Simonetta 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.
The village was quiet that April day, just a few fishing boats in the cove…
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.
Back at the marina, the menu from Ristorante Mistral (Via Gallotti 40, 018 715 09533) caught my eye.
I peeked in to find Chef Giovanna and waitress Stella, a charming, welcoming duo.
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…
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.