The Italian Riviera
Our last fond memory in La Spezia was when an immaculately dressed Italian woman with a cute baby on her hip, shopping bags over the other shoulder and a pristinely designer label toddler holding her hand stopped us and asked us in Italian for help as her hands were full with precious goods. Her young ones shoe lace was undone and she had no way of fixing it. True to form Rob like a soldier bent down before the little Italian princess and tied the her tiny shoelace for her in a double knot. A very cute moment for me. The mother was ever so thankful and the little princess took a strange man with a beard as a normal every day event. I think Rob has a way with little ones!
With no car now we made our journey from La Spezia to Rapallo by train. Then we walked about two kilometres along the scenic coastal pathway dragging our bags behind us to our quaint pastel coloured Airbnb seafront terrace apartment. Our host Marcella was confidently shouting Rob’s name and waving at us from a distance, as if we were her long lost friends. Probably because we were lugging our bags and stopping to video our spectacular surrounding. This screamed Tourists!!! Tourists don’t visit this time of year! Our reasoning once again for winter travel. Why not explore amazing places without the crowds and high accommodation prices.
Our terrace apartment back door opens up onto its own private stone beach. All you can hear are the waves calmly lapping back and forward on the shore. A soporific calming lull! All you can see from our bedroom window is a blanket of turquoise ocean, a mountains backdrop, a speckle of sun kissed terraces and a stone castle wall. The surrounding landscape consists of massive jaw dropping manicured landscape gardens filled with palms, old stone walls with vines that cover and creep like veins and stunning iron gates.
We are in the Italian Riviera and there is no doubting that!! A land of natural beauty mixed with sophistication and topping it off with romance!!! This is the place of all places!!!
Canoes stacked high on our beach waiting to be released free back into the romantic sea. This is a place to walk your dog. Many a dog loves rolling and frolicking in the sandy cove beside our back door. On the hillside cliff shadowing our beach sits the world war 1 memorial where brave young innocent young Italians soldiers are to be remembered. Their names are displayed on plaques within the trees. A place of remembrance, respect and tranquility. Above this is a cliff side graveyard which highlights the longevity of the people from this region. A nice place to Rest In Peace.
A dinner date at the local pizzeria restaurant was full of fun as we dined like a local. I think we arrived at 7-30 which is considered very early for Italians. The restaurant filled up at about 8-30 on a Sunday night, which included couples and their dogs! At least three dogs were seated at indoor tables. A dogs dinner!! And they were all very well behaved. We were seated next to the indoor heater, just like the outdoor heater we have on our veranda at home!!! Rob thought this was hilarious, and of course he was the only male in the restaurant wearing short sleeves. Maybe he does have hot Italian blood in him some where! Dinner, so where do we start! The pizza that we shared was bigger than a dinner plate and cost all of 7 euro!!! The couple at the table next to us ordered a pizza each and that was just for starters.
In the background Aussie music played on the local Italian radio station – “who can it be now”, Men At Work – I was feeling quite at home now, and then came Tina turner – “Simply the Best”. We would have been comfortable to have engaged in a karaoke night. Mmmm!!! Rob was belting out tune after tune. I thought he was going to jump up on the table. We shared a gelato and then came grandma’s homemade complementary alcoholic bottle, NOT just a glass of limoncello liquor! Well that knocked my little cotton socks off in one small glass whilst Rob finished the homemade brew three glasses later!!! Marcella our host told us to mention her name and they would give you a discount which they did. A very cheap night out …. and Rob stumbled home!! Watch out for grandma’s home brew as they can be deadly. Marcella knows where to party!! She even gave us a bottle of prossecco on arrival which went down well on our first night. I think that may have been before we went out on our dinner date. Luckily it was only 200 meters down the road.
The three lovely towns along the Italian Riviera that we explored were!!!
Our accommodation was about 1.5 kilometre from the town centre. Rapallo is a small old fashion seaside holiday resort town. Remember what the good old Sunshine Coast used to be like? On our first day we caught a bus back into town. It was a wet and slightly cold day but that didn’t hold us back. We were armed with our tiny flimsy travel umbrellas and warm coats but my hands still felt the cold. Due to the cold weather here most hotels, cafes and restaurants closed their doors for the winter period. Grand elegant old hotels stand dormant or under refurbishment. Closed until March. It would cost too much to keep them open in the winter months and because they are old and take on heavy summer tourism we imagine they need to constantly fix the wear and tear.
We found a great local place to eat where we tried a piece of very thin pizza bread that was filled with soft runny cheese and a piece of crostata di mora which was like a prune tart!!! Both were delicious!!!
With full bellies we set off to see the sites which included the castle of Rapallo which sits on the water’s edge.
We had heard from the locals how pretty Portofino was so we were eager to explore.
This is where in summer you will find all the super yachts moored in the bay. The old song, I found my heart in Portofino tells you that this is a romantic place for lovers. Situated in a small seafront cove surrounded by green steep cliff gardens and ocean is romantic Portofino. Cute and cozy terracotta terraces link the seafront.
Bright pink tiny jellyfish float along the sea front boardwalk as the tiny painted fishing boats bob up and down.
Eating in Portofino also comes with a pricey price tag and it also shows off some expensive shops. Our favourite thing here was a walk up a steep scary; hold your breath staircase to Browns Castle. Once we made it up the cliffside stone narrow steps we followed a pathway along the cliff that gave us spectacular views down to Portofino.
There were many cliffside mansion estates which had beautiful lush gardens enclosed by ivory stone walls.
On the way back down we passed the sculpture park which lay in the cliff side. A life size rhino looked real as it hung in the air in a harness over the cliff.
Rob also enjoyed sampling a biscuit like pancake filled with sweet cheese and citrus. Doesn’t sound nice but it was heavenly!!! A special Italian treat. The Italians sure know how to make great delicious treats.
Santa Margherita Ligure
On the coastline in between Rapallo and Portofino you will find Santa Margherita Ligure. You can walk the 7 kilometre stretch of coastline between the three coastal town. Santa Margherita has a beautiful promenade with a statue of Christopher Columbus, overlooking fishing boats and yacht in the clear lake like harbour.
We meandered through the well kept town and explored two lavishly decadent Catholic Churches, a park with beautiful views and the Castello. We walked the 2 kilometres coastal path home past Elegant Italian Hotels and sculptured gardens.
How the names of these romantic Italian Rivera towns roll off your tongue. We really enjoyed our time here and we can only imagine how different the quaint pebbled coves look lined with summer umbrellas and deck chairs. A place that changes dramatically with the seasons. Not like at home we only get hot and very, very hot or downpours and flooding!