Friday, May 6, 2011

Italy: Spring 2011: Day 10: Friday, May 6: Genoa-Sulzano

Departure day from Genoa….I think I have my morning coffee request down pat…..doppio cafe in tazza grande con acqua calda (a double coffee/espresso in a large cup with hot water).

After packing up, we walk up the street to visit the sinagoga. Today is the day of the general strike and we immediately notice that there is much less traffic noise….no buses are running. Certainly an inconvenience for the Genovese and most visitors but certainly easier on our ears.

The sinagoga is a substantial stone building with a low dome set just off the main street, Via Assaroti. The secretary who takes us around speaks very good English and is very friendly. She tells us that the building was finished in 1935, ironically just three years before the passage of the racial laws under Mussolini. There are about 350 Jews in the entire region of Liguria but they usually are able to have a minyan for services which folow the Sephardic rite. We first visit the small sanctuary in the basement that is used for services in the winter (it is easier to heat)


and then we go upstairs to the main sanctuary, which is light and airy with very restrained decorations. The bima is decorated with simple panels symbolizing the ten tribes and the ark has a very lovely cover.

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We learn that there is no kosher butcher in Genoa but they periodically order meat from Milan and that they do run a small Hebrew school.

Back at the hotel, we pack the car and start out for the autostrada….but we immediately get caught in a traffic jam. All traffic in the Piazza Corvetto is stopped and a long line of marchers are filling the streets.


With no idea how long traffic will be stopped, we follow many of the cars in the opposite direction and try to find an alternate route out of town. It takes a long time (traffic is a bit chaotic) but we manage to find the autostrada entrance and get on the road to Zibello for lunch at one of our favorite restaurants in Italy – La Buca. A minor navigation error (getting off the autostrada one exit too soon) is compounded because the entrance ramp is closed due to an accident and we can't get back on the autostrada. We (and the GPS) recalculate and find an alternate route on local roads that costs us about a half hour before getting back on the main road.

We don't get to the restaurant until almost 2 pm and we are the last customers but we enjoy our lunch. La Buca specializes in excellent home made pasta and the local cured meat specialty, culatello. We try to come here whenever we are within an hour of Zibello…..Lunch is fine as usual….the culatello (served with butter) and salame are great and the pasta with culatello melts in your mouth.

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The ride to Sulzano takes another hour. Sulzano is a small town on the less well known Lago d'Iseo. We are here because I have a client staying at the Hotel Rivalago this summer and, as part of my full service travel consulting, I want to check it out in advance. Also we have never stayed on this smaller lake set between Lake Garda and Lake Como. We are charmed by first views of the lake….blue water surrounded by rugged mountains. The lake is notable because the island in the middle–Monte Isola–is said to be the largest inhabited inland island in Europe.

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The hotel setting also impresses us….set right on the lakeshore with a manicured lawn and terrace as well as a large swimming pool and a deck with lounge chairs. Our room has a small balcony overlooking the lake…..we are enchanted. After getting settled, we go down to sit at one of the tables and enjoy the sun and the scenery.

I take a short walk into the village which is very small and, while not charming, seems pleasant. The ferry terminal is close by where ferries serve all the towns on the lake as well as running continuous service to the island which is only five minutes away.


We have dinner at a Slow Food recommended restaurant located up a steep hill over the village…Al Cacciatore. The place is actually busy with many guests from the hotel. Dinner is fine…..I have some excellent San Daniele ham and homemade coppa and salami followed by a local specialty–ravioli-like casoncelli with a local smoked cheese. DIana has a fritto misto of lake fish and vegetables that is beautifully done and a cheese plate. We drink a bottle of a local white recommended by the owner.


The walk back to the hotel is much easier…all downhill and we take a few minutes to look at the lights in the towns all around the lake before going to bed. Tomorrow we have no particular plans…..we are on our "vacation" from our vacation.

Jim and DIana