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July 7-10, 2011  ITALY Part II

Since we have taken this trip through Italy several times over the years, I have condensed this year's into only two Diarios.

Incidentally, this year marks Italy's 150 Anniversary as an independent unified country.


Portofino Panorama, just south of Zoagli


Thursday  July 7, 2011


            I woke from a vivid dream at 2:35, and then again at 3:45, 4:00, 5:20, 6:15, and from another dream at 7:00.  I last woke at 9:50 and got up at 12:15.  What a beautiful view from the balcony to greet the day.  I went up to Dima's little office with my computer and at 1:00 I did my LA Times crossword, downloaded Rush but couldn't get on AOL.  At 3:00 they all had a very nice lunch that Dima prepared (below right.)

            Patrick (above) we have known since he was a puppy.  I skipped lunch as usual and at 4:00 I drove to my favorite little coast town of Santa Margherita.  I found my usual parking place in Piazza Manzini (above) and then started looking for a TIM telephone store because I needed to buy a new phone with a new number for Marcia.

   

            She left hers in Arese and we are not going back there to get it.  I lucked out in there being a TIM shop (above) right in this piazza.  I went in at 4:45 and bought a new Nokia phone for €49, a new TIM Chip with a phone number for €10 and a TIM Top Up card (€20) for my phone.  Happy to have that taken care of, at 5:00, I went into a little place just down the street called Galfré Cristina [11 Largo Amendola Giovanni, +39-018-529-0172.]  Its a little specialty shop but they have a little coffee shop in the back room.  I ordered a cappuccino and set up Marcia's phone and relaxed for a while.  It only cost €1.1 which is rare over here.

    

 

            They had quite an array of candies and food delicacies (above.)  By now it was a little cooler so at 6:25 I started my run down the streets to the sea and then along the coast until I got to Mortola, my favorite men's shop.  This time I didn't find anything I needed to buy.  I walked around a little and got to the beach area and found the Lido Palace Hotel [Viale Andrea Doria 3, +39-018-528-5821] the four star hotel where we stayed for almost a week in 2000.  Its in a great spot and a nice place to stay.

            They prominently displayed the coat of arms of the City of Santa Margherita and that of the Province of Genoa.

   

            Of course they also have boat excursions around the Promontorio di Portofino.

            Here is the shot I got of the city after running all the way around to the breakwater.

            Near the breakwater is the statue of Saint Margherite, the patron saint of the city.

    

            They are selling these decorative gourds in the street.  I walked past the Duomo many times and had to take one more photo of it.

            It was now 7:00 and I felt like having a beer and relax.  I picked an outdoor spot on Via Palestro, not far form the church called Caffé del Borgo [6 Via Palestro, +39-018-528-7102.]  It is a Pasticceria (pastries) and a bar pub and Birrerie (beer place.)

     

            I ordered a simple glass of Nastro Azzura beer on tap and to my great surprise the waitress kept bringing out all these little plates of tiny half-sandwiches, corn and potato chips, peanuts, olives and carrots.  I usually don't eat now but they were so good with the beer that I wound up gobbling down all of it.  It was all free except for the beer, of course. 

    

            Below left is an example of some of the pastries they sell.  As I walked around I saw this nice display of fresh seafood.

            At 7:25 I got back to the car and took some photos of the statue honoring Giuseppe Mazzini (1805–1872) nicknamed the "Soul of Italy."

            He was an Italian politician, journalist and activist for the unification of Italy. His efforts helped bring about the independent and unified Italy.  A contemporary of his, Karl Marx (of communism fame) described Mazzini as "that everlasting old ass."  Mazzini was an early advocate of a "United States of Europe" about a century before the EU began to take shape.  For him, European unification was a logical continuation of Italian unification.  Below is a photo of his house in Genoa (left) which is now a museum and his mausoleum (right) which is also in Genoa.

    

            I got in the car and drove the half hour drive back and arrived at the house at 7:55 and then enjoyed a Heineken and an Italian beer Dima had in the fridge.

