In June 2001 we visited the Liguria Region of Italy.

Judith and Fred’s Excellent Adventure or Liguria 2001

Liguria, facing the Tyrrhenian Sea, is shaped as an imposing arc, with the Gulf of Genoa in its center. It is a mountainous and hilly region, which includes part of Alps and the Appenines, plunging almost into the sea, leaving scant space to the plains, which form a narrow coastline. Here landscapes of grand beauty can be admired.

The region is known as the "Italian Riviera" and is divided into two sections: the Riviera di Ponente (to the west), from Ventimiglia to Genoa, and the Riviera di Levante (to the east), from Genoa to La Spezia. The terminal strip of the Riviera di Levante is known as "Le Cinque Terre" (the Five Lands) and still today represents a beautiful example of intact landscape.

For the more geographically challenged, to the west of Liguria lies Monaco and the south of France (French Riviera). Mountains separate it from the Piedmont region of Italy to the north, Emilia Romagna to the east and Tuscany to the south. Even if you've never been there, you've probably seen its northeastern border in all those movies where glamorous jet setters hop into their sports cars and motor from Monte Carlo to Rome: the quaint customs booths any foreign film lover knows well are outside Ventimiglia.

We chose to explore the area from Genoa to La Spezia. This area contains some of the most desolate stretches of coast, where lush forests of lemon trees, herbs, flowers, almonds and pines send forth heady sweet-smelling breezes. Terraced hillsides produce an olive oil considered more delicate than those grown in Tuscany as well as grapes for the local white wines. This is where pesto was invented and the cuisine is extraordinary.

Friday, June 8, 2001

We flew into Milan, Italy on a nonstop flight from San Francisco. It was an uneventful flight with so-so food and great movies that we attempted to sleep through. From Milan, it was a short hop by plane to Genoa. The train trip from Genoa (to our ultimate destination of Santa Margherita) immediately introduced us to the quaint and unsophisticated small towns of Liguria.

By the time we arrived at our hotel it was late afternoon. We unpacked and settled into our room. The unpacking was relatively simple. I hung up my two dress shirts and one pair of long pants in the closet, and threw everything else into the drawers.

We brought only one carry-on piece of luggage plus a small backpack (daypack) since this was to be mainly a hiking trip. Actually, my carry-on contained a smaller pack, two camera cases and a heavy-duty fanny pack to allow me some options for our treks. The remainder was raingear, layered clothing, and various hiking equipment.

After checking out the digs (a great four star hotel) we headed into town to sample the nightlife. We could tell pretty early on that we were going to like this place. There were lots of great restaurants and cafes in the harbor with ample people-watching opportunities.

Santa Margherita is beautifully situated at the foot of Mount Portofino, in a bay on Italy’s Mediterranean coast. Abundant, colorful flowers surround the elegant buildings and residences in the town. From our hotel we could see the elegant villas belonging to the rich with magnificent landscaping, including abundant red and purple bougainvillea growing up to rooftops and across porches.

A stroll along the promenade leads to the public beach and marina, where luxurious yachts are often moored. We saw new, more magnificent yachts in the harbor each day.

We were hoping to be invited aboard but I guess they didn’t know we were there.

The pedestrianised streets of the fashionable town centre are lined with shops and pavement cafes. This is also where the market is held and where the artists sell their wares. As wonderful as the area is, we never did have much luck finding anything that we wanted to buy.

So this evening was the beginning of a daily ritual. We walked through all of the cafes, window shopped, strolled around the harbor and finally wandered back to our humble abode. Judith was determined to welcome the fishing boats as they returned from a day on the sea, and watch the fresh catch get transferred to the waiting market, but we never seemed to be able to time it right.

Saturday, June 9, 2001

Weíre ecstatic. Breakfast at the hotel (include with room) was fabulous. In addition to carbo-loading for the day, we stuffed some rolls, cheese, croissants, and fruit into our packs for lunch. A final check and weíre off.

We gathered maps from the information center as well as the hotel and planned our first hike. We discovered from our concierge that the trailhead for some wonderful hikes was right behind the hotel! We had no idea what a remarkable area we had stumbled onto.

