Keeping It Real On The Italian Riviera!
The Italian Riviera is host to so many beautiful villages, strung like sparkling pearls, along the coast of the Ligurian Sea. While many visitors are drawn to the dramatic cliffside villages of Cinque Terre, there are few things prettier than the Portofino Peninsula. As you get off the autostrade in Rapallo, you begin to feel the allure of the area capture you. You’ll catch glimpses of the intense aqua colored water just beyond majestic mansions, perched high on mountaintops or jutting out into the sea.
As you make your way around the winding roads of the city of Rapallo toward Portofino, you’ll pass through Santa Margarita. You’ll love the colors and architecture of their buildings with beautifully designed moldings and picturesque windows.
Is That Building Faux Real?
But wait! Look a little closer and you’ll find that it’s all faux. Otherwise lackluster and plain attached buildings, their ‘character’ is created with a 3D painting technique. I’m embarrassed to say that on our first trip to this area several years ago, I only noticed one building painted this way and thought it was just done to hide some renovation work being completed. Good thing I’m not a detective.
On our current visit, I noticed the majority of the buildings in both Santa Margarita and Portofino are painted in this way. A little further investigative work on my part and I found that many towns on the Riviera use this painting method, known as trompe l’oeil. Not only are doors, windows and ornate trim work added to the façade, some homeowners go as far as adding faux flower boxes, faux curtains, and faux statues resting in faux niches. Wow… decorative illusionism at its finest! I quickly took a look around to see if I’m the only ‘obvious tourist’ staring at the buildings trying to decide what’s real and what’s not. I guess the locals are used to it, as no one even a raised eyebrow in my general direction. Then maybe they won’t mind when I walk over and touch it…. Lol.
Don’t Walk Too Close To The Road!
While it’s possible to walk the four miles from one town to the other along the sea wall, it’s not for the faint of heart. As with many of the roads in Italy, these winding one lane by-ways are used for traffic in both directions. As we drove through and huddled the side of the rode to let a passing bus load of tourists by, I could quite literally touch the mountainside without extending my arm. Around the next bend two ladies chatted as they walked along the side of the road. I couldn’t help but wonder if this was some type of Thelma and Louise ‘death pact’. “It’s cold season ladies! if the next driver sneezes and loses control for a half a second, you’re dead!”
One would think that due to the extreme road conditions the drivers would slow down… this doesn’t happen. I’m guessing the police don’t give many tickets because even with us ‘keeping up with traffic’ at 140 km (marked for 110) on the autostrade, about 87 mph, cars passed us as if we were standing still.
Relax and Enjoy!
Once you’ve made it to Portofino, be sure to enjoy a meal at I Gemelli. Sitting outside at the water’s edge, we found both the atmosphere and the food spectacular. The views in all directions in this pretty little harbor town are awe-inspiring. There are many little shops and restaurants in the center of town. After your meal, head up the mountain, along the brick lined paths, to see the Castello Brown fortress which dates back to the 16th century and the beautiful church of San Giorgio.
Most of the locals are very kind and helpful. They are quick to smile if you joke with them and the majority speak a good bit of English. You might need to do a little charade type of sign language from time to time, but all in all its pretty easy to communicate.
The Italian Riviera should be on everyone’s bucket list. I, for one, am a raving fan!! Che bella. Bravo!
If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share!