Friday, May 16, 2014

Italy 2014: Day 15: Friday: May 16: Noli

Beautiful day....check.

Great view from the breakfast veranda...check.

All is going well.

Breakfast is just about the only thing that could be improved here.  Not wishing to sound too picky, the tea and coffee are never hot enough and the selection of food, while adequate, is not remarkable.  End of complaint....

After breakfast, we drive towards Savona which is on the way to Genova.  We pass the ferry docks in Vado Ligure where you can catch boats to Corsica.

Savona has the reputation of a gritty industrial city and there is plenty of evidence of that as you drive in but the center of town has been refurbished very nicely.  There is large pedestrian only section with shops, restaurants, bars and places to hang out.  We meander a bit, pop into the duomo whose exterior is completely covered with scaffolding but it is quite impressive inside.


This baptistery font dates from the Byzantine period.

Then we stop for a coffee in a piazza with attractive Liberty-style lampposts.

Back in car, we drive past the large fortress that dominates the old town 

and admire the Liberty-style (art deco) building across the street.

Continuing down the coast, we stop in Celle Ligure, one of the old money resorts for the Genovese families. There is a market being held in the main streets and along the water so it hard to to get a sense of the town and this is one of the beach towns where the view of the water is blocked by the rows of cabanas at the beach clubs. We sit in the sun for a while and then have a light lunch--some focaccia with ham and cheese and a piece of farinata (a pizza-like chickpea flour treat that is a speciality of Liguria)

Passing by a fruttaverdura, I buy some strawberries and cherries...the strawberries are delicious but Italian cherries (which are now in season) are different than the Bing cherries we are used to (not as sweet or firm) and we are disappointed with them as usual.

Back in Noli, I make another excursion into town and discover the area that had been the old Jewish ghetto under the old maritime republic.  There is even an historical marker marking the spot.

Before dinner, we get back in the car and drive to the village of Verezzi, which, we were told by our friend Max from the wine bar in Loano, has one of the best views anywhere on the coast.  The ride up to the village is not that challenging and we stop at the overlook to take in the scene.  

To be honest, this picture doesn't do justice to the actual view but it gives you an idea.

We go down by a different route and it feels like we are dropping over the edge of the cliff; the road is a seemingly unending series of tight hairpin turns on a very narrow road but slowly and deliberately, we make it down to sea level without incident.

We have dinner reservations at an informal osteria in town called Bucun du Preve that was suggested by the owner of the hotel. (Bucun du Preve is Ligurian dialect for the priest's mouth--priests are reputed to eat well.) We are greeting very nicely by the woman who runs the place and, since there are only a few tables occupied, she explains the menu to us in detail (she seems to do that with all tables) and we have a chance to talk with her during the meal.  The food is typical Ligurian....Diana has a red shrimp salad served with shredded cabbage and crushed hazelnuts followed by a dish of trofie with pesto which includes potatoes and string beans.  Pesto was invented here and when it is made with early Spring basil, it is pretty terrific.  I have an unusual dish of a Ligurian stuffed cabbage (it wouldn't have been out of place in an Hungarian kitchen) followed by another Ligurian speciality--cappun magro.  It is a type of cold seafood salad--a piece of fish topped with a green sauce accompanied by shrimp and mussel served on top of a hard biscuit...very unusual and very tasty.

The boss also treats us to another local dish called brandajun, made of mashed stockfish and spices and served with pesto...a local version of brandade from the south of France.  We have no difficulty polishing off a bottle of the house white wine and even have room for the excellent dessert--a pear, raisin, nut tart for Diana and pistachio flavored panna cotta for me.

Everything is so good and the vibe is so positive that we tell the boss that we would like to come back tomorrow which seems to please her very much.

On the way back to the hotel, we admire the soft colors of the sunset over the water

and ascend in our funicolare to our room.

Tomorrow..our last day in paradise.

Jim and Diana