As it turns out, Santa Margherita is the gateway to the Portofino National park, an immense, mountainous forest that occupies the entire peninsula! The Mediterranean pines share the lands with high heather and strawberry-trees as well as heather, myrtle, broom and olive orchards. The forest is thick, lush, overgrown and colored in hundreds of shades of green.

Wild boars and foxes, lizards and green lizards, frequent the park. There are numerous varieties of birds including Sardinian Warblers, turtledoves, woodpigeons, and golden orioles. There are also a few snakes. We saw many lizards, and were lucky enough to run across some big horn sheep one day.

Today we decided to take the scenic route to Portofino. The scenic route translates to the most circuitous course we could find whether by accident or on purpose. That means that we got lost many times. It’s not that the paths are not well marked, but rather we needed to understand what markings to look for and where to find them.

The trails are definitely varied. Some have been laid by stone masons and are maintained year round, while others are barely visible and easily mistaken for water runoffs on the mountain. More to come on this later.

We climbed Mont Brano, Mont Pollone, and passed through the villages of Olmi and San Sebastiano. The villages within the park are quite interesting. Although there is some new construction, most of the work being done is restoration and preservation.

As we finally approached Portofino and started down the mountain, a new, more beautiful view awaited us around each corner. We were greeted with rich colors from every direction. Brilliant flowers encompassed majestic gardens and climbed up imposing villa walls to peek out at the sunlight. Magnificent frescoes adorned picturesque buildings, cafes, and churches. By the time we reached the harbor, I was searching for another roll of film.

Portofino is a town right out of a storybook. It’s easy to understand why it is such a popular tourist destination. People just pour in on buses and boats. Fortunately, they leave quickly too, as the small municipality could easily get overcrowded. Also fortuitous for us on this particular day was that the seas have been too rough the last few days for the ferry boats to operate, so there were fewer tourists able to get here.

We toured the town, hiked up to the castle and visited the churches. It’s almost impossible to take a bad picture – every step is a new photo opportunity. There are the colorful buildings with their frescoes, the multicolored boats in the harbor, the restaurants hugging the edge of the water, and the narrow streets of small shops and art galleries.

On this day we decided to take the bus back to Santa Marguerita to see what we may have missed. It appears that the only thing we missed was a harrowing experience on a narrow, twisty road with at least a hundred other tourists jammed into a thirty person limit bus. Well, everything can’t be perfect!

Picking a restaurant each evening in Santa Margherita was pleasantly challenging. There are many culinary delights for which this area is renowned, and they can’t all be found at any one restaurant at any one particular time. In addition to that each chef prepares these dishes a little differently.

The pasta Trofie, the most traditional Ligurian shape was great. Made from just two ingredients: hard durum wheat flour and water, the dough is hand rolled into two to three inch long pieces that are thick in the middle, and thin on the ends. They plump when cooked to almost three times their size. Ideally they should be cooked until al dente, and as they are hand-made, you will need to taste one of the bigger pieces to be sure it is cooked through. The classic preparation is with basil pesto, small cubes of peeled, boiled potato, and tender, young green beans. Fresh, and light, this dish is best made with a lighter flavored olive oil, ideally one from Liguria!

Legend has it that this shape was first made in the tiny town of Testana near Genoa when a woman making pasta rubbed her hands together to clean off the remaining pasta dough. Ligurians are frugal, so the woman cooked the little curls that fell from her hands, and Trofie was born. We brought one package of trofie back with us and I can’t wait to cook it.

Of course pesto was invented in Liguria and it is especially yummy at the source. One of the better pesto dishes is pesto lasagna. The basil grown here has small light green leaves that are packed with an herbaceous flavor that finishes with a whisper of mint. It may be the single reason that the pesto here, in all its variations, is the best in the world.

Olive oil is the second most important ingredient in pesto, but it has the most difficult job; it must knit all the other flavors together while maintaining the prominence of the fresh basil flavor. The oils of Liguria are some of the silkiest and butteriest in Italy, resulting in a pesto that just can’t be matched in the good old US of A.

