LIGURIA AND LAKE COMO ..10 days, September 2008
I returned recently from another splendid visit to Italy and will share some of my notes here. I traveled with two friends, a married couple, and we rented a car for the latter part of the trip. We departed from JFK and flew to Genoa via Paris CDG; we returned home on a direct flight from Milan Malpensa. Much of this report will be centered around food, as this is one of my prime interests. Before I begin I want to thank everyone: Zeppole, Julie Vikmanis, Vicenzo, SeaUrchin, Traviata, Dayle, Lewis, Steve James, and everyone else who so patiently answer my barrage of questions and I do apologize to those I have inadvertently left out of this lineup.
Resources for this trip included the two relevant Cadogan guides: 'Cadogan Italian Riviera & Piedmont' and 'Cadogan Lombardy & the Italian Lakes,' as well as Fred Plotkin's essential, 'Italy for the Gourmet Traveler.'
Also indispensible for anyone with an interest in Ligurian food:
'Recipes from Paradise: Life and Food on the Italian Riviera,' also by Fred Plotkin.
And finally, the Slow Food guide, 'Osterie & Locande d'Italia.' The English translation lists places to stay as well as SlowFood eating spots, but I believe that the original Italian version details restaurants not found in the English translation. Just before I left home I ordered 'Enchanted Liguria: A Celebration of the culture, Lifestyle and Food of the Italian Riviera,' by David Downie, and am recommending this book on the basis of what I have read so far.
And finally, a memoir I read last year would make good reading for anyone with an interest in the Ligurian region and its food:
Our hotels were: Cenobio dei Dogi, Camogli'3 nights
Grand Hotel Miramare, Santa Margherita Ligure'3 nights
Grand Hotel Victoria, Menaggio'4 nights
We had 2 hours to connect in Paris and so I was a bit worried when the Air France flight departed JFK 1.5 hours later than the scheduled time of 7pm. Fortunately, we made up the time en route and landed in Paris on time. Those of you who have transferred in CDG know that this can be an ordeal. There is a LOT of walking involved, and passengers must pass through passport control and security before boarding another flight. After a bus ride, we arrived on time at the brand-new Terminal 2G, where we boarded the small aircraft that would whisk us to Genoa in 65 minutes.
Upon arrival in Genoa, we determined that there are no set fares for taxi rides outside the city limits. I tried to determine the going rate from the woman at the TI desk, without luck. We were fortunate to meet up with two women who were also headed to Camogli and ended up sharing a large taxi with them for a total price of 75 euro. (A regular-size taxi would have cost 60 Euro). (There are also public transportation options throough Genoa) It was on the short taxi ride that we got our first view of the marvel that is Ligurian tunnel engineering. The autostrada is cut through the rocky uplands that rise from the sea and the drive passed through a series of beautifully constructed tunnels before winding down to the sea near Recco (home of the renowned Focaccia al Formaggio, which I would sample for the first time the following morning).
We arrived at the Cenobio dei Dogi in Camogli around 1pm. I was given a single room, #81, in the red/pool building. The room was small, as expected for a single, but it was comfortable and had a terrace overlooking the front of the hotel/parking lot, and a nice sized bathroom with small stall shower. I was so thrilled to be here, and at 155 euro per night, it was just fine. My friends were accorded a larger, airy double room with sea view on the same floor. The best part of the Cenobio dei Dogi is its location, at the southern end of the idyllic village of Camogli, close enough to walk to the heart of town on 5 minutes, but far enough removed as to insure quiet. The hotel consists of two main buildings perched above the sea, and it has a large pool (too cold to swim when we were there) and a idyllic beach area, where the swimming proved to be delicious (offshore or via a metal ladder descending from a pier)! Be aware that there are several sets of steps to negotiate in order to reach the beach; this would be an issue for anyone with limited mobility. Also, be sure to pack rubber beach shoes since the beach at the hotel is rocky. (The town beach, which is also lovely, appeared to have sand that was a bit finer. In any case, I always bring water shoes if I plan to swim in the sea Italy). The water here is crystal clear and we saw many people snorkeling. It is possible to swim from the hotel beach to the town beach and we also saw several swimmers doing that each morning. The distance is perhaps half a mile each way.
After checking in, our first goal was a light lunch, so we headed to the hotel terrace, where we would have our first taste of the celebrated seafood of Liguria.
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LIGURIA AND LAKE COMO ..10 days, September 2008