July 1 Santa Margherita Ligure & Portofino (Day 278)

We caught the 10:30 train this cloudy morning for the one hour ride to Santa Margherita Ligure, a small town along the Ligurian coast north of the Cinque Terre. We then boarded the public bus to the even smaller town of Portofino, a 15 minute ride along the impossibly narrow winding road hugging the coast around tiny bays, with a mega yacht and small cruise ship anchored further out among motorboats and sailboats. A quick walk around the really tiny port and beach of Portofino (population of only 400), seeing the high end shops and the crowds of tourists, was enough in the heat of the day. It is a picturesque spot if you can see beyond the crowds.

The restaurants and cafes lining the waterfront were packed!

The park like setting rising up the hill opposite the beach looked inviting, but we didn’t know if it is private property or a public park!

Ed had read that recently the whole town of Portofino had been rented for a day by a rich family for a pre-wedding celebration!

We caught the little bus back to S. Margherita where we walked some of its waterfront and found a restaurant for lunch. There is more room to roam here and we leisurely walked back to the train station.

Another monument to Cristoforo Colombo!

Ahhh, truly living ‘La Dolce Vita’, the Sweet Life!

June 30 Tourists for Another Day (Day 277)

The Hop-On-Hop-Off bus ticket we got yesterday was a 24 hour ticket, so we had another half day to use it! We Hopped-On for a city tour this morning, passing by some highlights of the old town.

The fountain in Piazza De Ferrari, the main square of Genoa, surrounded by several palaces that were the seats of power, finance and influence throughout Genoa’s history.

A park with flower beds commemorating Genoa’s most famous son, Cristoforo Colombo and his 3 famous ships!

Unfortunately the bus wasn’t the best venue for picture taking, so after our ride we decided to do a walking tour.

Fairly close by our hotels we happened upon the largest and most important church in Genoa, Basilica de San Lorenzo. Being Sunday it seemed like every tourist in the city thought so too! The square was crowded and we opted to not follow the hordes into the church!

Instead we got some iced coffees and Ed found some pesto focaccia, both products (pesto and focaccia) that Genoa is famous for! A short walk brought us back to Piazza De Ferrari and the fountain!

Images around the squares of old town Genoa.

Another short walk brought us to the site of Christopher Columbus’ house! Or a reconstructed facsimile, the original structure not surviving the many wars since the early 1500’s!

Ed+ Claire at the front door inquiring if Chris Columbus is home today! The back of the house is quite wild, although it is in close proximity to one of the gates in the medieval wall of the city. The columned cloister is also behind the house, rebuilt here in the 1920’s from a monastery, dating back to the year 1000, that was demolished in the early 1900’s to restructure the urban area and build the Bank of Italy.

We meandered through the labyrinthian stone alleyways back to our hotels to rest up for our busy late afternoon plans; a visit to the largest Aquarium in Europe, just steps away from our hotels!

The first exhibit we encountered is the seahorse room, so cute!

Mixed among fish exhibits, displayed by ecosystem rather than species, are several marine mammal and bird species, manatees, seals and penguins, again grouped by ecosystems.

The colorful tropical fish among the coral are always fascinating!

 

 

Moving through many more rooms, displaying sharks, tropical species by location, i.e. Asia, South America, a touch tank with rays and skates, a sturgeon tank and even amphibians and reptiles, we finally arrived at the dolphin pool. It was exciting watching them, but sad also that such intelligent animals are housed in such a barren tank!

One of the dolphins seemed fascinated by the little human, it stayed fixated on the kid the whole time he was in view!

In another area of the exhibit the walkway went under the tank and you looked up at the dolphins silhouetted against the blue sky! The dolphin was blowing bubble rings from it’s blowhole!

After several hours ooohing and aaahing over the displays and the size of the Aquarium, much bigger than it appears from the outside, we finally concluded our tour in time for dinner. We looked around and came to a restaurant that was opening in 10 minutes, off the main drag that garnered good reviews. As we perused the posted menu, in Italian of course, the chef came out and introduced himself and explained that he specialized in fish! From Aquarium to plate, it almost seemed morbid, but we’re in Genoa, on the Mediterranean!

The food was Delicious!