Another pasta akin to this area is Trenette, long linguini like strands. This is also normally served with a pesto sauce. Each of the sauces from different cooks has its own unique taste dependent upon the particular recipe.

OK, what was our favorite? The winner is Pansotti. This is a triangular shaped ravioli stuffed with an incredible spinach parmesan concoction and covered by a walnut sauce. Aside from the cheese, all the ingredients, basil, garlic, olive oil, sea salt, and walnuts or pine nuts, are home grown, and all combined in the right proportion to bring forward the maximum flavor of the fresh sauce, a perfume to the nose and palate.

I should also say a little about the appetizers. Pizza, pizza, pizza. That’s a little. Yes, I love the wood-fired pizzas with the local cheeses that drip all over your plate. However, Judith got hooked on caponata. It is a sort of a sweet and sour eggplant stew. It may have red peppers, green peppers, yellow peppers, eggplant, pearl onions, plum tomatoes, capers, olives, sugar, olive oil, vinegar, anchovies, pine nuts, and raisins. There are many recipes – each with variations on what is included.

Why am I suddenly starving? I guess I’d better move on from all of these Italian delicacies. Oops, I forgot to mention desserts! There was the Tiramisu with the very light vanilla sauce complimented by the top layer of sprinkled, finely powdered chocolate – rich, pure chocolate, and then the lighter version … Well, first of all, think of a very light chocolate pudding. Very light. No, you've got to think lighter than that. Think more in the lines of mocha-flavored whipped cream.

Now add in a little bit of body. Not heaviness, but substance -- you know, the kind of fullness that rich foods feel like in your mouth. Except that it doesn't taste rich, and it doesn't stay in your mouth long enough to be able to really analyze, especially the explosion of chocolate on your tongue that disappears in a flash. OK, okay, I’m moving on with the story.

We walked back to the hotel. The good and bad of the hotel location is that it is the last structure before leaving town. Good – because we get a tour of the city and get in a lot of people watching and sightseeing (boats coming in, etc,). Bad – because it’s a long walk. Maybe we should call it a hike.

So, the first day has come to an end. Sad – because the vacation is passing. Happy – because we know we are going to have a great time here!

Sunday, June 10, 2001

We’re up early, our packs are loaded and we’re ready to go! Hmm, maybe we should check the weather, it looks dark, cold and wet out there. The newspaper says 68 degrees at night and 80 degrees high during the day, forever, with a chance of rain in the mountains. Well, we want to see the mountains, so let’s throw the raingear into the packs. At least it will be a warm rain.

Today we decided to attempt some different routes through the forest than we explored yesterday. I also wanted to find a particular trailhead and I was determined that no other one would do. Judith kept saying, "Let’s just go back to where we know we can enter the trail system." But I said, "No. I’m going to find this place and that’s it." I guess you all can see where this is going.

I finally decided that the trail was behind the church at Nozarego, and after searching the grounds, I found steps with the trail symbols. I’ll bet you don’t think this is the end yet. You’re right! Halfway up the steps, we saw more trail markings but they seemed to me to be leading us toward a direction that was illogical and headed toward someone’s garden. I convinced Judith to keep climbing the steps.

By this time, the mist had completely covered the top half of the mountain and we were headed into it. The trail kept looking less and less traveled as we headed up the mountain, and every so often there were choices that had to be made as to which way we thought the trail went. Days later we learned that if we could not find a marker a short time after a junction, we were not on the trail, but today we were still inexperienced.

After numerous lefts, rights, and straight-aheads we determined that we were now absolutely following a runoff from the mountain and not a path. Three things immediately concerned us: 1) Rain seemed imminent and we were in the middle of a runoff that could soon be filled with rushing water, 2) There was no chance of finding our way back and the mist was now completely enveloping us. We couldn’t see a trail if it were ten yards away, 3) We were lost.

The hillside was so steep that we had been scrambling and using trees to climb to where we were. Going back down would be very difficult. Because of the mist, we had no idea where the top of the mountain was or where we were on the map. We finally made a decision to head in a direction that we felt would eventually get us to another trail toward our intended destination.

