The small, elegant harbor of Portofino in Liguria has long been a haven for the rich and famous. Sapphire colored waters rimmed by pastel-painted buildings makes this fishing village and holiday resort magnetic. Known during the early Roman era as Portus Dolphini, attributed to the many dolphins on the coast during that time, Portofino has been a sought-after playground for centuries. Steven Spielberg, Chris Martin, Rihanna, Kate Moss, and Russian billionaire Andry Melnichenko, among others, have often been spotted relaxing on their yachts or enjoying the small town ambiance. Read more →
While clicking through my photos of Italy this morning, I stumbled across this one. Immediately, I felt a rush of warm affection as I recalled my encounter with ‘Sylvia.’ She was a nun at the monastery in Chiavari, where I found lodging for a few nights while exploring parts of the Italian Riviera.
So what did I find so special about Sylvia? To be honest, I didn’t get to know her very well at all. She spoke little English which is typical of the nuns in Italian monasteries. I was usually gone exploring so we didn’t spend much time together. But what I do recall is her spirit of hospitality that tenderly touched my own.
Sylvia seemed to pop out of the woodwork whenever I came down for breakfast or walked down the hallway toward the lobby. She was there when I left in the morning and when I returned at night. Her eyes and smile always found me and with unspoken words communicated a love and affection that humbled me. I knew I had a true friend, someone who genuinely cared.
In the breakfast room she always brought a heaping plate of meat and cheese with rolls for my husband who accompanied me. When we left on the last day, she came outside and crossed the parking lot to wish us ‘buon viaggio’ as we were getting into our car. Her hugs were full of goodwill, and her smile traveled with us throughout the day, making it an exceptionally beautiful one.
Some people come into our lives for only a few brief moments, but they leave a lasting impression of an uncommon love and genuine concern. Sylvia left me with the knowledge that I truly mattered.
While driving along the Italian Riviera between Genoa to the north and Portovenere to the south, I was greatly entertained and delighted by the brightly painted villas along the way. Typical of the area, many are dressed in colorful window embellishments, curlicues, and even some with painted on shutters. Pastel colors dominated the coastline and were lovingly as well as artistically kept in immaculate condition.
Jump inside and take a drive with me on a lovely day along the Italian Riviera.
This Riviera di Levante, (“the coast of the rising sun”), another name for this part of the Riviera, is an experience that i’ve found a joy to relive. Pastels, artwork, terraced hillsides of olives, fruits and vines, and intoxicating ocean views all weave together a very pleasant place to linger.
If you have enjoyed this colorful escape to one of Italy’s beautiful landscapes, please like below and pass it on for someone else to enjoy:)
Italy is like Santa’s bag full of all my favorite toys! It’s difficult to choose just one or two when I want to play with them all. While recently re-living my photos of Italy, I chose 5 places that were especially good memories. Each of these is worthy of a visit at least once.
While exploring Trastevere on a friday evening for the first time, I was surprised and impressed by the active nightlife. Caught up immediately by small street bands strumming guitars and singing while strolling past clusters of candlelit tables of outdoor diners, I was ready to join the throngs for a veritable feast. I stumbled onto Grazia & Graziella at the corner of Via della Paglia by chance. The ambience was irresistible and so I cubbied in with those already gathered around the tables.
Amid the lively chatter, I enjoyed a glass of delicious white wine. Soon the handsome dark waiter brought me a gourmet thin crust cheese pizza embellished with lemon slices and sprinkled herbs. Large slices of tenderly grilled eggplant traced the side of the plate. It was all delicious. My evening in Trastevere was a swirl of lamp lit cobblestones, smiling faces, exotic smells of grilled meats and basil, all encased in a spirit of romance.
San Martino is an attractive neighborhood above the old city of Naples. It has a monastery-museum and castle that I wanted to see, so I took a funicular up from the city below for the afternoon. After visiting a cameo shop along with the museum and castle fortress, I was encouraged by Giovanni from the cameo shop to take the stairs back down and enjoy the gorgeous views. I was not disappointed. Mt. Vesuvius stood in the background, it’s top contours blurred by the pinkish rays of the setting sun. The Bay of Naples joined the sea in a shimmering blue expanse. Old buildings and short leafy palms lined the stair. Apartment buildings with open windows let out the sounds of family activity. Fragrant smells of food preparation followed. So much life was happening behind these old walls, so much activity. But I was having a memorable moment in Naples all to myself.
Captain Verrazzano was born in this castle winery estate in 1485. A Florentine navigator who explored New York harbor and most of the east coast in the 1500’s, New York immortalized him by naming their double-decker suspension bridge the Verrazzano-Narrows in 1964.
