Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Riviera really is as amazing as you've always heard.

Portofino harbor

I lived on the Oregon coast for seven years, and felt really blessed to live in such surroundings. But I confess that over the last ten years, I've seen changes that have detracted from the natural beauty. Development, mostly, and the horrendous tourist traffic in the summer, to name just a couple.

Somehow, the towns of the Italian Riviera have managed to avoid that. The picture you see above is of internationally renowned Portofino. The glib and glam flock here - but doesn't it look just like a little fishing village, still? In fact, many of the homes still sport laundry lines outside the windows! And the relaxed and friendly demeanor of the locals doesn't give away the hidden character of Portofino's part-time citizens.

But it took some laws to keep the town's aura. Tour buses are not allowed to drive through, and when tourists arrive by boat (as we did) the guides have to quit using the microphones before the boat pulls up to the pier.

Doesn't this seem like a sleepy little town?

What you can't see is what's behind the facades of those old fishermen's homes. The interiors, a long time ago, were torn out and transformed into small but gorgeous apartments for people who live elsewhere most of the time. A studio looking out on the Portofino harbor can easily cost more than a million Euro!

Part of the character of the Riviera towns come from the distinctive colors. Only four colors are allowed on the facades: faded yellow, a terra cotta-ish pink, brown or green. These old fisherman's homes have all been designated as historic landmarks.

We hiked up the path to the cliff where the historic San Giorgio church sits looking out above the Mediterranean.

A relic of Portofino's patron saint, Giorgio (yes - that's one and the same as England's St. George!)is believed to be found here.

And this is the path leading up to the church, with some our our tour members listening to our guide, Fausta.

From L-R: our Liguria guide, Fausta (with back turned to camera), Melinda, Sylvia (hidden), Barbara and Liz. Leaning up against the fence are Cherri and Blaine.

Look at the stone path leading into the church:

Individual stones, black and white, arranged into that beautiful pattern. We saw the same type of path leading up to the town church in neighboring town Camoglie as well.

No comments: