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2022 Liguria, Piemonte, Lake Como


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Northern Italy 2022, (September 3-14)

Let me start by saying thank you to members of this forum, very helpful information!

So, this trip was planned very last minute, started just 6 weeks out in mid July to be precise! When the stress of covid testing restrictions were removed our family of 3 scrambled to find a window of time to fit all of our schedules. We would have loved to tack on more days, but heck, we were traveling again!! First on the agenda book our flights, that gave us that good feeling of knowing we were actually going!

Lodging was next to check off, this took 2 weeks to figure out between busy schedules. Each of us had taken time to research airbnb's and hotels in Milan, Liguria, Piemonte and Lake Como. Because we were booking a month out our choices were fairly limited, we agreed on what would turn out to be 4 perfect airbnb's. When our family of 3 travels it can be tricky to find the right accommodations, hotels usually require 2 rooms and airbnb's usually win out because we enjoy being together in more spacious environments. Lastly, we reserved a car in Genova that we would return at Malpensa Airport. All systems were go at this point!

We departed from Dulles International Airport in Virginia around 11pm via Lufthansa through Munich. We were reminded once again of the presence of the virus when told masks must be worn during the 8 hour flight, but heck, we were traveling again!! No hiccups regarding flights or luggage, we were bused out to our connecting flight and actually saw our bags being loaded, great feeling! We did make a rookie mistake picking seats on the first leg, seats against the bulk head reclined about half the distance of "proper seats" but we had a large open area to stand and stretch periodically, thus last minute booking limitations...one last time...HECK, WE WERE TRAVELING AGAIN!!

I asked many questions on this forum about various places, activity ideas, and I think I said everything is subject to change of course... we certainly did modify our activity wish lists once our boots were on the ground!

From Malpensa Airport we took the train to the Milano Cadorna station. Fyi, we exchanged dollar/euro at our local AAA office before leaving Virginia, as well as getting issued International Drivers licenses. Our credit cards only had one issue on the very last day, we always take plenty of cash to avoid such credit card issues. It's been 4 years and we did require a little help at the train station choosing the correct train, we were a well oiled machine the rest of the trip! From the station we leisurely walked about 15 minutes to our airbnb which was between the station and the Cathedral. We carried our small bags up 3 flights to our comfortable 2 bedroom overnight stay. It was warm and we were fortunate to have a/c to sleep comfortably. We freshened up and had drinks and a nice dinner close by in a quiet alley at Rosso Brero. Early to bed to be ready for Santa Margherita Ligure the next day. How about some pics of our short stay in Milano before proceeding to the coast....









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Glad that you gave yourselves the opportunity to modify the activity wish lists when in situ.

Whilst we'll have a few things set in stone, e.g. transfer days & transport, plus any winery visits, pretty much everything else is an option, even if it's a 'that day only' event. It helps keep a balance between our preferences (me very active & excited, my partner wanting relaxation) and ensures we do things only because we *want* to do them.
Glad that you gave yourselves the opportunity to modify the activity wish lists when in situ.

Whilst we'll have a few things set in stone, e.g. transfer days & transport, plus any winery visits, pretty much everything else is an option, even if it's a 'that day only' event. It helps keep a balance between our preferences (me very active & excited, my partner wanting relaxation) and ensures we do things only because we *want* to do them.
This will come up in a future report, but there are times when we say "we are here, we should really do this", I have to ask myself why? is it because everybody else seems to say it's a must do? We have a friend who thinks we made a bad choice not seeing the statue of David on 2 visits to Florence, bad choice perhaps, but we tend not to like lines and crowded spaces to check the box off. To each their own really. We are very active during our travels, but like your partner we remind ourselves to "relax" a little. This trip we had a great mix of "must sees/do's" and relaxation...stay tuned!
Ian, we are big fans of the late Anthony Bourdain, sadly missed. He has great quotes such as this...

"I'm a big believer in winging it. I'm a big believer that you're never going to find perfect city travel experience or the perfect meal without a constant willingness to experience a bad one. Letting the happy accident happen is what a lot of vacation itineraries miss, I think, and I'm always trying to push people to allow those things to happen rather than stick to some rigid itinerary."
I think my philosophy is to prep to a (self-confessed) stupidly large degree, so we can wing it with confidence when we're there! :D i.e. the prep gives us some peace of mind and pre-awareness of the location / what's available, but the decision is (almost) always made 'on the ground'.

