A day out with VIPs- Portofino

Santa Margherita churchOnly an hour away by train and we are in the pretty seaside town of Santa Margherita Ligure, abuzz with tourists as the cruise ship is in and busy with locals and holiday makers as there is a 4 day special market on ‘Sbarazza Tutti‘ – Get rid of everything sale! The blaze of colourful Summer attire makes the decorated buildings of the town glow under a perfect blue sky. I am mistakenly tempted by some Winter coats in the window and drop in to check the price…..€2,600!!! But after all it was a Moschino and the store definitely not part of the ‘Sbarazza Tutti‘!

A quick glimpse inside the church, although I am more attracted to the black Santa Margherita facadeand white stone mosaic outside so typical of Liguria together with the decorated facades. Santa Margherita Ligure boasts some of the prettiest, a tradition begun in the second half of the XV century, when the rich mercantile aristocracy started to transform the historical medieval centre.

PortofinoBut we are here to explore Portofino, just a short bus or ferry ride away, the picturesque fishing village is considered one of the most chic destinations in Italy, frequented by entrepreneurs, royal families and celebrities and us!. It is peak season and even here, a cruise ship is anchored close by shunting passengers back and forth making the place unpleasantly crowded. Still the crystalline water of the small port packed with boats of all shapes and sizes in front of the colourful facades is definitely picture postcard material. The shop awnings offer welcome shade over the designer shops – Pucci, Rolex, Missoni, Dior and more, and lunchtime diners.

St George church, PortofinoWe head up to get the best view from the little St George church. The rocky  cliff on the opposite side reminds me of the Countess who tragically died in 2001 falling to the sea from her Villa – murder or suicide? The intriguing story continues to fill the gossip pages.Portofino Liguria

On a more worthy note it was Jeannie, the English wife of Baron von Mumm, a German diplomat and photography enthusiast,  who succeeded in convincing the commander of the German detachment of Portofino during the Second World War, to abandon the intentions of destruction of the city. Otherwise we would be unable to enjoy this beautiful place. War bunkers dot the promontory and Castle Brown continued to defend the town as it had done since the XV century. The Castle now belongs to the the town but retains its name from the English consul in Genoa, Montague Yeats-Brown who purchased it for 7,000 lire in 1867 and transformed it into a comfortable villa. The surrounding gardens of the Castle and the neighbouring holiday homes are gorgeous.

 

Portofino + Cannon BayWe explore further, along pretty side streets, mosaic church pavements, more decorated facades and splendid villas that cling to the coastline.

Typical Ligurian stone mosaic

 

The tiny Bay of Cannons is inviting but standing room only so we head for the closest beach area known as Paraggi. Paraggi Beach, PortofinoHowever the crowds deter us and we continue our stroll above the waters edge, enjoying the views back to  Santa Margherita Ligure.Cannot Bay, Portofino


 

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It’s not lousy in Bonassola

View towards LevantoFor those struggling through the Winter in need of a little sunshine, idyllic beaches and crystal blue water, this post is for you. For those dreaming of cycling in the Cinque Terre but overwhelmed by the thought of the steep never ending hills then this alternative could be a better way to start the holiday, cycling Ligurian coast.

For me it was a good day to get away from the crowds in the Cinque Terre and try something different, although I had cycled a small part of the path some years before. The area that I had missed turned out to be the best and is on my list to do again when I have visitors.Google map 5 Terre - Framura

The villages we were to explore are sometimes referred to as the ‘Tre Terre‘ – Levanto, Bonassola, Framura, and there has always been a certain jealous rivalry between them and the Cinque Terre. It’s only a short train ride away to Levanto, our starting point. Hiring bikes was easy, the first rental place we came across being run by a layback American surfer now permanently settled in the area. Two mins ride towards the beach of Levanto and we were already on the Maremonti cycle path inaugurated in 2011, considered one of the most beautiful routes in the whole of Liguria. About 6km of flat bike path with deliciously cool illuminated tunnels with breaks along the way and breathtaking views and idyllic beaches.Cycle path Bonassola-Framura

The track reuses the old railway line, a masterpiece of 1874, electrified in 1926, between Genoa and Pisa. In the 1970s with the duplication of the La Spezia line to Sestri Levante, some sections were abandoned and today they have become the pedestrian cycle path.

Our first stop, after 3kms, is Bonassola, a sweet village with buildings decorated in the typical Ligurian style and a long stretch of pebble beach submersed in umbrellas.

Bonassola

Bonassola and cycle pa

 

 

Crystal clear water entice us but there is barely standing room and we have hardly exercised our biking stamina.

Jack from Surflevanto had fortunately advised us to stop at Porto del Pidocchio ( Louse Port!?) between Bonassola and Framura so we moved on. A break in the tunnel and seeing a line of bikes parked we knew we must be there. Well hidden from view is a narrow inlet surrounded by high black rocks, and alluring blue water that reaches over your head after the first step. A modest crowd dot the beach leaving space for everyone and dwindled over lunchtime. Not a peep of urban noise spoils the tranquility of the place….and no lice in sight!

 

Still we know there is more to come and after a couple of hours in this idyllic spot we need to finish the ride to the third village of Framura 

Immediately out of the tunnel is the tiny port of Framura, brightly coloured fishing boats, canoes and tiny yachts tied up and locals stretched out amidst mermaids and anchors under the watchful eye of the Madonna standing on the rocky outcrop.

The bike path ends here, and a rather convoluted pedestrian walk under, over, and around the railway station leads us to Torsei beach complete with bar doing a roaring trade. Yet there is still ample room to stretch out and sunbake and cool down in crystal clear waterSummertime Liguria


 

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