            At 9:00 Dima drove us all to Rapallo, the touristy town south of Zoagli.  We sat down for dinner at at 9:30 at Ristorante Amici Miei [Lungomare Vittorio Veneto 25, Lungomare Via Veneto 25, +39-01-855-7480] 181.5°+10  I pd

 

            I loved the architecture of this bank building nearby (above left.)  We had a nice table outside in this balmy weather.  The coperto here was only €2 per person.  We ordered aqua panna (plain water) and Pellegrino.   Then Dima ordered two bottles of Astoria Müller Thurgau 2010 frizzante wine and then we enjoyed some bruschetta (below righ) that Dima ordered for us.

            I have never seen this special ice bag (above center) they used to keep our wine  in.  Its a pretty neat way of doing it.  Then he ordered an antipasta assortment (below left) of polpo (octopus,) cocci (mussels,) calamari (squid,) scampi (shrimp) and vongole (clams) as well as an additional (below right) polpo e patate antipasta (potaotes.)

             I had buccatini (pasta like a straw) amatriciana with pancetta on top followed by annanas for dessert.

 

            Marcia had trancio pesche spada (swordfish steak) (below left) which came with this tomato concoction.

 

            Dima had orecchiette (ear-shaped pasta) pugliese (below) and Tania had taglierini astice (pasta with European lobster) (not shown) followed by an espresso.

            The food was good and we were having a great time.

             All but Tania had sorbetto limone (lemon sorbet) (above left) and a cold glass of limoncello (above right.)  I finished off with a cappuccino which was one of the best I've had here in Italy. 

      

            Our waiter was Alfredo who took very good care of us.  We rated the dinner as excellent.  At 11:45 Dima drove us back home and we got there at 12:15.  I had some Slivovitz with Dima before going to bed at 1 AM.

            On an interesting note.  What is slivovitz?  Marcia and I were first introduced to it in 1970 on our Honeymoon when we were in Belgrade and it certainly got us drunk pretty quickly.  We enjoyed it then but have shied away from it in our later years.   Slivovitz is a distilled beverage made from Damson plums; (left) a plum brandy.  The word is derived from the Slavic words "sliva" (meaning damson plum) and the suffix "-vice" or "-vica" meaning brandy.  Slivovitz or Slivovitsa is šljivovica in Serbo-Croatian, slivovice in Czech, slivovica in Slovak, sliwowitz in German, sligovica in Hungarian, slivovitz in Italian, śliwowica in Polish, şliboviţă in Romanian, and slivovka in Slovenian.  In the Balkans it is in the category of drinks called rakia which in Hungary and Slovakia is called Palenka (Pálinka.)  Just a warning for EU travelers.


Friday   July 8, 2011


Today we have been in Italy for one week.

Today is my brother Gary's funeral.

 

            I woke at 6:00, 8:30, 9:15 and finally got up at 11:00 AM.  At Noon Dima invited me to walk down with him to the sea (below.)

            It was just beautiful but the waves were a little strong for this old man to take a swim.  Dima did though and had a good time.

            This is what the house looks like from down here.

            When I got back up to the house at 1:00, I did my AOL email, the crossword and downloaded Rush.  At 3:00 we had guests for lunch.   It was very nice to meet Alex and Kate.  He is the Russian Ambassador to Italy and of course the Italian government required he be protected by Italian carbinieri (police) outside.  I did not eat lunch but joined them all with a cup of coffee.

              At 4:30 I again drove to Santa Margherita for my run but this time Marcia wanted me to take her and drop her off in Rapallo for some shopping.  She went to Farmacia Internazionale [1 Via Milite Ignoto, +39-018-523-1063] and at 5:10 she bought some clothes at Cleo [56 Via Mazzini, +39-018-527-2842] then more at Benetton [65 Via Mazzini, +39-01-855-1434] and finally at 6:00, she relaxed and had a coffee at Bocchia Caffé (below) [31 Via Mazzini, +39-01-855-0009.]

            I arrived in Santa Margherita at 5:00 and went straight back to the same TIM store because I could not load the chip I had bought for my phone.  They told me I needed to show my passport first because more than a year had passed since I had used it.  It was quite a complicated hassle to go through but at least my number didn't die as it does in some countries.  Diletto (below) who took good care of me was very pretty; maybe one of the prettiest Italian women I have met.  I also bought more top up for €30.

