By Don and Linda Freedman

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ITALY Fall 1998 (4)
Index of this travelogue


What is a honeymoon without water? The romance of a great sea view with waves smacking against rocks and the smell of the fresh salt air or the peace and serenity of being surrounded by rippling lake waters at the foot of majestic mountains. I chose the sea for our first honeymoon treat.

The Ligurian coast between Genova and Portovenere is our favorite seaside location in Italy and as the train passed through the Cinque Terre, Sestri, Chiavari and Rapallo to our final destination of Camogli the sight of the small beaches, crashing waves, rocky coastline and glistening water got our blood tingling. It didn't hurt that it was a perfect day, blue sky, sun shining brightly.

A quick walk downhill from the station took us to the four star Cenobio dei Dogi, originally an aristocratic villa which served as a holiday center for noble Genovese families. The rear of the hotel is surrounded by a lovely park which is part of the property and suitable for long strolls or hiking. The seaside is breathtaking. Sitting on the east side of the town above the sea and rocks, you are treated to a panoramic view of this glorious fishing village with its large stony beach, parish church and castle and, of course, the surrounding sea and coastline.

One is immediately struck by the houses of Camogli, tall, multicolored and terraced up the side of the mountain. Conventional wisdom is that the residents, seamen and fishermen used these colored facades as points of reference when at sea. The beach was full of tanned bodies enjoying the perfect early Fall weather.
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We entered the property from the rear garden area which is the main entrance. The lobby is charming and welcoming. The property is comprised of two buildings. The original villa sits behind the pool and lounging area which is directly over the sea while the newer building runs alongside the pool adjacent to the coast. Front rooms with sea views in both buildings are, naturally, the most desirable. The salt water pool and lounging areas are well-maintained and very comfortable. A staircase leads to a private beach below. There is a large, beautifully-furnished bar and lounge area which serves as the link between the two buildings while it's location adjacent to the pool area ensures efficient bar service at any time of day. We were pleased with our nice size attractive accommodations with two large windows overlooking the sea in the newer building. Let the honeymoon begin!

After settling in, we made our way to the pool area for some late afternoon relaxation and were immediately confronted by gorgeous tanned breasts. As a North American, my initial reaction was shock but fortunately I had the good sense to put on my best you've-seen-one-you've-seen-them-all attitude. As a honeymoon treat, Linda offered me the lounge which afforded the best view so that I could enjoy this simply marvelous European custom.

Our half-board dinner started at 20:00 in the glass-enclosed dining room right over the sea. Dusk was settling in so we were only able to enjoy the view for a short while. We both started with a good size caprese salad with anchovies but the tomatoes we re disappointing and the mozzarella was a bit chewy. Linda loved her buttered risotto with saffron flowers and likewise the fritturina mista di mare, a lightly battered and fried assortment of shrimp, squid and small fishes. My sea bass was perfectly poached and served with boiled potato and strips of fried eggplant. We both chose the refreshing sherbet for dessert. Our chatty waiter, Claudio, provided excellent service and entertainment.

Much later, as they say in those romance novels, we fell asleep listening to the sounds of the sea.
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The buffet breakfast in the dining room with bright daylight all around us was pure delight. The selection was excellent and it was easy to have a leisurely meal while enjoying the sights of the sea and the town.

We walked across the beach to the far side of town to the port area to catch a boat to S. Margherita where we hopped on another to Portofino, our first stop of the day. It was a crystal clear day, great for viewing the jagged, rocky coastline of the Portofino headland. Neat coves and inlets with villas dotting the mountainsides are a memorable sight. There was an appreciative chorus of clicking cameras. When we pulled into the Bay of Portofino, the clicking became fast and furious.

The picture perfect small bay is surrounded by green covered mountains which safeguard and limit development. Houses and shops overlook thesemi-circular harbor and the seaside village square and boats of all sizes and types are docked around the periphery. As the passengers disembarked, they quickly filled the restaurants and shops. To escape the crowd, Lin and I headed in the opposite direction and walked up the mountain path to the Castle S. Giorgio to enjoy the panoramic view from atop the promontory. Time permitting, we would have liked to hike through this protected area of the Regional Park of Portofino.

