20 April, 2012

From the City to the Sea : Portovenere


A Room With a View

After Rome, our next stop was the coast.  Portovenere, on the "Gulf of Poets," was recommended as an alternative to flood-damaged Cinque Terre.  After a harrowing bus ride over steep, snaking roads we arrived at Hotel Paradiso and had a fun 24 hours exploring this little town full of capital-R Romance.  Dramatic cliffs, abandoned churches, a castle, connections with brooding English poets...Portovenere has it all.

Refreshing white wine and farinata at Il Timone
Lovely Il Timone
One of my favorite restaurants of the whole trip was Il Timone, near the town's main square.  It is totally charming...the kind of restaurant I'd like to have if I ever live that dream!  It's owned by a beautiful, shy and serene woman named Antonella.  She has lived in Portovenere for 40 years and serves classic Ligurian food.  The simple starter of farinata was one of my favorite things I ate on the trip.  It's a simple flatbread made with chickpea flour and served warm, usually enjoyed with olive oil.  The inside was soft while the outside was just slightly crispy...So delicious! 

The Artist in His Studio

Down a nearby side street we discovered a small ceramics studio.  The owner was perhaps 60 and has only been making ceramics for about 5 years.  He makes objects about the sea; fish, lighthouses, rowboats.  His trademark piece is an adorable rowboat painted with stripes.  Different boat sizes, different colors.  Small ones served as the sugar-packet dish at Il Timone, with the restaurant's name painted on the sides.  I loved that little example of supportive relationships between local artisans.



Although not a long stop, our visit to Portovenere was the perfect break from cities and busy sightseeing.  We paused, we strolled, we breathed deeply of the clean sea air and welcomed the sunshine on our skin, as if storing them up for the weeks to come.  Next stop: Florence.

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