      

            At 5:15 I went for a cappuccino at Piccolo Bar [8 Largo Giovanni Amendola.]

    

            Since it was cooling down so at 6:15 I did my run again through the streets again.  I got to the fish market and got this shot of a monkfish on display (below left.)  They also had these wonderful descriptions of all the seafood in Italian.  Now you can see what those fancy Italian restaurant names mean.

      

 

 

            I got back to the car at 7:00 and drove to pick Marcia up in Rapallo and got back to the house to have one of Dima's birra and then ate the leftovers of buccatini and vitello Milanese and spinace.  Then at 8:30 Marcia drove us to Zoagli to meet them.  At 8:45 we parked in their new underground garage under the piazza.  At 8:50 we sat down for dinner at Osteria Aquasalata again [9 Piazza XXVII Dicembre, +39-018-525-0060] with Alex (the Russian Ambassador, on the phone) and his wife Kate.  It sure is a wonderful place to enjoy dinner with freinds.  Massimo and Sonja (below left) are the owners and they took very good care of us.

           Dima had me try this Italian beer called G. Menabrea e Figli and Alex is looking to see if I am going to drink the whole 23 oz bottle (below left.)  I have never heard of this beer before.  It is brewed in the city of Biella (right) at the base of the Alps northwest of Milano and they have been brewing for 160 years.  It was pretty good.  They also ordered a bottle of Pinot Rose 2010 wine.

        

            Marcia and I had some house vino frizzante and then she had spaghetti al pesto (below left) and I had penne alla vodka (below right.)

    

            I then followed that with tagliatte de manzo (steak) with potatoes and red peppers (below left,) and then for dessert, a nice dish of proscuito e melone.

 

            Tania again had langoustines which are very good but for me there is not enough meat on them to feed a bird.

            We rated the dinner as good.  At 11:30 we went to the car, paid the parking fee of €3.5 and then Dima drove us home.  Alex and Kate left with their driver and the police following closely behind them.  At the house we had some grappa and vino.  I got to bed at 12:15 AM.


Saturday July 9, 2011


            I woke at 3:30, 7:30, 10:00, 11:30 and finally got up at 11:45.  My weight now is up to 161 lbs (73 Kg) which is heavy for me.  I need to cut down a little.  At Noon I did my usual on the computer and then at 3:30 I went for a swim in the pool since it would be my last day here to enjoy it.  For something different, at 4:00 I drove to Rapallo instead of Santa Margherita and found a parking place in this busy city right along the beach.  The meter was so confusing I just walked away.

   

At 4:50 I did my run along the Rapallo spiagia (beach.).  At 5:20 I stopped in Amici Miei where we ate last night to get another good cappuccino.  The waiter said it was too early but lucky for me, a lady came out and told him to make it for me.  It was good.

            At 5:45 I had to call Dima to get Marcia's new phone number which somehow I did not get on my phone.  I walked around a little and found this gazebo-like structure that had a beautiful mural on the ceiling.

            Then I started meandering through the little center of town I have really never seen before.  The city is divided into Sestieri or sections and they have have metal plaques iin the sidewalk indicating which one you are in: here, Sestiere Costagata.

 

            Here are Sestieri Borzoli, Cerisola and Coppelletta.

   

            And then Sestiere San Michele and the City of Rapallo coat of arms.  As I got close to the beach area I was fascinated that they had turned the sidewalks into mosaics of sea creatures; the first is a creature in a shell.

   

            Below is a large manta ray,...

            ...a swordfish, ...

            ... a shark, ...

            ... a sperm whale, ...

            ... a fish and a crab.  They are really quite nicely done.

            I then meandered my way over to the marina area where they have plenty of boats and a very nice little park.  This channel (below left) goes all the way through the city.  From the marina there are very nice views back at the city.

            I went into the park and came across this rather spectacular memorial to Cristoforo Colombo which was erected in 1914.

  

            These below were the bronzes at the base of the memorial.