Returning to the harbor, we strolled around until the boat arrived to take us back to S. Margherita Ligure. As its neighbors Portofino and Rapallo, S. Margherita has always catered to the rich and famous. The large crescent-shape harbor was picturesquely filled with boats. The long, lovely seaside promenade fronts the length of the town. Because it is much larger than Portofino, the visual impact is not as striking, but as one walks the streets it is apparent that this is a very special place with an abundance of wonderful shops and restaurants. Although we did not indulge (we had a huge breakfast), we found the most incredible looking tortes we had ever seen. They are made in thirty inch diameter pans and sold by weight. The selection was mouth-watering. Just go to Dama, Via Palestro 34, with a good appetite and please let us know if they taste as good as they look.
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Back at Camogli, we explored the depth and breadth of this most charming place. Even today, it is an active fishing village. Life is slow and easy and it must be because the houses are built tiered up the mountainside. Just reaching the first tier would be challenging for the less than fit while daily life would require trudging up and down, sapping energy even from those most able. Life here hasn't changed much over the decades, which makes it a rare, wonderful find. As a visitor to Camogli one is spared the effort of ascending beyond the level of the main street, shared by the train station, shops and bars. From the beach to the port and its picturesque square, Piazza Colombo, to the bright-colored homes stacked on high and the tantalizing aroma of fresh baked breads and pastries, this quaint fishing village has something for honeymooners of any age.

Having skipped lunch, we opened the dining room promptly at 20:00. Claudio greeted us with his usual fanfare and exuberance. We met the head chef, Emilio, a sweet man and his second in command, Gabriele, who had spent some time in Toronto learning his craft.

Linda's lasagnette fresche della casa al pesto was perfectly cooked lasagna noodles in a marvelous pesto sauce. My minestrone was a rich mixture of small pieces of assorted vegetables and pasta in a thick vegetable puree delightfully seasoned, an outstanding rendition of this classic.

After watching Linda enjoying the fritturina mista di mare last night, I was looking forward to the same treat tonight and I was not disappointed with this Ligurian specialty. Linda's piccatina di vitello al limone verde was perfection; three slices of tender veal were lightly sauteed and served simply in a reduction of the pan juices goosed with fresh lime.

The good girl had fresh berries with, oh yes, real whipped cream while the gorilla had a superb version of black forest cake: two layers of light chocolate cake filled with whipped cream and black cherries and topped with chunks of dark chocolate, surrounded by sliced fresh figs, peaches, kiwi and red currants on a plate decorated with light coffee sauce. Honeymooners need energy!
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We'd been planning to go to Portovenere by boat today but discovered it makes that run only on Thursdays and Sundays. Not a problem. Trains run regularly to La Spezia and from there you can take a bus to Portovenere. We left Camogli before 10:00 and were in Portovenere three hours later. The waterfront and port area dominate this picturesque 12th century hamlet with a long, seaside row of tall colorful buildings, similar to Camogli. One is naturally drawn along this seaside promenade toward the rocky spur at the extreme end of the promontory with the ancient church of S. Pietro. We returned through the town via the narrow main shopping street Via G. Capellini, tucked in behind and parallel to the first layer of buildings. As all the shops were closed for lunch and unexpected heavy rain arrived, we ducked into a bakery and waited for the return bus while enjoying pizza and spinach pie, sold by the slice.

Back at the hotel we had time before dinner to get the latest news of the just-issued Starr report, which gave us plenty of ammunition for a lively dinner debate. Was this honeymoon going to end in divorce? We agreed to disagree.

Our meal started perfectly with spaghetti alle vongole veraci con peperoncino. The al dente pasta was blended with fresh clams, garlic, olive oil and chili peppers. Linda's tender veal cutlet, served with luscious home fried potatoes and boiled carrots was perfect and my poached local fresh fish, deboned table side, was topped with a thin layer of fresh tomatoes and served with assorted vegetables. Fresh berries and panna won Linda's heart again while I had to have the house cake of the day, which was nice, healthy fresh fruit in boiled cream sandwiched between two layers of white cake topped with panna and fresh fruit and yes, there were chocolate sprinkles here and there.

We sat on the patio by the pool for a while, enjoying the light cool sea breezes and looking at the lights of the village. This was a perfect honeymoon destination
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to next pageto Genova or choose a city below

(1) Rome
(2) Chiusi
(3) Firenze
(4) Camogli
(5) Genova
(6) Bellagio
(7) Valle d'Aosta
(8) Torino
(9) Piemonte
(10) Pavia & Stresa

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