This took us around to another side of the mountain that was an even steeper drop-off. We were now in the heart of a rain cloud that could blow at any time, the slopes were getting slippery, the trees and shrubs were so dense that we were making very little progress, and we were lost. Then we heard it. It was a sound that always scares Judith, the sound of kids screaming.

I said, "We’re saved. Let’s just follow the sound of the voices." The voices turned out to be from the back yard of a home up in the middle of nowhere. There were no roads, and we really didn’t want to disturb whoever lived there, so we searched around some more. We eventually found a path that led to a trail.

After following the trail for a short time we determined our present location. We were thankful that we didn’t continue up. We discovered that we had been in a precarious place near the top of Mount Pollone that was devoid of trails. So next came the task of deciding our plan B.

Since we had wandered way off the intended route, we decided to continue on the double diamond trail to the summit of Mont della Bocche. We climbed some very steep stairs to the top at Pietre Strette junction. We then proceeded across the top of a ridge (hope no one is afraid of heights) where we could see the coast and the French Alps on one side and the valley leading toward Santa Margherita on the other side – awesome.

We next arrived at Gaixella and finally traversed the rock "stairs" down to the town of Ruta. By this time it was getting very windy and we decided to call it a day and catch a bus back to the hotel. The bus trip turned out to be a minitour of villages and included an exciting descent down a winding road into Santa Margherita. It was like an "E" ride at Disneyland!

Monday, June 11, 2001

It again started as a cloudy day, so we decided to skip the hiking in the woods and explore the coastal area. We found out that rough seas had been preventing the boats from running for days, so we decided to investigate the sights of S. Margherita. By 11:00 AM the sun came out and the cameras were clicking. We fell in love with this city.

Castles, incredible villas, magnificent gardens, steep twisting back streets, multi-colored houses, continuously peeling buildings revealing years of restoration and wear, splendid hotels, inviting parks, and grand vistas beckon to be discovered. The more we saw of the locality the more we wanted to know. All of a sudden as I was adjusting the telephoto lens on my camera, I noticed the sign at the harbor warning of rough seas was gone and the boats were loading people for various ports.

The turbulent seas caused by a storm that had been raging across the south of France were now very calm. Since the mountains protect Santa Margherita from most of the bad weather, we’ve only had to deal with gray skies and mist. It’s 11:00 am, the sun is out and we are going to take a boat somewhere! After researching our options, we finally decided to go back to Portofino.

We made sure we were early enough to get the very front seats at the bow of the boat. We imagined that we were on a yacht as it pulled into the harbor. On this visit we concentrated on more touristy things. After enjoying some gelato, we walked out to the lighthouse to see the other end of Portofino. Oh gosh, there’s a gelato place out here, too! Well let’s have another. We again took a lot of pictures of this area.

After another enjoyable boat ride back, I enjoyed the rooftop jacuzzi. Life is tough. We ate dinner at what was to become our favorite restaurant – Ristoranti da Emilio. What can we say, everything on the menu is absolutely delicious, or as the Italians say, "Molto bene" which means very fine.

Tuesday, June12, 2001

We arose early this morning with big plans for the day. After another great breakfast, we were off to the train, and on our way to Cinque Terre. Since the purpose of this trip was to hike there, we thought we’d better do it.

The Cinque Terre takes its name from five small villages - Corniglia, Manarola, Monterosso al Mare, Riomaggiore and Vernazza - which defiantly cling to the inhospitably rugged Ligurian coastline. They are, and have been for many centuries, practically inaccessible by land due to the harsh, steep terrain that juts up at their backs.

Literally translated, Cinque Terre means Five Lands. It is Italy's most well-guarded secret - a fairy-tale coast of pastel houses, luminous turquoise waters and vineyard-cloaked hills. Stretched along the mountainous Ligurian coast through villages of farmers and fishermen, the region is a hiker's paradise.