            As I worked my way back to the car, I was back where I started on the Lungomare, along the sea.

 

            At the end of the Lungomare is a very old fortress and a set of cannons.

 

            Nearby they have a bronze replica of the fortress with plaques in Italian and English describing it.  You can download the photo (below right) and read it.

     

            I got in the car and drove back to the house to pack up and load the car.  Dima and Tania had already left for Arese and now we were leaving so we had to lock it up.  We were hoping to stop and see my friend Dr. Giacomo Savini in Bologna bit when I talked to him earlier he told me it was way too hot in Bologna and he had taken the family to the seashore near Rimini.  I asked him to get us a hotel room and we would meet him there for dinner at least.  So, at 6:00 I drove the first 168 miles by taking the A-12 east.  At 6:40 we had to pay an Autostrada toll of €8.5.

              Then at 6:45 near La Spezia we take the A-15 north to Parma.  Then at 8:00 we turn southeast heading to Bologna on the A-1.  At 8:10 we made a pitstop at MyChef and bought four diet-cokes and M&Ms.  Then at 8:25 we took off and Marcia drove the remaining 81 miles heading toward Rimini.  When we get off the Autostrada (right) at 9:30, we then pay a whopping Autostrada toll of €25.1.  This total drive cost us €33.6 or $48 which is pretty expensive considering traveling in Germany is free.

            The GPS finally takes to the little town of Coriano.  We are here because this is the closest hotel Giacomo could find for us since this was a Saturday night in the resort area of Rimini and all the hotels were completely sold out.  You can see from the map how populated this area of the eastern Italian shore is and how far inland we are.

  

            The hotel was not marked well for signage and it took a little doing to find it since the GPS had given up.  We took a chance going up this side road and approached some gates and then saw the little brass sign on one of the columns.

            We drove through and up the driveway and finally arrived at 9:45, went into the entrance (below left) and checked into (above right) the Hotel Podere del Germano Reale [8/10 Via Puglie, Coriano, +39-054 -165-7857, info@germano-reale.com.]  Marco, the man who checked us in was very nice and realizing we were in a real hurry being so late, helped us get our bags to our room up the stairs (below right.)  If you have GPS it might be best to use the coordinates Lat: 43.96706, Long: 12.61792.

   

            Each room has a different name rather than a number and ours was called Room Rana (frog.)  The room next door was called Rondine (swallow.)

            We got in the room at 9:50 and I hurried to change into my street clothes.  At 9:55 Marcia drove to and across the Autostrada the 4 miles to Riccione to meet Giacomo.

 

            We got lost several times trying to find the restaurant he told us to go to and after multiple phone call back and forth Jack finally met us on a corner and we arrived at 10:30.  He took us to ristorante Canasta Mare [55 Via Lungomare della Repubblica , +39-054-141-2709] (below left.)  We went to the outside patio (below right.)

            We joined a large table of his friends but since we were late even for Italian standards, everyone was almost done with dinner so we had to quickly order something before the kitchen closed.  Very shortly everybody took off and even Jack and Giovanna had to take their two little boys (below left) back to the hotel.  He told us he would return.  Here are some stock photos of the restaurant if we had gotten there at a decent hour.

 

  

            So we quickly looked over their extensive menu.

       

            At 11:15 we finally ordered dinner.  Marcia and I shared a bottle of Vesevo Greco di Tufo 2010 which was excellent.  You can't go wrong ordering a Greco di Tufo but some can be quite expensive nowadays.  This one wasn't.

   

            I had Pelligrino and for a primi had Tagliatelle ragú (below left) followed by Branzino in crosta di patate (seabass under roasted potatoes) (below right) which I had seen others at our table eating earlier and it looked pretty good.

            Marcia had Aqua Panna flat water and a wonderful dish of Tortellini panna e proscuito cotta and I finished off with a bowl of ananas.

   

            Our waitress was Irene and she was very nice at this late hour keeping them all up.  We rated the dinner as good.

            Below left is the view of the beach from our table outside.  Jack (below right) came back at 12:30 and invited us for a walk along the beach. 

 

            We started our walk along the very fancy promenade (below left) and finally reached a "downtown" area that was brimming with people on this Saturday night.