I must admit I too rail against people saying "you must see / do". Do they know what we like / enjoy, or even think to ask, before instructing us? We might have our own personal (and typically very small) list of things that we really would like to experience in that location. It might be a cable car ride up a mountain, getting to a specialist food market, visiting a local festival, exploring a hidden canal network, or any *number of things that won't appear in any top10 lists for Italy.

* One very quirky highlight, was arranging to visit the studio of a cartoonist based in Trento (Fabio Vettori). His cartoons feature ants (formiche) doing various activities (see below for an example). We'd liked the design he did for the Giro d'Italia bike race, and arranged to meet him at his studio whilst we were in the city. He appreciated these strange foreigners taking an interest in his work, and we were thrilled to meet him. Whilst we were there and chatting, he did some scribbling on his pad, and then presented us a sketch with us as ants, doing the things we enjoyed in the region. That sketch is framed and on the wall, a memory of a visit that was a real joy. We left feeling very special indeed.

* One very quirky highlight, was arranging to visit the studio of a cartoonist based in Trento (Fabio Vettori). His cartoons feature ants (formiche) doing various activities
Wow, what a great story Ian. How typical of many Italians to go out of their way to assist an interested tourist, and perhaps anyone, really.
I just had to check out the guy's website - very impressive.
And Beerman - I have to agree with you completely about your travel philosophy : "to each his own".
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Northern Italy 2022, (September 3-14)

***Trying a new pic format..lets see how it goes....

We went to bed around 11pm and set our alarms for 7:30 am. I usually survive on 5-6 hours of sleep, but I slept a solid 7.5 hours this night! Our check out was at 10am and check-in wasn't until 3pm in Santa Margherita Ligure, so we spent a couple hours walking around Milano. I put some of those pics in the last post, but boy did it feel wonderful to wake up in Italy!

Fyi, we did keep one Verizon cell phone on the entire trip costing $10 per day, money well spent in the end. We checked train schedules during breakfast and realized our options were thin and departure times one hour apart, most trains had multiple stops taking 4-1/2 hours! With a little patience and research our daughter found a train leaving at noon that was DIRECT, 2 hours 4 minutes to Santa Margherita-Portofino. I believe she used the Omio app, the site said 4 ticket remaining, we purchased immediately! I think we paid around $70 for 3 tickets, bargain if you ask me! We didn't unpack much, so it was easy to get ready to walk to Milano Centrale. Knowing we had 2 hours before the train it allowed for a relaxing walk to the station. Thank you daughter!


The train ride was pleasant with only one disappointment, there wasn't a beverage car, I was just happy to be on this non-stop train! Masks were mandatory on this train, but most people seemed to disregard policy, letting the mask hang precariously from one ear or perhaps just warming ones chin. Our airbnb greeter kindly asked that we send them a text when we were 30 minutes out, we did. 2 hours and 10 minutes later we exited the station greeted with the most amazing sight, the Mediterranean/Ligurian Sea!!! With the wheels of our luggage bouncing along the well worn cobble stones we joyfully worked our way down to city center, absolutely beautiful.



We chose an airbnb in the center of town. I read that our location could be noisy, it was, lots of scooters racing around, there were. But once we were in our airbnb it was surprisingly quiet especially at night, great windows and air conditioning. We stayed just a few meters from the ferry dock, perfect central location for us.. 2 bedroom, 1 bath, well equipped kitchen, large private yard with stone walls and fruit trees, and from the front of the apartment a view to die for. The host left us with an amazing amount of fruit, crackers and beverages, the unit was very well equipped with coffee, tea, condiments of all kinds.



After unpacking for our 3 night stay we walked to a charming side street to grab a late lunch, basically just a really good panini sandwich! Sitting outside at a picturesque cafe on cobblestone is perhaps my favorite thing in the world. To be honest we really didn't need the panini with the generous snacks these places provide.


With our bellies full we walked around the town, venturing beyond the marina loaded with amazing boats and yachts. Found a COOP close by and grabbed a few provisions. We wanted a drink and decided to try a small wine bar, Bar il Vernissage. It sat conveniently next to our apartment, this would be our regular go to spot, friendly staff and great drinks and service. They had a few tables with excellent views, but they also put large pillows along the ancient walkway giving it a little "bohemian" feel, awesome.





