Portofino

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The Allure of the Ligurian Coast is its history and beautiful cities (Part two)

Friday, February 17th, 2012

The monastery we selected (from among hundreds in The Guide to Lodging in Italy’s Monasteries) has eight double rooms with private bath.

Portofino is one of the most exclusive resorts in Italy. A harbor town, it is anchored on a promontory overlooking the sea and coastline. What makes the town even more delightful are the brightly colored houses that edge the portside piazza and compose a postcard pretty picture. As hikers, we found another trail that was quite lovely. If you’re up for the walk, take the road near the16th century Castle of San Giorgio through a pine woodland to the Punta del Capo lighthouse. And whatever you do, wherever you go in this part of Italy, don’t forget your camera.

Nearby Genoa, capital of the region, remains the most important harbor in Italy. It is laid out along the seashore like an amphitheater. A maze of narrow streets comprise the heart of the old city where humble houses, medieval churches and 16th century palaces stand side by side. The austere facades of the churches, often layers of black and white marble, belie the beauty within. The surrounding hilltops are scattered with walls and fortresses from the early 17th century. In the 13th century, the city was the main maritime power of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Some of the city’s sights include the Palazzo Rosso and its fine gallery showcasing Tintoretto, Caravaggio, Veronese and Durer while the Palazzo Bianco exhibits the works of Pontormo, Reubens and Van Dyck. Don’t miss the Staglieno. It is as much a sculpture garden as an amazing cemetery. Planned in the mid 15th century, it is a place unto itself. There’s a map that will show the way down numerous cedar and cypress lined avenues to some impressive monuments. Make note of the often provocative granite and marble female figures on the tombstones.

The monastery we selected (from among hundreds in The Guide to Lodging in Italy’s Monasteries) has eight double rooms with private bath. The rooms are in a recently renovated section that is open year-round. The cost per person, per night depends on the time of year. As an aside, the monks produce an ointment that heals wounds and extracts splinters from under the skin. The ointment is sold throughout Italy. For more information about other monasteries in every part of Italy, visit http://www.monasteriesofitaly.com

The Allure of the Ligurian Coast is its history and beautiful cities (Part One)

Friday, January 27th, 2012

In 1954, the monks purchased an abandoned 19th century castle that was adjacent to the monastery and its 12th century church. The complex is ensconced in a huge park with wonderful views of the sea.

Italy is one of my favorite countries to visit. The welcoming ambience of the Italian people, the ease of getting around and the charms of the hilltop villages and sophisticated cities always make for a memorable trip. But, of course, there are always favorites to be visited again and again. And certainly, high on my list is the Ligurian Coast.

A few years ago I elected to spend two weeks traveling this particularly beautiful coastline. I stayed in Camogli, a delightful city with beautiful views. My reasons for choosing a monastery are many, among them are the fact that they are architecturally beautiful structures, inexpensive, well tended and  safe.

Camogli occupies a pine-covered slope on the western side of the Portofino promontory. A distinctive and picturesque seaside town of narrow cobblestoned lanes and porticoes, Camogli has retained its atmospheric medieval center, highlighted by very tall, pastel-colored houses. The charm of the houses is accentuated by trompe l’oeil artwork, an artistic feature that can be seen all along the coast. And when you’re talking about “fooling the eye,” this area can’t be beat.

For an outstanding day trip, the famous Abbey of San Fruttuoso is a monumental Benedictine compound that can be accessed by ferry or by a dramatic and inspiring cliff side walk that takes about 5 hours roundtrip. The majestic white abbey buildings are sheltered in a setting of pines and olives trees. Built in the 10th century, the medieval church reveals three naves, a Byzantine cupola and a romantic two-tiered cloister ornamented with columns and carved capitals.

If you’re into walking (as I am), the fishing hamlet of San Rocco can be reached via a pretty walk of 5 km through olive trees and citrus groves. It is home to the Romanesque church of San Nicolo Recco. According to legend, the church was founded by Erice, son of Venere, who built a temple dedicated to his mother.

For more information on Ligura’s monasteries: monasteriesofitaly.com