 

            At 1:00 we stopped for drinks at the inviting looking Blue b Caffé [63 Via Le Ceccarini, +39-054-169-2810]  I had a beer, Marcia had wine and Jack had a grasshopper mojito.

  

            We had a chance to chat and catch up on things and then we got back out on the very active street life going on in this resort area.

 

            We went by this rather interesting fountain.

 

            This ad for a pita-like panini sandwich looked pretty good about now.

            At 1:40 we walked back and we found that we had gotten a parking ticket for €39 which I put in my collection of EU tickets.  At 2:15 AM Marcia drove us back to our hotel and we arrived at 2:30.  I got to bed at 3 AM.


Sunday July 10, 2011


RIMINI-VENEZIA

            I woke at 5:00, 9:00, and then Marcia woke me at 10:25 and I got up.  I got directions for how to get to the center of Coriano (centro) and got there relatively easily.  As he told me, you can't miss the church at the top of the hill (below.)

 

            I got there in time and attended the 11:00 Mass at Santa Maria Assunta.

            Unusual for Italy, this is a brand new, modern church inside and out.

            In front of the church a little down the hill, was an unusual memorial (above) with the dedication "Ed e' Morte uno Spazio nel Cuore" ["And is Death a Space in the Heart"] a quote from S. Quasimodo.

       

            After Mass I drove around the town but it was completely dead and everything was closed, not even an espresso bar.  I then took some photos and at 12:10, drove back to the hotel.

 

            There were many sign, but as I got near the hotel I saw the sign (below right) I wish we had seen last night, pointing us directly to the "Germano Real Hotel."

            I got back to the hotel and went into the main lobby.

            I thought their display of where they keep the room keys very nice.  at 12:30 I got online and did my stuff.  Marco (below right) got me online.

            He also made sure Marcia was comfortable with a coffee outside on the patio.

 

            It is very nice out here.

            They have a nice tennis court on the grounds.

            As you could see in the aerial photo above, they have a beautiful large swimming pool.

            I got back to the room to start to pack up.

            Its a pretty nice place and very comfortable.

  

            We packed up and loaded the car and at 2:00 I checked out of the hotel.  At 2:30 I drove the entire 172 miles northwest to Bologna then north through Ferrara to Venezia.  We arrive at Mestre on the mainland and then drive the very long bridge across the lagoon and at 4:30 we had to pay an Autostrada toll of €17.5.  Five minutes later we arrived in Venezia port on the island and bought a round trip ticket for the Lido Ferry which cost us €74 ($105.)

            The view while crossing the bridge is really something to see as the Venice island grows larger in the distance.  You can see the route (below) the ferry will take down the Grand Canal, past St. Mark's piazza  and across to the island of Lido.  We didn't have to wait long for the ferry (below right) to arrive.

 

            The ramp is lowered and you drive the car onto the boat deck (below) directed by the staff.  You get out of the car and cliimb some stairs to the passenger area where there is a snack bar (below right.)

 

            As we head down the Grand Canal we start to approach St. Mark's.

 

            Then we go right by the tall Campanille in Piazza San Marco and the Doge's Palace.  Marcia feels very happy being back in Venezia.

            As we get close to the Lido dock we have to wait for the previous ferry to disengage and pull out.

 

            It finally is far enough away for our ferry to lower its ramp and pull into the dock.

            We landed in Lido at 5:15 and easily drove the short distance to our familiar hotel.  At 5:30 we parked the car in their locked parking area in the back and then checked into Hotel Belvedere [4 Piazza Le S. M. Elisabetta, +39-041-526-0115, hbelve@tin.it] (arrow left & right) and they gave us Room #208 with absolutely no view.  The first time we were here was July 8, 1997, at the recommendation of our friend Gianni Paoletti (on the right with Wolfgang Puck, below left) of Peppone's Restaurant [11628 Barrington Court, 310-476-7379] in Brentwood.  He and his brother Rudi (below right) (deceased in 2010) were born in Venezia.

  

            After checking in (below) we got our bags to the room using the elevator thankfully.  After unpacking I changed into my running gear.

