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Northern Italy 9/22, part 5 #289413
10/10/2022 02:46 PM
10/10/2022 02:46 PM
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BEERMAN Offline OP
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BEERMAN  Offline OP
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Northern Italy 2022, (September 3-14)

Well, it's time to move on, ugh! We all agreed that Santa Margherita Ligure is on our list of "do agains".


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We were out of the apartment around 9:30 and figured we had time to swing by Camogli before getting the car. It was a quick train ride to the Camogli station that sits above this steep town. The sound of rolling suitcases bouncing up and down stairs is etched in my memory! There were a lot of cool shops lining the colorful streets causing the ladies to take short breaks, which I appreciated.


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I won't say that we "saw" all of the town, but once down on the wide seaside promenade we LIKED IT!! Found outdoor seating at a nice cafe at the marina and enjoyed coffee and tea. With the help of our waitress we tried to arrange a taxi back up to the train station, but no luck, very few cars here. Preparing for the "steps" we stopped in a Focacceria to grab our favorite snack food FOCACCIA!! During our uphill slog to the train station we decided that for time sake we might try to call a cab to take us to the Genova airport?...there was actually a cab driver at the top of the hill!!


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A writer once wrote that Camogli is as attractive as any town in Cinque Terra and perhaps should have been included in that group? I think Sei Terra doesn't sound as good, and honestly Camogli should keep under the radar! There were many people there, but plenty of room to breathe. I think this beautiful town will be added to our "do agains" before it morph's into a hot spot.


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The pleasant cab driver told us it would take about 45 minutes to get to the airport and cost $100. We figured it was worth not making train/bus transfers with our luggage. It was a nice quiet ride and I was able to refresh my memory on Italian traffic signs! I got a ticket one trip and wanted to avoid that this trip, if possible. Upon arrival cabby was nice enough to walk us in and pointed at our car rental, "take care, bye bye!" Paperwork was pretty quick, I joked with the man and said is this your largest vehicle? We drive a GMC Yukon at home...he laughed "You Americans" and soon we were off in our comfortable blue Audi A5... probably the largest vehicle we would see ha!


My daughter was the master navigator with directions to Guarene in her phone. The very first toll booth we pulled into was an "uh oh!" moment. We..."I" drove into an easy pass only lane with a guard arm. I didn't see a way to pay? I pressed for assistance and then the cars started pulling in behind me.."UH OH!". Crazy thing, the 10 cars inconvenienced by me never honked like they would at home, simply backed out! The voice in the speaker could not understand me, nor I her....with no cars behind us I said "grazie, bye bye". Over the coming days we learned to avoid the easy pass only lanes (they had a wifi symbol), opting for lanes with payment/no attendant and lanes with payment and attendant, no more uh oh's!


The drive to Guarene was smooth and took less than 2 hours, hope I was doing the correct speed limit! We had texted our greeter earlier and told her we'd arrive between 3-4:00. We were early and she was running a little behind, no biggie. We drove up to and through the narrow streets of the tiny hill town of Guarene. I had previously googled the street map and found the airbnb Luisa's Smile, https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/286838..._id=dfce7de4-0a34-464e-9059-155fa2ca606c but when actually there I was guessing and simply took an open parking space.



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Why did we choose Guarene and Luisa's Smile? My wife and daughter wanted a place like a farm stay, so that we could really experience, if just briefly, an authentic Italian way of life. Planning this trip just over a month out limited our choices a little, which may have been a godsend actually. We had specific Piemonte towns we wanted to visit and this airbnb was one in the area that just looked awesome in the pictures. The pics and description are good, but we were blown away when we actually saw it, so huge with amazing charm. So... Guarene?...why not!!!


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With down time we walked 100 yards to the tiny town center admiring the architecture and cobblestone road. We commented that we certainly picked a sleepy town, nobody in sight. Town center was complete with beautiful church, government building, bakery and small hotel/ristorante named Mira Langhe. We poked our head in Mira Langha and struck up a conversation with owner Annalisa aka "Ana". She spoke good English and was so welcoming. We told her we were waiting for our greeter, she knew the owners of our airbnb of course. During our conversation a gentleman hands us a chilled Prosecco drink and motions us to sit, how nice! This would be Ana's husband Maurizio, he's also the chef who spoke as much English as I do Italian. A couple minutes later Maurizio delivers a meat and cheese plate that could feed 6 people. We told them we were from the Washington DC area and they told us about their hometown of Guarene, even got to meet their lovely daughter Chiara. It was a fantastic conversation, but soon it was time to meet the greeter. They refused to allow us to pay for the drinks and food, saying "our gift to you", how generous! We asked if we could make a dinner reservation there and was told of course, seating at 7:30.


