Sunday 5 October 2014


Just over an hour's drive along the Ligurian coast towards Genoa from the rugged and remote Cinque Terre gets you to the heart of the Italian Riviera.

Driving through beautiful Rapallo to Portofino, the views of intense blue-green sea are still spectacular, but peeling tumble-down village houses are traded for elegant mansions and fishing boats for expensive yachts.

Portofino, on a rocky promontory overlooking a protected cove, is a holiday home for some of Italy's elite and a favourite spot to park luxury yachts. 

But its basic appearance has apparently changed very little over the last half century, probably due to the intervention of powerful people who like to keep it exclusive and discreet.

The harbour is lined with heavily flowered, terraced, shuttered apartments, discreetly tucked-in designer-brand shops and chic restaurants, all with views to the ongoing entertainment of this busy little port. 

Topping the hillside that overlooks Portofino is the legendary Hotel Splendido (just visible top left in the pic below), where film stars and politicians have stayed since the days of Churchill, Bogart and Bacall.

We walked all the way up a winding footpath from the harbour to reach it, rewarded with sights like this on the way.

to have a cold prosecco on the garden terrace of the Splendido, and reflect on how the very rich live.

Portofino, September 2014

Thursday 2 October 2014

Cinque Terre

Five ancient fishing villages tucked into the base of mountainous cliffs on the Ligurian coast: Monterosso, Riomaggiore, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola.

Terraces carved into the sides of mountains have been cultivated for centuries with grapes and olives, and until not so long ago the villages were connected only by mule tracks. 

Access is still difficult today. 
From inland you can drive down to certain villages via a hectically winding road, in places so narrow that only one car can pass, through miles of protected national park ...

And to travel between the cinque terre you can walk for hours along a cliff path that is in places not for the faint-hearted ...

or travel by boat from one village to the next ...

or, more practically but less scenically, by a train that links the villages.

From Monterosso, the oldest village, with a history going back to 643 AD, the views across a calm Ligurian sea at sunset are spectacular (from higher up you should be able to see right across to Corsica on a clear day) ...

and down the coastline from Monterosso's beaches the inlets sheltering the other terre are just visible.

My favourite was the smaller Vernazza. Having missed the ferry (below right), we whizzed, bumped and flew into Vernazza's little harbour in a little dinghy care of enterprising  sailor Angelo.

for a drink and aperitivos in the sun next to the stone wall separating village from harbour.

It was hard to imagine in this peaceful setting the devastation caused by floods in 2011 when a landslide of mud tore down the vertical cliffs behind Vernazza and Monterosso, almost destroying both villages.

From the central piazza on the sea-front, the village rises up along steep alleyways, and some of the homes seem to grow out of the cliff face

The church of Santa Margherita di Antiochia and the small Belforte castle, built to protect the village from pirates, look over Vernazza.

Liguria, Italy, September 2014

Related Posts with Thumbnails