Around 9pm we were looking for a restaurant and found a table at Da Michele. It was in a little square off the main drag. Just enough room in the square for maybe 3 restaurants to be nicely separated. We enjoyed gnocchi, pasta, prawns and filet with mushroom wine sauce, wine of coursel. After dinner we poked around the corner and found the wine bar closed at midnight, good thing I was exhausted. Off to bed to be rested for our first hike of the trip....ciao!


So beautiful! Your shots and narrative makes one feel like they are part of the trip! The food looks amazing!
So beautiful! Your shots and narrative makes one feel like they are part of the trip! The food looks amazing!
Thanks Colo, you know me... I wanted to add more pics! getting ready for a party and really wanted to get the post out. Next post will have more!
Wonderful colours in the photos, and weird as it might sound, it's lovely to see an Italian train station again (both inside and outside).

That's definitely a superb selection of nibbles to go with the drinks - definitely more like a light lunch.
I'm also drawn to the fruttivendolo, with zucchini + their flowers, plus the grapes hanging up. Seasonal produce is a delight.
My area of the US has pretty good farmers markets "occasionally" but wouldn't it be nice to have this store just steps from your home?!

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My area of the US has pretty good farmers markets "occasionally" but wouldn't it be nice to have this store just steps from your home?!
Couldn't agree with you more - Italian produce is simply divine, anywhere you go. Whereas many countries have invested in agricultural research that is directed towards improving a crop for farmers' benefit (higher yield, longer shelf-life, disease-resistant), it seems that in Italy nothing like this can happen without ensuring that the product also stays very tasteful. It looks like no one will grow or buy something that is not flavorful.
Sure, in the bigger supermarkets you will see packaged produce that looks more plasticky and unblemished - but any small grocer or any market will keep mainly the delicious stuff, and of course with an emphasis on what is seasonal.
If I had a store like this near me, seriously, it would destroy 40% of the reasons we go to Italy.
FWIW we have encountered some uninspiring produce on Italian markets (apples can certainly be rather hit and miss), but agree the general standard is pretty high. I think it's helped by having a seasonal mindset, delivering ripe seasonal produce, because the customers recognise that that delivers flavour. Conversely our (UK) demand for the same fruit, all year round, means we get stuff that's picked unripe, shipped to a treatment warehouse to artificially gain the colour to look 'ripe' and then shipped to us in plastic so our fruit looks perfect, yet tastes of.... nothing much really.

If I could live near Le Primizie di Osvaldo on Via San Quintino in Torino, I would be very happy indeed.
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Really nice pics. The colors are intense, Are you increasing the color saturation?
Thanks and yes I tweak some pics if I feel it needs it. I do it quickly for online posts, for instance the one of my daughter holding out a glass of wine is a good pic for the post. but needed the highlights brought down to get the sky to cooperate and I know I upped the color to get a little blue. I need to remember to take my time because I prefer the pics to look correct and not over worked.
Thanks and yes I tweak some pics if I feel it needs it. I do it quickly for online posts, for instance the one of my daughter holding out a glass of wine is a good pic for the post. but needed the highlights brought down to get the sky to cooperate and I know I upped the color to get a little blue. I need to remember to take my time because I prefer the pics to look correct and not over worked.
I’m away working in the woods, return home tomorrow to my computer, but here’s a preview of next post….

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Northern Italy 2022, (September 3-14)

Enjoyed a great sleep, with the curtains closed it was pitch black and the rumor of night noise was not realized with the windows and shutters closed! My eyes opened early as usual around 5:30-6am. I eased quietly out of the bedroom to make coffee. I opened the large windows and tall green shutters in the living room and the sky was starting to glow. The sound of scooters racing through town was already evident, closed the windows to let the ladies sleep a while longer. Made coffee and took it outside with me to take sunrise pics, beautiful morning...

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Soon I found the ladies joyfully awake having coffee and tea, also taking pics from the open windows. With a great weather forecast we decided to take our hike to Portofino this morning. In my dry bag backpack you would find bathing suits and towel, just in case we needed a swim. Walked through Santa Margarita's marina then onto a nice coastal walkway next to the road. One amazing thing about Italy is that everyone seems very fit, lots of joggers and cyclists out at 9am....and scooters! We probably only went a mile or so when we saw a nice restaurant Buongustinaio, had to check it out. We decided to have another coffee and a croissant there, just because. The views are awesome from their deck, watched dogs play with their owners on Bau Bau beach. The restaurant offered beach accommodations, but I was more interested in the brick oven! We said we should return to try their pizza, didn't happen.

