Monday, May 2, 2011

Italy: Spring 2011: Day 6: Monday, May 2: Genova

A sunny day today…..looks like a good day for our drive down the coast towards Portofino. Breakfast in the hotel is fine….I thought I had solved my Italy coffee dilemma–how to get a big cup of coffee that simulates my drip coffee at home…but asking for a cafe americano today gets me a cup of instant coffee. When I explain that I want a regular coffee (espresso) served in a large cup and some hot water (acqua calda), I finally get what I am looking for. Hopefully I can repeat this success tomorrow.
Before leaving town, we locate the laundromat (pretty easily–the GPS works well) where we will go this afternoon. Then it is off to Nervi, a Genova suburb located right on the water that is supposed to have lovely parks and waterfront promenades. The drive out of Genova is uneventful…lots of traffic in town and the air is heavy with pollution. The route takes us through residential areas….lots of big apartment buildings and shopping strips….punctuated with grand buildings with monumental carvings and decoration.
The Nervi expedition is not too successful….parking is at a premium and we really can't find a place to stop…and there are virtually no water views from the road through town. We continue on to Camogli, an old fishing town that has become a favorite tourist destination. Pay parking here is easy and we stroll along the waterfront promenade lined with restaurants and shops located above the rocky beach.

Camogli is the site of the annual Sagra del Pesce which is reputed to be the largest fish fry in the world.
camogli_piazza.jpg camogli1.jpg
and here on display are some of the old frying pans that are no longer in service.
Camogli seems to be a nice town (we had only been here briefly years ago) but we need to push on to see Santa Margherita Ligure.
The road to Santa Margherita Ligure (or SML) is winding and narrow (although it is the main highway along the coast) and there are great views of the Ligurian coastline. SML has always been a popular destination for tourists (starting back to the late 19th century when the British came to winter here) but we have only drove quickly through the town in the past. There is a long waterfront promenade with a nice park and many hotels–some of the them quite grand–and the place does seem to have a quiet appeal
After driving around the harbor, we park and look for an outdoor restaurant where we can get a light lunch. The Bar Columbo fills the bill with tables on the street and a view of the harbor. We weren't looking for anything special but we have a nice lunch….trofie with pesto for Diana and spaghetti alle vongole for me–both very good. Since we still have "work" to do this afternoon, we each have only a glass of white wine.
Next we drive along the narrow road from SML to Portofino….sometimes only a car and half wide necessitating some elaborate maneuvers for cars, trucks and buses to pass each other. Portofino of course is the picture perfect postcard harbor village….and knows it. Parking in the municipal garage (the only place to park in town) costs about $8.00 US an hour and the center boasts lots of designer shops as well as waterfront restaurants. There is a cruise ship anchored in the bay and lots of sailboats moored in the harbor.
But on a beautiful, warm Spring afternoon, there are probably few other places as nice to be, sitting on a bench eating a gelato and soaking up the rays.
We tear ourselves away from Portofino and head back to Genova to do our laundry. The GPS fails us and takes far out of our way before we realize it. We do get to explore yet another section of Genova on the roundabout way to the laundromat. I drop Diana off to get started and attempt to find a parking space. Interestingly this section of Genova appears to have a lot of free parking, both on the street and in public lots, so parking is not as much of a problem as I had feared. Another customer in the laundromat helps Diana get the wash started (this laundromat had yet another complicated system to pay and select the appropriate machine) but the laundry process goes smoothly and we are on our way back to the hotel in less than 90 minutes.
After we return to the hotel, I set out on my nightly mission scouting places for dinner in the neighborhood. We end up eating right around the corner at La Piazzetta, a small, informal but very popular neighborhood trattoria.
Luckily we beat the crowds because by the time we start eating all the tables are full. Dinner is fine… unusual (for us) minestrone with peas, pasta and lots of basil that is very tasty, and calves liver veneziana which is nicely prepared. Diana has a caprese with excellent mozzarella and less excellent tomatoes, and a very good steak. We both have fruit for dessert–strawberries for me, pineapple for Diana. The wine is not as good….we order a rosso di Montepulciano from the list but they are out of it and substitute an older one (from 2004) that I should have sent back because it turns out to be over the hill.
Tomorrow we will visit the revitalized harbor area in Genova….
Jim and Diana