Like virtually all Ligurian coastal towns, the Cinque Terre seems to balance precariously on the last fingertips of land jutting out from the continental landmass before it definitively sinks into the sea. Liguria has been defined as a "corridor" of land caught between the Apennines and the sea, and the Cinque Terre is the epitome of that description.

It is a breathtaking composition, a mosaic of a thousand shades - the old houses with their characteristic colors literally clinging to rocks that drop sheer to the sea, or else perched on imposingly jagged hills. The hills reveal tiny settlements amidst the famous terraced slopes of drystone walls, vineyards, olive groves and natural landscaping.

We exited the train at Riomaggiore. From the train station we walked up to the castle and back down through the town. It’s an interesting place to take pictures. The houses of the medieval village all lean one to the other. You get the impression that something isn’t right with the perspective as you look through the lens.

After exploring the village and eating, we were ready for the trail. Our original intention was to take the coastal trail "Via dell’Amore" (lover’s lane) to Manarola. However, we came to realize that the trainloads of travelers pouring into the station every fifteen minutes had the same idea. Furthermore, after talking to others, we decided that it sounded like a freeway for walkers and very crowded this time of year.

So we purchased a map of the area and realized that this entire area was also protected as parkland. We discovered later that the maps showed every trail that ever was, and there’s no guarantee that any of the paths were passable. Even the Via dell’Amore had sections that were being rebuilt, and trail maintenance is a year-round job for many people.

We decided to bite off more than we could chew and take the highest trail. Just outside of the castle we found the markings for the first trail we had chosen. We were experienced hikers now – haha. The trail began as stone steps. Just looking at the incline of the slopes told us that we couldn’t possibly climb a dirt path.

We were still surprised at the steepness of the slope. We had to use our hands and lean into the hill as much as possible to prevent falling backwards to what would most likely be a very painful fall. And we climbed and climbed. As we reached paths that led toward other villages, we noticed that the route we were following looked less and less traveled.

When we reached the paved road that led to Manarola (or La Spezia in the other direction) the next section of the footpath we had picked was completely grown over. At that moment we noticed that another hiker that we had talked to earlier had chosen the road. Nope, that’s just not us.

Up we went. According to the topographical map our next chance to take a trail to Manarola was at about 1300 feet up. We did get our wish – we had the trail to ourselves now and the views were awesome. When we reached the next junction we realized that time was passing more quickly than planned. The fact that we had just climbed the stairs to the top of the equivalent of a 130 story building meant nothing.

Fortunately we couldn’t find the last section of the trail anyway, so we started on the 01 path across the mountain. This route took us through a forested area and allowed us to cool off a little. The entire climb had been in the hot sun through vineyards – scenic, magnificent vistas, but hot.

When we started down the next trail toward Manarola, it was back to steep and hot. Let me see – guidebook says," Dizzying cliffs and precipitous slopes." I guess that’s a pretty accurate description. Of course there’s no way to capture this in a photo.

Next on the agenda was a tour of Manarola. Like a lot of Europe, you have to get over the oldness of the towns to really appreciate their beauty. The towns of the Cinque Terre date back to the 7th century but achieved most of their growth in the 12th century. It’s just hard to believe that they are still here and being restored.

We liked Manarola a lot and had hoped to eat there and watch a sunset, but we discovered that the last train out was at 8:00 pm, so we boarded the train and went back to Santa Margherita. You know the drill – dinner in town and a stroll back. Ahh…what a life.

Wednesday, June13, 2001

We decided that we were staying in such an incredible hotel that we should take a "rest" day, and just lay around and enjoy the amenities. No, this does not translate to "My legs are tired."

9:00 am – what a relaxing breakfast.

9:30 am – what a relaxing hot tub.

10:00am – what a great beach chair. This is the life – am I tan yet?

10:30 am – what a great view. The Mediterranean is so blue. The view is so clear. Where’s the camera?

11:00 am – Wow! The view is even better on this boat. I can’t wait to see the Abbey at San Fruttuoso. This tourist stuff is the best.

2:00 pm – It’s a good thing we decided to wear our hiking boots and bring our packs. I’m full of gelato and need to get a little exercise. So you say it’s just an hour or two walk through the woods back to the hotel? Oh good, I’ll have an appetite for dinner.