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Time to move. Next place of interest to slow our pace was Paraggi Bay, absolutely our kind of place. Watching people dive and jump from the rock platforms looked fun and the colorful water inviting. We said we would come back to swim, we did, just not this day. Breezed through Paraggi and kept following the signs to Portofino, interesting to see people walking the crowded, if not treacherous, roadway when there's a beautiful trail system. The views were outstanding, but the shade was my happy place.

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I didn't keep a journal this trip like i usually do, funny I just forgot to bring one. The distance hiked... about 7.5 miles round trip, I do have 30,000 steps on my cell phone from the entire day! and 70 flights for what it's worth. The trail is considered "moderate", we saw all varieties of people enjoying the trail, some seemed to be in a race, others just one step at a time. Relatively few people on the hike. The trail meanders along the coastal hillside, giving an occasional brief glimpse of some secluded swimming hole and amazing villas, I want to be their friend. Sometimes you're walking in the shadows next to a tall stone wall covered in ivy then into a treed park like setting in dappled sunlight, very nice. In the full sun I certainly broke a sweat on this clear 85 degree day! Cresting a hill we got our first glimpse of Portofino, not bad!

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The town wears an upscale quaint persona, turn your back to the marina you get the quaint, face the mega yachts you get the upscale!. There were quite a few people here and the ferries seemed never ending. We sat on the piazza for a brief moment and people watched while cooling down, with a medium beer and spritz of course. The ladies did get to browse the shops a little.


Back on the trail to our waypoint at the lighthouse, probably another mile to go. The walk continued to be beautiful still few people, nice. Before you know it, there it is! I had read about the Al Faro Bar and it was easy to find at the base of the lighthouse facing the deep blue waters. Very Mediterranean vibe with everything white except for the blue chairs, cool place. (Pic below is of the light house, but different restaurant with shades, Al Faro had bad angle to photograph) We decided to have a light lunch here, shared some type of panini and caprese salad. Very good and the prices were reasonable considering where we were.

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One thing that I'm fond of when traveling is actually buying a local t-shirt, that craze is apparently not a thing in Northern Italy! If Al Faro had a white t-shirt with a small blue logo of the lighthouse I would own it!!! Funny story, I was actually walking by the Santa Margherita marina with an Asheville North Carolina t-shirt on and another man passed wearing his Asheville shirt, I heard his wife say with a southern twang "did y'all see his shirt?"

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Denying ourselves a second drink we opted to start the long trek back to Santa Margherita but not before changing into our bathing suits. The return trip seemed so much faster. I know we picked up the pace a little by not needing to take pics of everything we saw (1500 photos this trip) . As we walked around Paraggi Bay it was decided that we would come back in the morning to swim from the rocks when there are fewer people. We did take a refreshing swim break at Bau Bau beach! Sorry no pics, I didn't want to be "that guy" with the camera while the European sunbathing was going on! I should have been recorded stumbling into the water like a drunken sailor without beach shoes, painfull!!

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Stopped at the apartment to relax and freshen up before dinner. We were looking for a restaurant without reservations AGAIN around 9pm. I wouldn't recommend this in the summer months. We saw a nice looking place called II Patio, the palm tree strung up with lights actually caught our eye. They may have rolled their eyes when we said no reservation, but the nice hostess said of course, give us 2 minutes. We opted for a variety of tasty seafood dishes. Service and food was great here. Surprisingly we had room for dessert, shared an orange panna cotta and I think they called it apple pie served in a jar, crazy good!

Funny moment at the end of dinner that would be repeated many times during our trip, the waiter spoke almost no English, I speak basically no Italian, but I love to talk, I was trying to tell the waiter how much we appreciated getting to dine there, how wonderful the food and service was and with a blank look he quickly says "Good night, bye bye!"! I simply nodded my head and said ciao!




It was agreed that we couldn't call it a night without a nightcap at Il Vernissage wine bar...until the next post...Cheers!

