. The specialties include fresh sea bass, locally caught. The waiters filet your fish in front of you at your outdoor table, and the owner, Signor Puny comes around to personally check on you. Pappardelle al Portofino (with tomatoes and pesto), is a favorite pasta dish, and the octopus and warm artichoke salad is also delicious.

Or another small outdoor restaurant, on the edge of the yacht harbor, a little away from the main crowds, providing perfect views of the castle and the entire piazzetta area and the town rising into the hills, is Ristorante Magazin O, (34 Calata Marconi, 0185 269 178, Closed Mondays) also featuring fresh sea bass and pastas with seafood. The seafood antipasto is a must. Its small menu takes nothing away from the quality of the food here. The prices are high, like all the restaurants in Portofino.

A pretty place to stay is the boutique Eight Hotel Portofino. It has 18 air-conditioned guest rooms, wi-fi, and it’s a short walk from the harbor. Prices start at 330 euros for a double room and 670 euros for a suite in the off season.

Or, stay at the Albergo Nazionale, the only waterfront hotel in Portofino, and it’s much cheaper than the nearby Splendido Mare.  Prices can be as low as 100 euros a night, with rooms not facing the water. What you give up in room décor you make up for in location.

Even though Portofino is expensive, I was able to buy a few beautiful art prints at the galleries at a reasonable price. They are hanging on my wall and remind me every day of this little slice of Paradise.

Grazie Margie!

Find more info about Margie Miklas and Memoirs of a Solo Traveler–My Love Affair With Italy on her Margieinitaly blog.

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Golden Day Eighty: Portovenere

We’re moving on to the region of Liguria, that enchanting crescent on Italy’s northwestern shore. Last spring, I spent a few dreamy days in Portovenere. The Romans believed that this spot is where the Goddess Venus rose from the sea. In early May, before the summer tourist crowds, it was heavenly.

A lovely way to get there is by ferry from La Spezia, bobbing past fishing villages on the Gulf of the Poets, and then the Portovenere harbor appears...Click here for ferry schedule–the ride is about 45 minutes.

Start your day with a buon capuccino at the Bar Lamia, right at the marina, where you can sit outside with the locals and enjoy the view. For the best focaccia in town, warm from the oven, head up through the stone gate, to Panetteria Nicla (Via G. Capaellini 84).

Then wind your way up to the Church of San Lorenzo, a grand spot built by the Genovese in the 12th century. The morning I arrived, five nuns were sweeping the marble floors, chanting the rosary in Latin, their voices echoing off the stones. Inside, to the right of the altar, check out the Miraculous Madonna Bianca. The story goes that on August 17, 1399, the painting changed colors and the Madonna’s arms moved. If you show up for the August anniversary, you’ll be treated to a torchlit procession to commemorate the miracle.

Grazie to Joyce Falcone, of the Italian Concierge, who gave me a tip for a delicious lunch adventure: Locanda Lorena. The restaurant is on Isola Palmaria, that faces Portovenere. I called them up, and they sent an 8-seater boat for me and a couple of other travelers. In minutes we were across the strait and docking right at the restaurant, where fisherman were unloading nets full of shellfish. Which is why I ordered the spaghetti con frutti di mare…exquisite. Splendid to sit either inside or outside under the pergola and finish with a pear and chocolate tart.

Back in Portovenere, the perfect spot for sunset watching is Byron’s Cove, tucked into the side of the promontory where the Church of Saint Peter was built over Venus’s temple. Settle on to a rock for the awe-inspiring show.

For dinner, a fancy option is Trattoria Tre Torri (Piazza Bastreri 9, 0187 790477, closed Wed), for great seafood and homemade pasta.

Or for folksier, go to the best of the osterias on the main drag of the old town, Osteria del Carugio (Via Capellino 66, 0187 790617, closed Thurs AND closes early for dinner–around 8:30 when I was there). Here you can order Mes-ciua, a typical soup of chickpeas and grains, and be serenaded with folk songs by owner Antonio Clerici.

I loved staying at La Lanterna. a charmng, easy on the budget Guest House, where every room comes with a terrace that overlooks the harbor.

Also, the tourist office in Portovenere, (Pro Loco Porto Venere), set at the entrance to the stone-arch-gate, is fabulously set up to help you with your stay in Portovenere and travels farther north into the Cinque Terre and beyond…

For more Golden Days in Liguria visit Golden Day Eighty One through Golden Day Eighty-Nine.