Part one - Based in Rapallo, Our first city to visit was Portofino, the jewel of the Italian Riviera. Seeing the Cinque Terra by boat is a must.
By Tom P Blake – Finding Love after 50
It's our first week of vacation. We've figured how to get to and from the train station, the hub of local transportation. From there, we visited three cities over the seven days.
The first was Portofino, the jewel of the Italian Riviera, and frequented by the rich and famous. To get there, one takes a bus from Rapallo and transfers to a second bus at Santa Margherita, another quaint Riviera city.
We failed to get off at the transfer stop. So, we had to walk back a quarter mile. On the ten-minute trip to Portofino, the bus driver blew the horn several times when approaching blind curves.
In Portofino, we walked all of 20 yards when we saw a paparazzi snapping photos with a high-powered zoom lens of a celebrity we didn't recognize.
First order of business: lunch. We shared a cheese pizza with large chunks of fresh tomatoes, doused by me in olive oil, as I had seen another diner do. For dessert, a chocolate and pistachio nut gelato. We were in a restaurant near the water. Portofino was busy on Sunday afternoon.
Portofino is beautiful, a small horseshoe-shaped harbor with quaint fishing boats secured to the pier, alongside million dollar yachts. It was teeming with Sunday afternoon visitors.
When it was time to leave, people waiting for the bus had taken shelter from the rain under awnings and archways of buildings nearby. To ensure we got on, I stood in the rain first in line, thinking that the gentle Italian people would fall in line behind me when the bus came. Yea, right.
We nearly got trampled. They poured into those buses with no regard for a line. We were lucky to even get in, packed as tight as sardines. When we exited in Santa Margarita to transfer buses, Greta smiled and stated, "That was a true Italian experience."
The second city to visit was Genoa, a half hour train ride from Rapallo. We didn't expect much of Genoa, the ostensible birthplace of Christopher Columbus, because it's downplayed as being drab and unexciting in most tourist guides. We headed for the historical part of town.
What we saw surprised us. The town was alive with people in business attire, high fashion in store windows and majestic historical buildings. On the map, the Ferrari fountain seemed like the best place to get our bearings.
The Cathedral San Lorenzo is featured in most travel guides as the place to photograph, which we did, but the stunner of the day was entering the Jesuit Church a block away, La Chiesa del Gesu, during a mass. The ceiling was painted like the Sistine Chapel. Above the altars there are paintings of the masters, highlighted by Rubens. On the outside, the building is plain. On the inside, beyond description.
Another surprise was the port of Genoa. Recently renovated and modernized, it's people-friendly and a pleasure to stroll around. Include the harbor on your itinerary.
The third area on our agenda was a trip to the Cinque Terre, the five tiny cities wedged into hillsides along the Mediterrean. We met up with our friends, Ted and Mary Kay Bowersox, of San Juan Capistrano, California, and together rode the train to the town of Monterosso al Mare, the first town.
We walked for a half hour in the heat and then opted for lunch. At this point, we had no idea we were about to embark at the most difficult, steepest path between the cities. Ted Inquired about the boat that travels between cities and that's what we opted for.
Seeing the cities of the Cinque Terra by boat is a must.
This was a wise, very wise decision. We got to visit four of the five cities (Corniglia was not accessible by sea) without killing ourselves trying to walk them. In the last two cities, the boats unload from the ocean right onto the rocks-a little dicey. If you plan a trip to Northern Italy, The Cinque Terre is a must. After seeing the four cities, we returned by train to Rapallo.