a few kilometers down the Ligurian Coast from the bustling
burg of Genoa --and at least a million mental miles away --
is peaceful Camogli, Italy.
Jet-set types like Charles Dickens, Lord Byron and
Percy Shelley have been slowing down and kicking back along these
shores of the Italian Riviera for nearly two centuries, back when
they were jetting
about in carriages and on boats. Excellent
company for GypsyNesters -- even ones arriving via rented FIAT.
is literally married to the sea -- her name translates to
house of wives in honor of the brave women waiting
for their sailors to return home.
We were itching to get out on the water but restrained ourselves
for a bit to get a feel for the town. While strolling the smattering
of small shops that line the shoreline, we decided to map our day
cup of Joe. Grabbing a seat at one of the outdoor establishments,
we ordered up due cuppucci and scoped out the surroundings.
Ah, Riviera Ligure, a beautiful spring Mediterranean morning and
the nectar of the coffee bean. We felt like the beautiful people.
up and ready to rock we headed out to the end of the seawall
for an ocean's eye view of the town and a better look at Castello
Dragone. The castle has been standing guard at the entrance
of the harbor since the early 1200s and looks like it has
another 800 years left in it, easy. Walking the seawall also
gave us a chance to scout out the fleet from a different angle.
The marina at Camogli is filled with small fishing boats, both private
and commercial, but we did spot a couple bigger vessels ready to
ferry passengers to points unknown.
As usual we
didn't have any plans other than the desire to get out on the
briney deep... next stop, the ticket booth. Not wanting to go
back toward Genoa, we booked passage on the next boat going the
other way. That turned out to be a stroke of incredible luck because
we ended up heading for San Fruttuoso, one of the coolest places
we've ever stumbled upon.
the moment we left the harbor it became obvious why locals
call this little corner of the Mediterranean Golfo Paradiso.
With its lush, green haphazard mountains rising right out
of the crystal blue water, paradise might not be a strong enough
word for this clear, blue heaven.
first stop on the ferry was a secluded dock to drop off hikers
heading into Portofino Regional Nature Park. The entire peninsula
that forms this side of the gulf is protected land. The park
safeguards about three thousand
acres of undisturbed wilderness, with neither roads nor vehicles
Around a point and tucked away in a turquoise inlet, hidden
view until we were right up on it, was San Fruttuoso di Capodimonte.
The picturesque little village is dominated by the Benedictine monastery
that gives it its name.
site, chosen by the monks over a thousand years ago for its
seclusion and safety, is only accessible by sea or footpath
over the mountains. Throughout the years an abbey, church,
tower were built and rebuilt on this isolated spot. The octagonal
church tower, Torre Nolare, is famous as an incredibly well preserved
tenth century architecture and one of the oldest standing
structures in Liguria.
||In 1141 the Doria
family bought the entire complex and the Benedictines allowed them
to use the lower level of the cloister as tombs for the next few
centuries. The family is best known for the sixteenth century sea
captain, Andrea Doria, who eventually led the entire navy for Genoa
in conquests throughout the Mediterranean. Centuries later a sinking
ship bearing his name would become even more famous than the Genovese
disembarked and made our way up the beach past the soaking-up-the-sun
bathers to the abbey situated directly on the sand. A small
path lead us through an archway leading inside to
Ducking under the arches we began to explore. The inside of
the buildings are dark, damp and felt just plain ancient --
because they are -- but outside, things are meticulously landscaped
with lush gardens lining
winding, narrow footpaths.
poking around the musty old monastic buildings for awhile,
we followed a trail and steep staircase for a better view
of the village and a look at the Doria tower. Back in 1562,
it seems pirates had taken a shine to this beautiful inlet
so defenses were called for. The Doria family built the
tower and named in honor of The Admiral.
were enjoying the view the boat blasted its horn to signal
departure. Oops! This was the last vessel leaving for the
day. Miss it and we're sleeping on the beach. We scrambled
down the stairs and around the path, found a shortcut to
the beach over a ledge and then up the gangplank. Good thing
it was all downhill. We jumped aboard just as the good ship
Paradiso was casting off.
Our luck was
holding, why waste any time sitting on a boat that's
we were NOT lucky enough to catch a glimpse of The Christ
of the Abyss, an eight and half foot bronze sculpture submerged
at the mouth of the little inlet. At over fifty feet deep,
it's safe to say that SCUBA gear is the best bet for getting
a good look at the Sunken Savior, though it is said when the water
is especially clear it may be viewed from the surface. Dedicated
in 1954, the subaquatic statue protects the safety of divers in
the name of Dario Gonzatti, the first Italian
to ever use SCUBA
back in to Camogli, we noticed a couple of structures along
the shore that we had missed on the way out. A medieval lighthouse
and several World War II era bunkers
dotted the hills overlooking the gulf.
lighthouse dates back to medieval times while the bunkers
were built by Nazi Germany in an effort to protect the entrance
to the Genoa harbor, an important supply port.
Between these fortifications and those at San Fruttuoso we
couldn't help thinking that as long as men have sailed these
seas they have battled for control of this area.
on dry land we sought out a proper spot to watch the sun go
down, count our lucky stars as they came out and toast another
charmed Italian adventure. There's something
a day on the water, cares just dissolve
away. No doubt our day was infinitely more serene than those of
the ancient sailors but still, they must have loved the sun, the
salt spray and the rocking of the waves.
they also knew the joys of shellfish washed down with a Pinot
Grigio to celebrate a successful voyage?
David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com