Touring Italian Ports: Genoa, Portofino, Florence, and More

After a 3-month hiatus, we returned to The World in Nice/Ville Franche, too late for major exploration, but in time to see our Ship’s bow serve as the start line for UltiMed, a race of giant trimaran sailboats that will continue around the Med to decide the victor, and to enjoy one of our favorite lunches, moules frites. Since then, French and Italian ports, each as captivating as the others, have been coming at us almost too quickly to absorb.

UltiMed, trimaran sailboat race

Genoa was a pleasant surprise, with Piazze and Palazzi aplenty and glorious pesto in a tiny local restaurant. Numerous buildings were astounding accomplishments in trompe l’oeil, so convincing that the touch test was necessary. We also visited Staglieno Cemetery, a true treat in artistry and history; 290 chapels and 468 niches, each sculpture a masterwork. We are sadly told this is a nearly-lost art.

Piazza Ferrari

Portofino was just like the postcards, so scenic, but the same strawberries we bought for 2 Euro elsewhere were 9 Euro here. From there, we took a circuitous trip down the mountain to Camogli for lunch with fellow Residents. We went to the same seaside eatery and shared the restaurant with a boisterous first communion family. A giant frying pan hanging from a wall is taken down once a year when the fishermen and local chefs prepare fish to share with the whole town during the festival.
In Livorno, gateway to Tuscany, sailboat masts tilted like metronomes set at different tempi and an open-air market provided vegetables so fresh that a simple salad was transformed into a true treat: bibb lettuce, ripe tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, and prosciutto with focaccia to dip in the olive oil-balsamic mixture. Just yum!
From Livorno, we visited Florence – 12,000 steps of pure (although crowded) glory. We regularly spotted the local red, white and green Italian marble (the colors stand for faith, charity, and hope respectively). The Duomo proved as astonishing the second time as the first.

 The Duomo

We trekked to the outdoor museum at Piazza Signoria with original statuary including Hercules and a 4th-century lion. Palazzo Medici was exceptionally glorious, with each stone marked at the quarry with a circular strike to designate its use for the palace. Of interest – the Medicis, a family of great power, intrigue, wealth, and chicanery, died out in the 1700’s essentially from inbreeding. We also learned of the secret stairway behind the Madonna at Or San Michel leads to a hiding place for church treasures.

The Madonna

Soon on to Elba, Corsica, and beyond – all new territory for us – we are looking forward with great anticipation.

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