The castle wine tour, lead by a playful young man by the name of Mateo, took us through a dungeon lined with cells. I discovered not only the Captains wine, but also hanging racks of prosciutto, small barrels of aging Balsamic vinegar, and large terracotta pots full of golden olive oil. The spirit of the Captain, who met his untimely death on an island of cannibalistic natives, was strongly felt. We all enjoyed an excellent tasting afterwards of delicious wines, thick balsamic vinegar and fragrant olive oil.
The Italian Riviera is famous for so many things from exotic yachts, famous people, gorgeous views and rich ambience. But it is always the promenade that attracts me. I love to walk along the ocean while simultaneously viewing the town. The promenade is a public walkway that is especially fun during the passeggiata, where throngs of people traditionally meet for an early evening stroll.
Rome has a maze of piazza’s and back streets that are so much fun to explore. Cozy outdoor restaurants and cafes bring a feeling of community that I love to get lost in. Sipping a glass of cold white wine while people watching at one of the tables is one of my favorite ways to spend an hour or two mid-afternoon or just before dinner, and a perfect way to relax.
There is no end to my list of favorites and great memories of Italy. Each time I visit, I wonder how I can bring a bit back home with me. The most effective way I know of is to keep the memories alive and safely tucked away to revisit over and over again. My photo collection has become my treasure box.
Soaking up the sun-splashed beauty of the Italian Riviera is time well spent. The coastline is scattered with quaint and friendly seaside villages, each one unique from the others. Tall stately villas painted in warm pastel colors rise to meet the sun. Light and shadows play on the streets, bringing a depth and texture that can only be found here. The Riviera has a style all its own.
One late afternoon in Chiavari, a charming little town just south of Genoa, I found an outdoor table on the promenade. I had been wandering the waterfront and decided a glass of wine would be a perfect way to soak up the ambiance. You can imagine my surprise when the server brought my wine along with this huge plate of appetizers. “Complimentary,” he told me. Needless to say, it was delicious…and dinner never happened that evening!
The stately promenade runs along the shoreline where a passigatta seems to be continually happening. Chiavari’s wide, pristine beaches have been celebrated as a Blue Flag beach (very clean) since 1987. Sunbathers and boaters alike dominate the scene during summer.
The village of Chiavari is very charming. Colors of ochre bring a richness to the towering buildings. Many have elegantly outlined windows and painted on shutters. In fact, these painted houses are very common all along the Riviera. It seems likely that this practice was an effort to prevent glare from the sun off of white buildings. However, sailors may very well have appreciated the ability to identify their own homes from a distance.
For over a hundred years, the warm Mediterranean climate attracted celebrities from central and northern Europe and Russia as a place to escape the drab and rainy weather of home.
In the historical center of town, arcades and buildings date back to the 13th century. As I walked underneath the long rows of arcades, I noticed the width and height very dissimilar as I passed by. Many of the support columns were of different shapes and sizes.
Chiavari was for centuries an important commercial port. Hundreds of commercial businesses conducted a variety of activities under these old arcades, some of which still exist in hidden places.
The Genoese streets are perfectly straight and cross each other at regular intervals. Often in Italian towns, streets become a maze for lack of an established plan. But here in Chiavari, the layout is very definite and precise. The lovely Genoese palaces that line some of these streets add a sense of palatial elegance.
Every conceivable spot was taken in the motorcycle park located a few blocks toward the center of town. The roads all along the Riviera are narrow and winding. I can understand the need for small speedy transportation.
This Sanctuary was built between 1613 and 1633 by Leoni Cesario Marro. It was entrusted to the Carmelite monks until they left in 1797. Inside are several valuable pieces of artwork dating from the mid-1600’s.
This bakery put Chiavari on the map for me as well. My prosciutto, mozzarella and pesto panini was delicious and I shamelessly devoured it in no time at all.
Chiavari has a thriving outdoor market community. Like a hive of bees, locals and tourists alike gathered tightly about the tables, picking and choosing brightly colored fruits and vegetables, hearty slabs of cheese, fresh sliced salami and meats, bread, honey and many other desirable items. Vendors gave generous portions of samples. I snagged myself a hunk of white cheese that was delicious.
As soon as boxes were emptied, they were immediately refilled by the merchants who kept more piled underneath their tables.
Chiavari is a haven of rest and relaxation in an exotic locale. The palm-lined seafront and winding medieval streets both lead to new discoveries that reveal the heart of the Italian Riviera.