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.
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.
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.
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!