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Once we met the greeter we realized we were so close to finding Luisa's Smile. We were introduced to the owners Flaminia and Dario, luckily the greeter could translate! They are a wonderful older couple who live on site, but provided us with total privacy. This is a very large property, 4 levels to be exact, owners live on the 3rd and half of the 4th floor while giving us full access to 1st floor (Historic cave and outdoor space), 2nd (living area, kitchen, gardens) and half the 4th (2 bedrooms). To make things easy the owners added an elevator to access all 4 floors, cool. Before I forget, I should mention that this is 2 bedrooms, but they share a bathroom and the elevator is in one of the bedrooms, thus making it perfect for families, not so much for 2 couples wanting complete privacy. The next pic shows the entire villa, 2 separate front doors that provided our privacy.


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This airbnb could be a museum with its history. Earliest written document from Pope Eugene III mentions Guarene in 1154. The Luisa's Smile building is from 1700, but the "cave" has the original well that provided water to the earliest towns people, including the Roero Family, how cool is that! Here's the cave...


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Flaminia and Dario were also very generous, welcoming us with a bottle of chilled champagne, pear cake and a bowl full of fresh fruit. The "home" literally had everything we needed, especially in the kitchen. Walk out the French doors in the kitchen and into the gardens you'll see your neighbor the Castle (5 star hotel now) and the wonderful Church of St Peter and Bartholomew. Look the other way and enjoy the beautiful Langhe valley, even from the elevator!


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Dinner was an authentic Piedmontese dining experience lasting 3 wonderful hours! Entering Mira Langhe we were greeted with welcoming smiles. Ana had our table ready with 3 glasses of sparkling wine, nice! The views of the valley from the large wall of windows was worth the price of admission! Ana described the menu options and we relied on her recommendations, each course was basically a surprise! Daughter Chiara and another wonderful waitress assisted with the multiple courses, all perfectly timed and all equally delicious! (I'll attach this evenings menu). Ana recommended 2 small production wines, Nebbiolo to start things off and later a Barbaresco. We really enjoyed the wines, one of the 2 was from her cousins winery, cool. After finishing with outstanding desserts of panna cotta and torte we walked away from the table happy!


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On the way out Maurizio invites us to join him and his10 local friends outside for after dinner drinks, how could we refuse! The ladies had a Nebbiola and I was given Genepi. With translation help from Chiara I told them the last time I had Genepi was in Annecy France, that's when we discovered that Maurizio spoke a little French. Our daughters rusty high school French came in handy! Our daughter discovered that this area speaks Piedmontese, which has some influence from French, who knew?! Come to find out their daughter said one of her toughest classes was Italian, I said I still have trouble with English, she laughed!

Around midnight we said our thank you and goodbyes and settled our tab, would you believe 110 euros..what?? My attempt at "tipping" was quickly dismissed by Ana. And to top it all off they invited us to breakfast!...We joyfully walked up the cobble stone road under dim warm lighting and commented that we have just met the absolute nicest people in the world.


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To be continued.....ciao!


Last edited by BEERMAN; 10/10/2022 03:07 PM.
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Re: Northern Italy 9/22, part 5 [Re: BEERMAN] #289419
10/10/2022 06:33 PM
10/10/2022 06:33 PM
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Looks like you found your retirement home. The streets, towers and people all great. No truffles yet?

Re: Northern Italy 9/22, part 5 [Re: TravelHat] #289421
10/10/2022 07:03 PM
10/10/2022 07:03 PM
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Originally Posted by TravelHat
Looks like you found your retirement home. The streets, towers and people all great. No truffles yet?



We had truffle infused this and that...and truffle chips! Maurizio actually has a truffle dog and his secret spots! He said the government is very strict and quiet on when the hunt begins, he expected mid-late Sept, so I would think they are plentiful now! I would like to time a visit to go on a truffle hunt.

Funny you bring up retirement, my wife has actually been researching what type of visa is needed to spend more than 6 months in Italy. I'm all for it, but maybe dip our toes in for 3 months first?! Conversations about leasing our Virginia home for a year have started ;-)

Re: Northern Italy 9/22, part 5 [Re: BEERMAN] #289428
10/11/2022 08:13 AM
10/11/2022 08:13 AM
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My daughter and son in law return after a four year deployment to Vicenza next month. They loved it, other than the lock down time. We thought about trying a few months the whole time we visited.

