What do you think of when you hear or read the phrase “Italian Riviera?” For most people it would be opulence, yachts, and the “Beautiful People.” Although you can find all this, we have discovered the Simple Italian Life on the Riviera. Our three nights in Rapallo and one week in Sanremo revealed a refreshing and inexpensive way to become temporary locals in this beautiful part of the world. We have reduced the obligatory sightseeing to slow down and smell the flowers.
After two short train rides from Cinque Terra, we arrived in Rapallo early enough to sit on a park bench across from the train station and enjoy city life as it passed by. Later in the afternoon, our host, Giuseppe, picked us up. He took us on a quick orientation tour before arriving at his fantastic flat. That evening we walked the promenade that hugs the Mediterranean harbor. We do love being near the water.
The old city on the harbor has many old, large mansions that have been renovated into apartments. We were surprised to see one enormous building, facing the harbor, that had been abandoned and was for sale. The possibilities for this place would be very interesting.
We took a boat to check out Portofino … but did not see anyone famous. Interesting Tidbit: While we were walking to the harbor to get on the boat, seven old Fiats went zipping by. When we arrived in Portofino we hiked up to the lighthouse and then returned to the harbor to see 40-50 old Fiats all lined up facing out to sea. It was a Fiat Club Rally!
We really enjoyed Rapallo and would not hesitate to return for a week-long stay. There is only one place we would stay … at Giuseppe’s. The flat was perfect and he was just a great host.
The first image below is the Rapallo harbor, followed by ones from Portofino. See if you can spot the Fiat rally … and a rhinoceros.
Another two train rides got us to our next destination on the Italian Riviera, although this time there was a little drama. Originally, we were supposed to have a 20-minute transfer window between trains. However, our first train was delayed and we had only 5 minutes to find our second train and platform. We found the platform, jumped onto our train, and secured our luggage just as the train started moving. “All part of the adventure.”
Our week in this untouristy, harbor city was delightful. We are becoming big fans of week-long stays. There is less travel, less eating out, and less pressure to see the sights. In Sanremo, there really aren’t any big-name sights. This allows us to take our time and really enjoy our new temporary home.
Our flat was on the 3rd floor (would be 4th in US because ground level in Europe is “0”) of a building that emptied out on to a fun, pedestrian-only avenue, lined with delightfully Italian-inspired shops. It was a great way to do some serious people watching and observe their dogs checking each other out. There was a real sense of living life.
Since we were not doing sight-seeing in Sanremo, there were more opportunities to actually interact with the locals.
One evening, we were in a grocery store on the harbor, looking for a bottle stopper. We had been forced to drink entire bottles of Prosecco previously because we had no way to close the bottle once the expanded cork came out. After having no success with the employees at the store, a couple, about our age, jumped in. They did not speak English and our Italian only lets us order food by basically pointing and miming our way through. After we finally made our need clear, I thought the man said, “I will be your GPS.” And off we went. The couple walked us all the way back into town, through narrow alleys, and to a very small hardware store. After a few moments of pantomiming, we learned our desired purchase was called a ‘stoppy.’ Makes perfect sense.
After paying the shopkeeper €1.60 and shaking hands with our new friends, we were back out on the streets with our very own stoppy.
Another fun interaction came when we decided to seek out some gelato after a home cooked meal. We squeezed into the phonebooth-sized elevator and descended onto the avenue. We found our dessert on the next corner. The young man scooped up the gelato: a cone for Marsha and a cup for me. He then tried to tell us how much we owed him. After a few tries he turned to a guy just a few years older for help. The man told us the price and then said, “Sorry about that. We found him in the jungle.” This tickled me for hours.
Our days in Sanremo were very low key. We walked along the harbor several times. On Saturday, we went to the huge, outdoor market. It went on for blocks and blocks. To help you get a feel for this particular outing, I have included a 2:51 minute video at the end of this post. Simply click on the image and you will be walking through the crowd with us.
The following images gives a feel for life in Sanremo: an older gentleman heading for a day on the beach, a fisherman mending his net, and a look inside a one of their lovely churches.
Next week we will be returning to Nice, France for a week as we attempt to hang onto our warm weather as long as possible.
Ciao to the Italian Riviera and bonjour to the French Riviera.
To join us for the Market Walk just click on the Image
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We look forward to hearing from you.
Preston & Marsha
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