It was touch and go whether we would actually make it to the Italian Riviera, the weather reports were not good, Italy is not as dog friendly as France, so Crusoe would not be able to accompany us, plus he was suffering from a leg injury due to over exuberance incited by tortoises and of course there was the earthquake, in the end Belle Mere announced she would be delighted to look after her favourite dog, so we could go for three nights. I was over the moon, I am an Italiafile and am quite happy to support Italy by spending my money there which due to the earthquakes and the current economic situation will now be needed more than ever.
As the weather was not great we took the auto route, I don't think there is anything more exciting than crossing a border and the drive between the French and Italian Riviera is stunning even on a cloud covered, damp motorway. As you can see from the above photograph, the foothills of the Alps literally come down and meet all the small towns and villages on the Ligurian coast, on the day we went the clouds and dark skies were clinging to the hills, but the sun was there in the east, trying it's best to come out, it was really rather beautiful, the Italian side seems more verdant than the French side. MG and I were intrigued by the vast and abundant greenhouses littered on the terraced foothills, we wondered what they grew. Tomatoes? Olives? What? Well the name of the highway gives it away, "Route de Fiori" Route of flowers, what a lovely name for a motorway and those flowers are exported all over the world. On the return drive, off the motorway taking the slow coastal road, the colour and size of the flowers were amazing, Bougainvillea and Geraniums, the vibrancy of which I have never witnessed before. Beautiful.
We drove straight to Genoa our base for three days, the next day we headed off for adventure concentrating on the area east of Genoa, heading to Nervi, Comoglia, Portofino and the Cinque Terre. I had read about this amazing walk in Nervi known as 'Passeggiata Anita Garibaldi' I was not disappointed even though it was another overcast day the sun once again was trying it's hardest to come out, it was beautiful. This is where the locals come to promenade, jog, excercise their dogs, walk off those long, large Italian Sunday lunches or just to meet up for a chat. It's a two kilometre walk, with plenty of viewing points, benches, cafes and restaurants along the way. The time to really experience it is on a clear day at sunset.
When I was a child I read a series of books, it was Enid Blyton's Malory Towers, the books were set in an all girls boarding school in Cornwall, she wrote about a swimming pool, on the Cornish rocks, filled naturally by seawater, when I saw this pool on the Passeggiata Anita Garibaldi, I could not believe it, this was the pool I had imagined as a child from those books.
Steps leading down to the sea, now closed to the public!
Slightly blurry shots from the car whilst whizzing to our lunch destination, Portofino
When I owned a flat in England it was written into the deeds that it was not permitted to hang clean laundry from the building or near the windows or anywhere where it would be visible to passers by. It was also a grade II listed building which meant I could not have a tumble dryer as no extractors/vents were allowed on the buildings façade, so I had to make do with the clothes horse balanced onto the bath edges or dangle assorted things over the radiators, which made things crunchy not to mention adding to the humidity levels inside my flat. Thankfully the Italians do not suffer from Anglo Saxon sensitivities, clean laundry dangling from buildings is part of the landscape, the above picture was taken in Portofino, surely one of the most chi chi resorts on the Mediterranean and if it does not bother them it certainly does not bother me!
We never made it as far as the Cinque Terre (Next Time), the atmosphere of Portofino got us, we wandered round and then chose a restaurant for lunch, we sat there all afternoon having eaten a wonderful lunch and sank two bottles of iced Pinot Noir.
Not sure what the pink Mere Cats were about but I loved them anyway
Back at base in the Genoan hotel, a beautiful, classic, five star Italian Hotel, with the friendliest and most helpful staff, we got the most amazing deal. I got somewhat carried away by the bar area, especially the coffee machine, it's not surprising Italian coffee tastes so good when it comes out of machines designed like this...
The Bar in our Hotel
Genoa, city of contrasts, not as popular or as touristy as perhaps Florence, Rome and Venice it's historical Bete Noire. Genoa is a city of great charm and a little grittiness a feature of all great port towns, think Marseilles. Narrow streets in the oldest part then broad streets from it's magnificent Genoese heyday, housing great Palazzos, Cathedrals, Churches, cloistered shopping areas with all the usual suspects; Gucci, Prada etc. and astonishing buildings which today house art galleries and museums. (Mostly closed on Sundays and Mondays!). Loved it and can't wait to go back for longer.
Three handsome gentlemen were having a sneaky cigarette by this window, I clocked them, and waved, they waved back, smiling and laughing, then I pointed my camera at them and two of them ran away!
Finally the drive back, on the coast road to France, stopped off in San Remo for lunch, the final Italian Pizza before re-entering France! It certainly lived up to it's expectations. San Remo was lovely, better than I expected, a bit like Cannes but somehow more authentic, fabulous shops! And a great atmosphere.
The restaurant we had lunch in, was trendy but nice trendy...if you know what I mean, they serve lunch until 3pm.
Oh Italy, I love you so much, planning and plotting ways to get back as soon as possible.