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Paris to Rome – Day 3

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This is a retrospective account in diary form of a trip I took in 2013, based on memory and my notes from the time. Continued from Paris to Rome – Day 2.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

The thing about staying at this place is that there’s no ‘continental breakfast’ to greet you in the morning, like in most European hotels. It’s all down to me to prepare it myself, and of course, I hadn’t done any shopping the night before. The only food I had in the room was a large bottle of water and some biscuits I’d bought in Milan. After having a shower, I left the house hoping to find some café for my new espresso and brioche ritual. 🙂 The thing is, I wanted to find somewhere interesting, not just some dodgy little place on the marina with no character. While I was searching, I saw a sign for the ferry to Portofino. I decided to check it out and found that the boat was leaving in less than half an hour.

I immediately bought a ticket, still having not eaten anything since my ice cream the night before. Deciding it was a bad idea to go onto the boat on an empty stomach, I bought a large cream donut and a café ‘latte’ (it always feels ridiculous saying that in English…) from a kiosk beside the pier. Munching my donut and sipping the coffee, I headed onto the boat. It was still cloudy and I wondered if it was going to rain.

Before Portofino, the ferry stopped at the coastal hamlet of San Fruttuoso. This tiny place has a monastery (Benedictine, apparently), visible as we pulled in, and a tiny restaurant up on the hill. We had a twenty minute stop and I took the opportunity to take a brief walk along the hill.

Hardly had the ferry pulled out of San Fruttuoso when the skies seemed to open like paper being torn. But not with rain. The sun shone out from through the clouds and lit up the sky. I had decided to risk the rain and sit out on the top deck of the ferry. Oh my what a good choice that now was! The sun rose higher and it became very hot, but not intolerable for me (yet!). It’s a pity the seats weren’t so comfortable (orange plastic) but I managed to lean back and just take in the stunning view as we passed large cliffs covered with lush greenery. They almost seemed hypnotic in the sunshine.

This is the Mediterranean sun, even though we’re almost at the northern tip of the wide sea. There was a kind of brilliance about the sunshine, even though for all I know it might be just me exaggerating. I’m from Scotland, after all. 🙂

Gradually, Portofino and its famous row of multi-coloured houses grew closer. We pulled into the harbour and started to disembark. How wonderful it was to be here again! After stopping for a moment or two to take in the sight, I headed inland and strolled up the main street into the middle of ‘town’ (it’s really a small village). Here, there are lots of souvenir shops and restaurants, as well as several small galleries where they sell local artwork.

I bought a lemon ice cream and walked back out towards the water. There is this wonderful little spot at the very edge of the village, where a set of fishing boats are moored. There is a bench further along, but a couple were already there. I leaned against the warm rock and let the sun wash over me. Oh, the relaxation, the warmth, the absolute calm and yet so lively peace of the moment. A few people were lying on bathing towels on the pebbles whilst some children were diving and splashing into the water whilst their grandparents (I assume!) looked on.

There was this rather picturesque little fishing boat that I took a photo of last time–it was still there, looking almost exactly the same. I wonder how much fishing actually gets done here anymore these days, or whether it’s all been given over to tourism. It would be nice to think that the soul of the place hasn’t gone entirely.

I went for a walk up the hill from where you can get some great views of the port from above. There were some beautiful gardens and planting here, and many private houses. Living here would be amazing. I should definitely try Airbnb in Portofino sometime.

Heading back into town, I sat down to have lunch at a small restaurant just off the main street. I picked a nice spot outside where I could feel the warmth from the sun on my back and settled down to inspect the menu. I’m not normally a big fan of pizza, but I decided that since I was in Italy and in Portofino, I really ought to make an effort and try something different. I ordered a pizza ‘alla diavola’, which is made of mozzarella, and a very spicy tomato sauce and salami slices. It was actually really good. I also ordered my traditional te’ al limone and rounded it all off with a chocolate ice cream.

At the table behind me, a group of elderly Italian women were chatting about places they’d lived. One of them mentioned that she thought Rome could actually be quite nice. One of the others immediately replied. “Ah, si, ma si deve covvivere coi romani…” (Ah yes, but you need to get along/live with the Romans…) I found that so amusing. It’s always fun to hear Italians making fun of each other’s towns, cities and regions, sometimes in jest and other times in all seriousness. For the life of me, I couldn’t tell which it was this time…

I can’t wait to tell this story to Italian friends. 🙂

Although I’d already bought a Portofino model souvenir last time, I wanted to get a fridge magnet this time. Yes, I know I’ve been buying all these fridge magnets, but I hardly have any at home and I’ve decided I want to spruce up the kitchen a bit. I also went down into an art gallery from where I’d bought a small print last time. It was almost empty (why do I pick these places?!) and I had a nice wander around the stunning oil paintings and picturing them in my living room. Many of them cost over €1000 and would probably cost a small fortune to ship back as well!

The boat was due back at around 5pm, so I got back to the docks to make sure I embarked on time. As much as I enjoyed it here, I wouldn’t want to be forking out for a Portofino hotel room…

I was a bit knackered when we arrived back in Genoa, so I went to the apartment and had a bit of a freshening up and a short rest. I didn’t hang around too long though–time away is precious! Besides, I’d hardly explored Genoa since arriving. It was fortunate that I lived (seriously did I just write that?!) near the centre, and it wasn’t too long before I found the cathedral building–the Cattedrale di San Lorenzo. I then wandered into a nearby shop selling a wide range of branded items, and after my usual dithering, ended up buying a black leather Vespa-branded shoulder bag for about €30. I sat down on the steps of the cathedral and emptied all my belongings into it. Finally! It was good not to have my pockets full of stuff or be carrying around a plastic bag half the time! Why hadn’t I thought of this before?! 😮

With my new ‘man-bag’ (ugh!) in tow, I walked towards the Palazzo Ducale, just up the road from the Cattedrale. I continued taking a stroll around the historic centre, first heading to Corso Italia, then Piazza Dante, before going to find Via Garibaldi (there’s always one of those!). There were quite a few dodgy side streets in that area, with ladies outside clearly selling, erm, services. It wasn’t even nighttime yet, but still broad daylight. Amazing this sort of thing is allowed. Then again, this is Italy, so who can tell?

After more dithering on where to go for dinner, I settled on a restaurant at the top of a steep road (Genoa seems to be very hilly). I sat down and checked the menu. While I waited, a group of tourists, maybe German, came in, and were greeted in English by the waitress. After she’d settled them down, she came over to serve me. To my surprise/shock, she spoke to me in English, something which practically never happens to me in Italy. I decided to put myself in an Italian character and responded: “Non siamo tutti inglesi qua stasera…” (We’re not all English here this evening…)

The waitress laughed and switched to Italian, saying that they’d been getting all kinds of tourists that day and had gotten into the habit of greeting everyone in English. Then again, I suspected that my dress, and possibly the Vespa and shopping bag on the table, had marked me out as a tourist. Hmm, must try harder next time! 🙂

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