Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Italian Riveria (Santa Margherita and Portofina)

Yes, we are basking in the sun on the Italian Riveria.  Of course, we are wearing our sunglasses so people look at us and wonder. . . Isabella Rossellini and Tom Cruise?

Yesterday, when we arrived at the train station in Rapallo, just a few km from Santa Margherita, I noticed a young girl, about 13 or 14, with an older woman get on the train.  I knew immediately something was awry as the young girl smiled at me.  So I kind of kept an eye on them and sure enough, during the short trip, I turned quickly and saw the older woman  reaching for the pack on my back and she quickly took her hand away.  Then a few minutes later, as we were shuffling off the train, the little girl stopped on the step right in front of me for no reason, which made me very suspicious.  I pushed by her and turned around to see the woman reach out for Belinda's pack.  I yelled at the woman and she acted as if nothing happened and I kept yelling at her as she got off the train.  "No comprende" she kept saying and I kept say "you understand very well" in my best Italenglish.  She knew she had been caught but no one else seem to care so I smacked her in the mouth and now I'm writing this from the Polizia Stazzion.  OK, so I wanted to smack her but didn't but what really made me mad was she included this little girl in her scheme.  Parents! 

Santa Margherita is a beautiful little town.  Nice little harbor, great places to sit and watch the water and tourists.  Today we took a short hop to Portofino on the bus.  We were going to rent a scooter but it was 50 Euro and they do drive a little crazy here in Italy.  Well, maybe just in Europe in general.  So we decided to take a bus for just under 5 Euro for both of us round-trip.  Really glad we didn't rent the scooter.  The road to Portofino varies from just barely room for two vehicles to just room for one.  A curvy road where the bus driver had to honk at about half the turns to let other cars and scooters know he was coming.  I could just see us as hood ornaments on a city bus.  Not an image I liked.  Portofina is a nice, beautiful little town.  Much, much smaller than Santa Margherita but very charming.  But we're glad we are staying in SM.  Many more food choices here.

Speaking of European drivers.  As I mentioned in a blog a while back, I do not like to rent a car outside of the States but we had to in Croatia as it was the only way to see what we wanted to see.  As I mentioned it was the smallest car they had and even Belinda said that next time we need to ask how big the tires were.  This one had 13" tires.  Like on a small trailer.  The thought of those tires spinning so fast at 110 km/hr apparently scared her as  much as me.  Anyway, I said never again but Belinda really wanted to see Assisi while we were in Siena.  She told me some story about having a dream and I fell for it. You know, sign from God.  Anyway, we tried Avis but they had no cars so we found this little bicycle, scooter, and car rental place.  I didn't have the best feeling about this place but they had a car for 65 Euro and it sounded nice.  They said it was a great little Opel, which I had been wanting to drive anyway.  I had only heard of the Corsa and they are cool.  Now I've rented some ify cars in the past but this one took the cake.  It was a 2002 Opel Agila !  Have you ever heard of an Opel Agila?  Well, it took me 15 minutes of Googling to finally find a description of one.  And I think that was all Opel ever made and we rented it.  It only had one sun visor.  Fortunately it was on the driver's side.  All the seats were sweat stained (eeeewwweeeeuuuu) and the rest of the interior was dirtier than any car I have ever driven, except maybe for my neighbor's last BMW.  And the exterior was not any better.  There really wasn't any reason to wash it because it had so many dings and dents that it just didn't matter.  But, it took us to Assisi, 130km away, at 110km/hr and back.  It made an interesting sound at that speed and Belinda says "Did you check the size of the tires?"  Well, not exactly but I think they were 14" so we were safe.  We went 10km over our allowance so they charged me an extra 2 Euro so 67 Euro to get to Assisi was well worth it.  We would have paid twice that much.  Assisi was fantastic.  Absolutely beautiful.  Sorry I'm using that word a lot.  I stopped using "charming" after Thomas and Alice left us.  The churches in Italy are breath-taking.  It really doesn't matter who the Saint is that the church is honoring.  They are just fantastic.  It does bother me a little that so much time, effort, and money went into churches in poor areas though.  I'm sure there is some Biblical quote that would sooth me but maybe they could have added free flush toilets or a spa or something. 

We had our first McDonald's food in Assisi.  It was called a . . . BELINDA, WHAT WAS THAT SANDWICH CALLED AT MC'DONALDS?  Oh, she's somewhere reading or using the toilet or looking at another church.  I'll let you know later but it was really good.  Super thick mozarilla cheese and a patty of some kind of meat on a thin bun with herbs.  Yummy.  Mozarillo or Armadillo or something ending in illo.

Ok, I'm going to go outside and sit in the shade and eat or drink something.  Everything is really good.  Alice forced us to eat black risotto.  It's pasta with squid ink.  Tasty.  We have eaten some of the best meals ever.  Belinda had some pork medallians in Siena that were to die for. And I had the best Tiramisu I have ever had....twice.
Tomorrow we are back on the train, headed for Nice.  The Jolanda Hotel here in SM has been great.  A step up from the 1 or 2 star places that we've been staying.  Not sure what the convent in Siena was rated but it was nice, clean, and blessed.

ciao ciao