June 29 Tourists for a Day (Day 276)

We boarded a Hop-On-Hop-Off bus today to visit nearby Boccadasse, a tiny fishermen’s village turned touristy beach enclave.

The village still has active fishermen who supply the local restaurants with the fresh catch of the day!

 

The pastel hued buildings encircling the tiny pebble beach create a typical Ligurian scene reminiscent of the Cinque Terre further south along the coast!

On the terrace from where these pictures were taken is the Church of Sant’ Antonio of Boccadasse, originally built as a chapel in the 1600’s by the local fishermen and enlarged over the ensuing centuries. It is decorated with model ships hanging in alcoves, and surprisingly modern stained glass windows.

Marine themes are depicted in the vibrantly colored stained glass!

After lunch by the small beach in Boccadasse where it was getting increasingly hot and humid, we returned to central Genoa to relax before dinner. I went on a quest to find anĀ  open ATM machine to get some Euros, which was unsuccessful, but I happened on some beautiful scenes!

A beautifully decorated building with an elaborate shrine.

I wandered into a huge church at a busy intersection, Santissima Annunziata del Vastato, and marveled at the gilt decoration, the paintings and the sculpture!

This is actually a sculpture, so constructed as to look like a painting! It is lighted by a skylight hidden in the recess above the angels!

June 28 Venice to Genoa (Day 275)

From the Venetian Lagoon at the tip of the Adriatic Sea to the Gulf of Genoa on the northern part of the Mediterranean Sea in about 5 hours by train! Both cities with long and influential histories mostly related to seafaring!

Goodbye Venice with your busy canals!

Hello Genoa with your busy port!

We disembarked at the main train station and walked the 20 minutes to our hotels, along the sunny waterfront street, then into the narrow stone streets into the labyrinth of passages! After we got situated and settled a little bit we went out to explore the surroundings. The waterfront is easy to get to and has several piers we walked out on.

This replica ship built for a movie I think, is a prominent tourist attraction.

The biosphere is filled with tropical plants and birds.

Along the street opposite the waterfront are older buildings, this one richly decorated.

We found a little restaurant/bar behind this building where we stopped for drinks and the Cicchetti (finger food snacks) kept coming! We had plate after plate of various sandwiches and focaccia, the herb and olive oil bread that Genoa is known for, so much that we decided that would be our dinner!

June 27 Early Morning/Late Evening (Day 274)

Robert and I took advantage of the last few hours on our 48 hour Vaporetti ticket and took an early morning ferry on the Grand Canal, with NO TOURISTS! It was actually a commuter ferry that went from the train station directly to the Rialto bridge with no stops. It was partially filled with locals going to their jobs, probably in retail or food service. We joined them disembarking at the Rialto bridge and experienced it with the morning sun, and NO TOURISTS!We then hopped another -empty!- ferry and had our pick of seats!This ferry continued along the Grand Canal to St. Marks Square where we got a view of the Bridge of Sighs between the Doge’s Palace on the left and the Prison on the right.

If you look closely at the bridge in front you may see a bride being photographed with the Bridge of Sighs as the backdrop. We got off the ferry here and as we passed over the bridge the groom was having his turn modeling.

We walked into St. Marks Square, amongst the few early morning tourists.

Despite no tourists there were still no pigeons. I think the city has discouraged feeding of the pigeons to try and keep the square cleaner!

We stopped at one of the few open restaurants for coffee and a breakfast sandwich then caught another ferry back to the hotel just in time to partake of their breakfast! A day of rest, packing and naps culminated in Happy Hour on the 2nd floor terrace of the hotel, across the alley from Ed & Claire’s room.

We usually had a happy hour here before we would head out for dinner at a local restaurant.

Robert & I decided to share the fish of the day! It was delicious!

We all finished our dinner and went for a stroll to the closest gondola station and arranged for a ride. Our last night in Venice, we had to take a gondola ride!

Our Gondolier took us on slower, smaller canals through his neighborhood of Dorsodoura, where he took us past the local bar (where a friend gave him a beer!) and friends called out to him. He even pointed out his house and mentioned that his young daughters were out playing in the neighborhood!

We had a wonderful time in Venice. We tried to avoid the crowds, but sometimes that was impossible. The adventure continues!