      

            Below left is what our room was like - nothing fancy but adequate and clean.  At 6:30 I went for my run to the Lido spiagia (beach) and park.  While I was doing that, Marcia had a glass of wine and relaxed doing crossword puzzles at the hotel bar patio outside.

 

            As I was walking back I took some photos of some of the grand buildings on this island.  This is where the famous Lido Casino is located and the Venice Film Festival.  Below right is the 3-star Hotel Villa Cipro [2 Via Zara, +39-04-173-1538] (below right) which I might consider on our next trip.  Their rates were reasonable when I went in and asked.

     

            These are all along the main street going from the Venice side of the island to the beach side.  Below left is an example of some of the estates along the way.  Then I came across the rather spectacular 4-star Grande Albergo Ausonia Hungaria [28 Gran Viale S.M. Elisabetta, +39-041-242-0060.]

                

            What a beautiful place from either end of the block.  Many people were enjoying wine in their outside patio.

            It is hard to see in photos above, but below is an example of the extensive murals on the building.

 

            Not far from our hotel is another option, the 4-star Hotel Le Boulevard [Gran Viale S.M. Elisabetta, +39-041-526-1990] which looks rather nice.

            I arrived back to join Marcia at 7:00 and I was really in the mood for a beer.  I had a Paulaner beer and then went up and changed and at 8:25 we took short walk to the traghetti station and paid €13 for the two of us to catch one for Venezia.

            We arrived in Piazza San Marco (below left) at 8:40 and leisurely walked to dinner.  Both Dima and Alex (the Russian Ambassador) recommended a place for us to eat so we chose that rather than our usual favorite places.  At 8:50 we sat down in Do Forni [Calle Specchieri 457, +39-041- 523-2148] (right & below right.)

 

            Here we had to pay a coperto of €4 and ordered a bellini (below right) each since we were in Venice.  They were good but not as good as Harry's Bar (see below.)  The room we were seated had the appearance of you being in a very plush dining car on the Orient Express.

  

            I later found out that is was designed to be the Oreint Express.  Below are three stock photos of the place from their website.

 

            We ordered a bottle of Pelligrino and a relatively reasonably-priced bottle of Argiolas Costamolino Vermentino di Sardegna 2010 (€25.)  We then looked through their menu while the couple at the next table were engaged in romantic conversation.  Soon after they asked their waiter to move them to another more intimate table.

     

 

            For a starter I had Sfornato Lasagna (below left) which was excellent followed by a fantastic Fegato (liver) alla Veneziana with polenta (yellow cubes) (below right) which is the best dish I have ever eaten in Italy.  It was incredible!

 

            Marcia started with Carciofi (artichokes) (below left) and then a plate of Piccatina Scallopina Vitello (veal scallops) (below right) with potatoes and vegetables which she really enjoyed.

 

            For dolci I had fresh ananas (pineapple) and Marcia had a nice crème caramel .

 

            This was followed by a glass of sambuca and complimentary cookies.  Our waiter Roberto was excellent and we rated the whole dinner as fabulous.

      

            At the next table we met Brian and Katie Sasek.  His is with TaylorMade golf of Murrells Inlet, SC.  I don't play golf but we had a very nice conversation.  We left the restaurant and headed straight to Harry's Bar [1323 Calle Vallaresso, +39-041-528-5777] but when we arrived at 11:20, it was closed.  That was a disappointment because we really wanted to get their wonderful (but very expensive) bellinis (above right.)  Giuseppe Cipriani (right) opened this famous place in 1931.  He invented the Bellini in 1948 (click the link for the recipe of Prosecco and white peach puree.)  So we went to wait for the traghetti and at 11:40 we were on our way back to Lido Island.  We arrived at 11:55 and got to our room and I went to bed at 1 AM.

            Tomorrow is our last in Italy and we head off to explore the five countries of Europe we are here to see.

KJH                                                   Go To -> NEXT DIARIO #6 

Kenneth J. Hoffer, MD

KHofferMD@AOL.com                        RETURN TO INDEX

Venezia, Italia

Sent 2-16-2012

 

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