Heard at various times during the afternoon:

"How could we have missed that junction?"

"Do you think we should have gone a little farther before we turned?"

"I still think we should go left, not right."

"We can still get there by going this way."

"OK, we’re lost"

"This is definitely not a trail."

"This is the top of another mountain, and I don’t see anything familiar."

"Hey, look – the double diamond trail. How did we get way over here?"

"I know we are traipsing through people’s backyards but it’s the shortest route."

"Look, it’s Santa Margherita!  It can’t be more than ten miles away."

7:00 pm – We really made great time on that last leg. Of course we were inspired by the fact that we needed to get cleaned up and get to a restaurant before 8:00pm because we had no reservations. Maybe tomorrow we should take another rest day.

Thursday, June 14, 2001

A real "rest" day. We actually laid in beach chairs for more than an hour and soaked in the sun. But itís time to move on. We finally located an internet cafť, but it closed at 2:00 pm for the day. We missed it by minutes.

Consequently, we decided to take a bus to the resort town of Rapallo. One of the things on my list was to purchase a biking jersey and shorts with Italian advertising all over them. The concierge at our hotel gave us the directions for a great store in Rapallo.

Wow, this is a great bike store! Oh, the jerseys and shorts are upstairs, okay. It sure is hot up here – I guess I’ll just pull this curtain around and try this stuff on for size. Judith, help. I’m stuck. Could you help me get this shirt off. I think my sweat is really liquid glue.

Gee, the woman helping us is so nice. It is so hot in here. I wonder if she notices how wet the clothes are that I’m pasting to my body. She refolds everything afterward. She really doesn’t understand any English.

You’ve probably guessed the inevitable outcome. I tried on everything in the shop and nothing fit. In addition, the clothing was very colorful, but lacking the Italian ads. We tried another bike shop, and a sport shop too, but no luck again.

We didn’t like the beach area in Rapallo near as much as we liked the beach area in Santa Margherita, but the shopping area was immense. There was quite a large portion of the district that was for pedestrians only. We still didn’t find much in the way of souvenirs or items that we just had to have, but we got in a lot of walking.

We finally decided to go back to the hotel. This included another short tour of Santa Margherita from one end to the other. We just have to make sure we exercise enough to make room for that big evening meal. I won’t take you through the whole food thing again. It was just another Epicurean delight at sunset, followed by still another sumptuous moonlight walk past the harbor, the castle, and the villas, all with their own lights in brilliant colors.

Friday, June 15, 2001

This vacation is flying by way too fast. We suddenly realized that we came to see Cinque Terre and we’ve only spent a few hours there. For that reason, we’re up at the crack of dawn today, packed and ready for the breakfast room to open at 7:30 am. Let’s get this show on the road, or is it the tracks.

We boarded the train to Riomaggiore again, but transferred this time to another train to Corniglia. We had heard so much about this special place and couldn’t wait to see it. Corniglia (cor-neel-ya) is perched high on the summit of a rocky headland (tiny peninsula) and commands a view of the entire coastline of the Cinque Terre.

As we departed the train we were intensely engaged in conversation with a young couple that were also hiking out of Corniglia today. All of us were walking up a trail toward the town and the guy was setting a pretty good pace. Judith suggested that we might want to slow down and even pause, as we may be missing some great pictures. For one, where are those famous picturesque 365 steps, "one for each day of the year", that we should have climbed to reach the square leading into town?

Oops, we missed them. There they are over there. We are already in town. What are all of those things crawling all over the stairs, though. Oh, those are all of the tourists coming up from the train station. Well, I guess we didn’t really need to take the stairway. That is quite a crowd.

Corniglia was a great little town. We had to stop and deliver a photo that our friends took of one of the local shop owners. The owner wasn’t there but we dropped off the picture to a young woman who spoke no English.

