too long we've been dozing off in front of American sitcom reruns and planning
to get to this someday, but since everybody we know (except for Fred) says that
this is the loveliest walk in the world, we're going to do it at least once before
we get pensioned off to the next planet.
Parco Naturale Regionale di Portofino
day's hike: Halfway around the peninsula of Monte di Portofino, part
of the Parco Naturale Regionale di Portofino. We
jump off the train at Camogli, 4 February 2007, about halfway along between Sestri Levante and
Genoa, and begin to make inquiries of passersby concerning the boat for our trailhead,
nearby gentleman helps us out by informing us that the boat should be leaving
in two minutes from the pier on the other side of the lower town.
day gets off to a Bustling Start -- we're already
400 metres along the Via della Repubblica and down the Garibaldi public stairs
to the waterfront, only one minute to go, with no boat in sight yet. Right
or left?? (Imagine the Three Stooges vibrating back and forth, left
and right, right and left, hitting each other with their hats, trying to decide.)
bolts to the right, as the tourists cringe and recoil from her path.
the carousel of Camogli, but no time to stop for a ride now
through tunnels under the wall of buildings, we spy a man, a scout or sentinel,
standing out on the pier waving to us reassuringly, and seconds later
we're safely aboard and on the way to the start of our day's hike, exhausted.
Camogli port, soon to turn off towards the right, the south, out along the peninsula
of Monte di Portofino.
view of Camogli (for us, not for them)
an hour later, we've turned the corner of the peninsula, and we're passing a watchtower
built in 1561 (for 940 lira) to cover the western approach to the Abbey of San
Fruttuoso and the adjacent fishing village.
you stare hard up at the rocky lump on the right, you might make out some hikers
inching their way along the first part of the Portofino hiking path, Camogli to
San Fruttuoso. Cleverly, we're on our way to the start of the second part.)
there's our trailhead: San Fruttuoso, the abbey (left)
-- 10th and 11th century, with a 13th century front on it -- the ancient fishing
village (right), and between them, the great Andrea Doria's defensive tower against
the nearly-daily pirate raids at the time, completed in 1562 just after his death
at the age of 90-odd.
abbey and its public beach in the centre, and the 16th century tower -- which,
we're told on the wall plaque, was provided with three bronze cannon, several
harquebuses, 33 muskets, and "a bomber".
festive beach scene down at lAbbazia di San Fruttuoso di Capodimonte. The
establishment is served by this boat and three vertiginous foot paths, no roads.
sprawling all about on the beach. In February.
seems to know who Saint Fruttuoso was, though there's general agreement that he
was martyred in Spain and dragged over here in a reverent manner in either the
4th or the 7th century. Less doubtful is the claim that a bunch of Greek monks
got this place started in the 10th century and that most of the present architecture
dates from the 11th, thus the Byzantine influences in the church and cloisters
boat's leaving now, and we're on our own. Just like the Greek monks.
commencing our afternoon's hike, we need to have a closer look at the tower (one
of us has newly become besotted with the Doria Pamphili, after a rewarding visit
last November to the family's Old Digs in Rome -- they
donated this spot to the state for part of the park in 1983). Nothing terribly
special about the tower, it turns out, but this view down upon the abbey, trying
to imagine what life was like here in the 16th century -- that is special.
fishing village is also a very nice outdoor restaurant.
now we think trailhead: it's time to get a
we go, very nice path -- just two Brits with an annoying dog, whom we let get
ahead of us somewhat.
steep walk up a couple of hundred meters out of San Fruttuoso, improving the view
of that watchtower out on the coast.
narrator pausing to catch his breath, which he thinks he may have lost in the
just past the landmark of "Base 'O'" (220m altitude), more or less the
high point for the time being
view down into the Cala degli Inglesi ('the English Cove')
winding little path along steep hillsides. According to the guidebooks, if you're
walking this path at midsummer, try to be finished by noon, but in February 2007
the temperature couldn't be better.
overview of the hike -- we're getting near the lower right, now, and ready to
start quite painfully downhill towards Portofino.
houses along the footpath
down below -- it's just straight down now, than which there is little worse.
hobbling into Portofino at sea level late in the day, with the light toughening
up on us somewhat. We need to find some sunlight for the photos and a nice bar-café
for the bathrooms.
sunlight yet. No bathrooms either.
imposing defensive architecture, looming over Portofino's tiny port since about
1557, is the "Castello Brown". Already
in 1575 the old pile successfully turned back an attack by the Dorias, apparently
the bullies of the neighborhood, and it continued looming until the English gave
it a good whack in 1798. It fell into desuetude until a gentleman named Montague
Yeats Brown, the English representative in Genoa, was passing by in 1867 and
recognized a good bargain when he saw it (7,000 lire). He turned it into a pleasant
villa-with-big-turrets and passed it on down the family until another English
couple took it off their hands in 1949, fixed it up somewhat, and then in 1961
threw up their own hands and sold it to the city (probably for the tax arrears).
said that Guy de Maupassant was one of the "first visitors to Portofino",
though that doesn't include the Dorias and the English fleet. Elizabeth Taylor
and Richard Burton, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Humphrey Bogart all helped to give
the place an eclectic and philosophical/cinematic tone.
the sunlight we were seeking in Portofino.
main harbor, such as it is, unfortunately just after the sun has just passed over
the yardarm and the horizon both.
nice place at which, after the bathroom break, we can have a nice, tiny, viscous
Italian coffee, in a tiny cup or a syringe, as you wish.
chef surveys his handiwork
recommended hiking path goes back up along the tops of the plateau towards Santa
Margherita Ligure, but now the shadows are lengthening and we're thinking about
getting back to Sestri Levante for another episode of Wish Me Luck. So instead
we walk out along the coastal roadside path past Paraggi, catch a bus, and meet
the train for Sestri Levante in Santa Margherita with perfect timing.
that's it for this weekend getaway, February 2007. Back to Amerika for one of
us, and to the Ramsar Standing Committee for the other.