Day 3: The Seaside
To further enjoy the Liguria coastline, today we took a train south about 35 minutes from Genoa to Santa Margareta de Liguria.
Our group was planning to meet at the central train station, which was a 15-20 minute walk. I relied on Google maps to show me the way – which did not work out very well. I ended up taking a longer route, and it was a little over 20 minutes from my apartment. Thankfully, I had a few minutes to grab a cappuccino from the bar at the train station, which was very convenient.
Upon arrival in this charming historic resort town, I enjoyed a bit of free time wandering down the main walking street and sitting in the warm morning sun and eating a small fruit tart for breakfast. I also popped into the church that dominated the town square, and admired the stained glass windows.
The rest of the day was just fantastic. Our boat took us to Portofino, then to San Frutuosso, then to Camogli.
Being out on the water gave a lovely 360 degree view of green forested hills/mountains and we could see villas spread across the hillsides in between towns. Thankfully, we had blue, sunny skies to enjoy.
Portofino used to be an unknown fishing village, but was discovered and turned into a popular high-end stop. The harbor leads into the small town square, looking very much like the town of Portorosso in the Disney animated film, “Luca.” Climbing the hillside to the right of the marina gives excellent views of the harbor and town. What was the most breathtaking, however, was the cemetery behind the hilltop church. Sitting on top of this seaside promontory, individuals have been laid to rest by their families in a place that is serene and beautiful. Plaques on gravestones show that many are familial, and dated back from the 1800s. A small outlook at the back of the cemetery provides a priceless view of the rugged coastline and turquoise waters crashing below.
The next boat took us to San Fruttuoso, the site of a former monastery, which is inaccessible by car. This secluded cove was a spectacular combination of turquoise, green, and blue, with the gothic arches of the stone monastery facade standing watch over the small harbor. Small jellyfish were spotted floating alongside the boat. Some of our group went to have lunch in the small restaurants tucked in and around the cove. Others, including myself, took a small trail behind the monastery and around the hill to a tiny, rocky beach. The water was cold, but the enticing color and the opportunity to swim in the Mediterranean was enough to drive me to go in. After some time in the water, I enjoyed lounging in the sun with other students, just delighting in the beauty of this unique place. I definitely will come back here.
Our next and final stop was the town of Camogli. The skies had gotten overcast and by this time it was late afternoon. I grabbed a piece of pizza (pizza Al taglia) from a shop for a light lunch, then enjoyed a gelato as we wandered around the church and fort on the hill. A train ride back to Genoa completed our travels for the day.
I am just so impressed with the lovely pastel hues of the Genoa area coastline. It is a perfect vacation spot to relax and enjoy some fun on the coast.
Day 4: Turin
This morning we got an early start down at the train station, and we embarked on a 2 1/2 train ride to the northern city of Turin (Turino). This city had a prominent role as a local hovering seat of aristocratic rule of the region, as well as having been the first capital of a united Italy.
Having heard that Turin was famous for their chocolate, I took a few free moments upon arrival to run over to a chocolatier shop. The sweet lady working in the shop spoke English, and was able to give me a brief history of the company (founded in late 1800s), along with showing me a picture book of the process of making chocolates by hand. Their chief boast is the high concentration of hazelnuts to chocolate, making a delicious and creamy combination.
Rejoining the group, we made our way over to the taxi stand, where we took five taxis to the edge of town to the Lavazza coffee company’s factory and Training & Innovation center. After being served a welcome coffee of choice, our group took turns going through the factory and seeing the process from beginning to end. We also saw the training facilities which they use to train baristas around the world to make their coffee properly and provide a standardized experience. Our Lavazza host, the senior coffee trainer, was enthusiastic in his presentation, and a great representative for the company’s mission.
After this we had lunch at the company cafeteria, then toured the Lavazza museum.
Then we finally had some free time in the city center. I happily went to the Palazzo Reale, and toured the palace of the Savoys, including the family rooms, the throne room, dining rooms, an amazing armory, and extensive art and sculpture collections.
Only having a few minutes to spare, and knowing I wouldn’t have time for a sit down meal, I grabbed a piece of pizza and bottle of water from a shop in the main square. Despite its great location, the price was only 2 euros for the pizza! I chose one with olives and something like thinly sliced zucchini on it, and they warmed it up for me. It was perfect! I ate it as I leaned against a tall sting column and people watched. A couple of pigeons saw me eating, and started watching me, eagerly waiting for me to drop something.
On the way back to meet up with the group, I enjoyed seeing more piazzas with bronze statues and the wide boulevards with fine shops lining both sides. Turin has definitely piqued my interest, and I would love to come back for a longer visit.