Corniglia looks like an intimate little town that might be nice to stay overnight and watch the sunset on the water. However we felt that it was a little claustrophobic. We tested the gelato and headed for the trail. Our friends back home told us (as well as all of the guide books) that the section of coastal trail from Corniglia to Vernazza was not to be missed. It was more rugged and scenic than the trails from Riomaggiore to Manarola and Manarola to Corniglia.

We lasted almost five minutes on the trail before we were looking for an exit. It was VERY crowded. It was now the middle of June, high tourist season, and they were all there. We think we missed a chance to take a higher trail very early, but we found another path just around the corner.

The new path took us up the mountain to the village of San Bernadino. After exploring the quaint community, we ate lunch in the square. It was a spectacular view, of course. We could see the Mediterranean and Cinque Terre in one direction and the valley behind the town and all of the hills beyond that.

The trails were fun. We followed some that were overgrown, some that ended abruptly, some that dangled us on shaky cliffs, and some that were washed out in places. Coming down into Vernazza was unbelievable. Pictures can’t describe the feeling.

Pictures can’t describe the feeling on the trail either. As we looked down to where we were supposed to hike, it looked absolutely treacherous. When we looked back up the mountain after descending, it still looked dangerous. This is not for the faint at heart. One slip and you’re gone. This was definitely more fun than the walking trail.

Vernazza is touted as the most beautiful of the five lands and the view from above is definitely breathtaking, but we thought we liked the first two towns better. We really didn’t spend long in Vernazza and we understand that sunsets are memorable, but we discovered that the last train out was at 8:00 pm. We either had to find a place to stay or move on to the next town.

We opted for the train to Monterosso. This town is split in half by a tunnel necessary to connect the two parts. One half is mostly beach and tourist shopping while the other half is the town. We toured for a while, talked to a few people and finally picked a restaurant for dinner. Judith was determined to taste the special white wine only available in this area. Well, we can easily live without the wine, but dinner was excellent.

We had still another version of trofie and pansotti. After the other courses, dessert was out of the question. We packed up and headed to the train station for a late train back to Santa Margherita. Another unforgettable day topped off with exceptional food.

Saturday, June 16, 2001

We decided on a sightseeing day today. It wasnít real sunny (sun was in and out of clouds) and we heard that tomorrow might even be worse. We started with a little sunbathing at the hotel, then set out for town. We found the internet cafť open and sent the only email of the trip. We next jumped on a train to Genoa.

Genoa is a very large city. Its claim to fame is hometown boy Christofer Columbus who sailed the ocean blue in 1492. The G8 will meet there on July 20 to 22, and they are spending millions to renovate everything. There is practically nothing we could photograph without scaffolding attached to it.

This is President Bush’s first foreign affairs test and we all hope he will do well – haha. We managed to tour a big chunk of the city and it was a diversion from the smaller towns.

Sunday, June 17,2001

It was cloudy and sunny off and on through the day. We spent most of the day around Santa Margherita again. That evening we actually had lightning, thunder, and rain. It left almost as fast as it came but it was sure exciting.

Monday, June 18, 2001

Itís our last day and the most beautiful one yet. The Mediterranean could not be any bluer, the sky could not be any clearer, and we are really going to miss this place. We decided we had to get out and enjoy the gift.

We picked a route through the Portofino National Park that would take us from the bottom corner at Santa Margherita over Mount della Bocche, out to the point at Semafora Nuovo, over Mount Tocco, across the ridge to Mortola, San Rocco and finally down to Camoglia, diagonally opposite S. Margherita. Surprise, surprise, we did it with no mistakes!

We then toured Camoglia, and decided on a scenic bus tour back instead of the train. Some of our best photos were taken this day. We could see down the coast to Cinque Terre in one direction from the mountaintops, and count six distinct mountain ranges. In the other direction we could see France and the Alps. It was truly unbelievable, the best hiking day yet.

Tuesday, June 19, 2001

the taxi picked us up at 5:00 am. Itís over. Itís way too early. I want to protest to somebody. All in all it was a superb vacation. Our slides are back, and they are great. I know we have to cut out some of the pictures and just pick our best ones but we canít decide which are the bad ones!

Arrivederci. I hope you enjoy the diary. It was interesting to write.