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I enjoyed the hike! Thanks for taking us along!
I’ve been away from my computer for a while, will catch up on trip reports as soon as I get home in a couple days. I’m currently in the GW National Forest on the West Virginia/Virginia state line. Fall colors are changing fast! Here’s a pic of my wife’s latest addition to our sign pole, Guarene report soon…


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Northern Italy 2022, (September 3-14)

O'dark early, I quietly snuck out the door to watch another Santa Margherita sunrise. The weather had been great, the mild temps ranged from low 60's overnight to mid 80's during the daytime. Concerned with the heavy overcast skies this morning, but within an hour it was burning off nicely. First on the agenda was to hike back to Paraggi Bay to submerge ourselves in its turquoise waters! Arriving at 10am offered us privacy on the rocks with just 2 other people. Water temperature was absolutely perfect.

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After our delightful morning swim it was time to see if we could find the world's best pizza. We changed in the apartment and then found Il Delfino Foccacceria Pizzeria in a Santa Margherita side street, certainly the "world's best" at this moment and time! The young waiter was very nice, he introduced me to the owner chef and translated how much we enjoyed his food, I need that pizza right now!



Hiking on a full belly might not be recommended, but Rapallo is only 3 miles away. The start of the trek was a long gradual uphill sidewalk slog. Once we crossed over the "hill" the port was visible, we really were just a stone's throw apart.



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Rapallo was actually on our preliminary home base list, but we opted for a smaller town. I believe I read that Rapallo is the largest resort town on the Italian Riviera?, population around 29.000, Santa Margherita at 9000 and Portofino at 400. We also considered Camogli which has a population around 5000, next report will include a brief visit to lovely Camogli. Rapallo would have been a great choice with its old town section and many restaurants and cafes. Comparing these towns is basically apples and oranges. They all are beautiful and offer their own unique attractions. We stayed in Monterosso al Mare once and felt the Cinque day tripper volume, but late afternoon we enjoyed the peace and quiet, I assume Portofino, Camogli would certainly offer that same evening and early morning calm.






After watching the destruction and pain that Hurricane Ian caused to Florida I'm reminded of the 2018 storm that these Italian towns suffered through. Can't imagine what that 10 meter surge must have looked like! After 4 years of rebuilding they are as good as new from what we saw and Florida will do the same.

We took a well deserved breather and sat with cold drinks overlooking the bay. September is such a good month to visit, people still swimming and sunbathing. We then hustled to the ferry dock and realized we misread the "seasonal" schedule, last ferry to Santa Margherita was the one we watched cruise out an hour earlier... while we were drinking!! No worries, short walk to the train station to board the 10 minute ride home. We love everything about train travel here! These are still relatively small towns, we smiled when we saw our pizza waiter waving and saying ciao on the way to the station, cool.


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Walking down from the train station the ladies decided to shop a little in Santa Margherita, while I opted to shower and chill out a bit. Soon we took our sunset walk, which from our vantage point is simply watching the eastern hills and sky change colors. Where would we eat dinner? Their version of "street food" was very tempting at the boat Il Pescetariano, fried seafood smelled and looked wonderful. But we wanted a comfortable chair for our last meal in this gorgeous town, so we continued our walk.




We meandered back a couple streets and happened upon Restorante Oca Bianca. It was a quiet setting and our table was ready in no time, even though they were busy. One of the young owners sat us at the table and then their service proceeded like a well oiled machine. Owner/sommelier recommended a small vinyard (Traversa) Barbera d'Alba, since we were heading to that region in the morning it seemed a perfect choice and it was very good. An obvious good thing in Italy is certainly the price point with wines, I think we paid around $30 for the Barbera...twice! Immediately they presented each of us with half a cherry tomato with a small dollop of a puree, I remember quietly whispering it's so tiny.... but THE FLAVOR!! We were indecisive choosing an appetizer and on the waiters recommendation we shared a mixed appetizer including incredible ravioli, beef tartare, sliced Fassona beef and Foie Gras. Our main courses were Fassona filet and local fish. We are a family that likes to share a taste of each dish, I remember the flavorful sauces were incredible! And I never turn down a nice panna cotta with chocolate. All said and done, this meal will be in our memories for a long time, best dining experience in years!





We smartly decided to bypass the wine bar on our way to the airbnb. We needed to get a good night's sleep before our travel day to Guarene via Camogli and then Genova to pick up the rental car, more about that soon, ciao!

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