Re: Northern Italy 9/22, part 5 [Re: TravelHat] #289464
10/12/2022 07:29 PM
10/12/2022 07:29 PM
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TravelHat, it's so tempting, what's not to like! Your daughter and son in law will look back at those years with fond memories, bet they return! Lock down here or there was a nuisance, happy to be through that now. Our neighbors son was stuck in Germany 2 years, he actually had a good time ;-)

Re: Northern Italy 9/22, part 5 [Re: BEERMAN] #289467
10/12/2022 09:50 PM
10/12/2022 09:50 PM
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I would have to find a town along the lines of this last one or maybe a little bigger. Piedmont has always been a bucket list place. I don’t think I would like it South and I was not a fan of Milan. Lots of variables on a big move.

Re: Northern Italy 9/22, part 5 [Re: BEERMAN] #289468
10/13/2022 06:38 AM
10/13/2022 06:38 AM
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Lake Norman, NC
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I too would love that. I think a 3 month starter to settle in to an area and be local would be great! That was always our retirement dream.

Wondering would you pre visit before booking long term? Having just returned from there with beds that were ok to bad and bathrooms that were interesting, would you book it looking at pictures and reviews or do you think you would want to lay your eyes on your home for 3-6 months before you committed?

And yes, size of the town and transportation, would be huge variables.

I would add, for us, I would like a place with less tourists, less Americans. We enjoyed Bologna and Modena for that reason. I am weary on tour groups after our time in the Cinque. Sadly will not be visiting there again. Need to find some new places like that.

Ellen

Re: Northern Italy 9/22, part 5 [Re: TravelHat] #289471
10/13/2022 08:52 AM
10/13/2022 08:52 AM
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TravelHat by last do you mean Guarene? if so, it had everything we wanted for this stay, which was a couple restaurants, church bells, a bakery and ZERO tourists, oh and they have a Micro brewery within walking distance! The owners of Mira Langhe said they have one American couple that has stayed there every year for past 20. They don't see many Americans, which I found interesting and pretty cool.

EllenS, we Stayed once in Monterosso al Mare, had lots of daytime sightseers but we loved our mornings and evenings there. We avoid flag waving tour groups if possible. We didn't see any in Camogli or Santa Margherita?...but that will change i'm sure. Portofino had way too many visitors. I think the towns, especially the ones that can control the transportation flow should limit the crowds, they'll still rake in tourist dollars but would give the towns people and toilets a break.

As far as long term rental, would like to see it in person, but that might not be practical? We would absolutely visit the town, perhaps meet with a real estate group to put a wish list together and have a "person" to coordinate with. The beds certainly are hit or miss, if a long term rental had a crappy mattress I would buy them a new one that we like!!

I'm working on pics this morning, next report will have 2 more small towns...

Re: Northern Italy 9/22, part 5 [Re: BEERMAN] #289481
10/13/2022 09:58 AM
10/13/2022 09:58 AM
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Lake Norman, NC
EllenS Offline
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Never thought about buying a mattress! It’s funny when you start thinking about living in Italy for three months, you get stuck on small things you can fix.

We stayed in Manarola and yes morning and evening were spectacular. The worst was the mass of humanity from the cruise ship getting on the ferry.

Doesn’t look like that town has train service. Not sure what I think on that. Train would be nice and not figuring out a long term car.

Excited to see next installment. Mine will pale in comparison to the epic ones that you and Tom do. How do you get all those pictures in? Are you uploading another document?

Re: Northern Italy 9/22, part 5 [Re: EllenS] #289483
10/13/2022 10:27 AM
10/13/2022 10:27 AM
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Guarene does not have a train, but they have a bus stop, I think? A bigger town like Alba (15 minutes from Guarene) might be something we'd look at because of train and other infrastructure. Has a small city feel but also has the "Old Alba" section.

All trip reports are good, look forward to yours! As far as pics....takes time....I create a file of the pics i use and then reduce the pixel size for TTOL. I then copy those to a photo thread in TTOL General Photo Gallery and then "use full editor" to attach the link where I want the individual pics....if you need help message me, once you do it once or twice it's not difficult...just takes time. If anyone knows a simpler method please chime in ;-)

Last edited by BEERMAN; 10/13/2022 10:28 AM.
Re: Northern Italy 9/22, part 5 [Re: BEERMAN] #289501
10/13/2022 09:22 PM
10/13/2022 09:22 PM
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Yes Guarneri.


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