Tuesday, September 23 – Rain!! (after six months of no rain here)

Overcast, heavy rain, lightening and thunder in the morning, then overcast and some sun for the rest of the day. Very muggy.

Well Rick Steves didn’t mention rain!! Because our apartment is in the hotel, we get to use the breakfast room. The guests here seem to be Americans, Brits and Aussies. The name “Rick Steves” is heard often.

One morning we talked to a middle-aged American couple who had flown into Italy the day before, picked up a rental car and drove to Levanto. They had read about this area in their Rick Steves book. Their itinery included a couple of nights here, then to Florence (drop off the car), a couple of nights there, then the train from Florence to Capri for one night so they can “relax and drink wine” (only possible in Capri, I guess), then back to Rome for a few nights, then home. They told us how they were “ripped off” at dinner their first night because they restaurant had a cover charge that they only found out about when they got the check. By that point in the conversation I was removing my socks and stuffing them in my mouth to keep from speaking. Steve pleasantly explained about the “pane e coperto”. The man is a saint. I managed to say “Didn’t you read the section about restaurants in Rick Steves book?” before stuffing more articles of clothing into my mouth to keep me permanently quiet. (Note to self: Don’t anger the guests – I work for the hotel.)

Today we woke up to rain and decided to take the morning “off” to see how the weather went. We lazed about, walked into town and hung out at our new favorite caffe (Barolino on Via Italia – recommended by Federico). It has four tables outside on a patio that they built out onto the street. I usually sit on the chair closest to the road (since Steve is the one that earns our living, I feel obligated to take the risk of being struck by a car while having coffee) and I could feel the cars whizzing by. Luckily there were not too many of them. Still, it is quite pleasant to sit out there and have espresso and cornetto and read the International Herald Tribune and eavesdrop on the other English speaking groups (a bunch of Aussie women today). The bar has lots of indoor seating and even another outdoor area in the back.

Then back to the apartment where we dithered about did we want to do a drive to some local towns in the hills above the Cinque Terre. Steve was getting more tired by the minute so we decided to read (we are both glued to detective novels – Steve with the Ian Rankin I read last week, me with a Donna Leon I picked up in Switzerland), then we walked into town again for a nice lunch. We ate at La Loggia, on Piazza del Popolo, beside the Medival Loggia. We had a wonderful lunch.

Our meals out here are usually the same. No antipasti because they are all fish. Once I found Caprese (mozzerella and tomato) and had that. Today Steve had a shrimp cocktail. Then either we both have Trofie al Pesto (noodles with pesto sauce) or I have that and Steve has swordfish. Today he had swordfish. I will have had enough pesto for the year by the time we leave here. The restaurants in Tuscany have more variety for a vegetarian, but not much more. At least in Tuscany you can find lots of vegetarian antipasto.

We even splurged on dessert. I ordered the “Affogato al caffe” (you could also get this with whiskey). It is cold espresso poured over gelato. Stephanie and Cesare had this at lunch yesterday and I sample theirs. The dessert is gelato “drowned in coffee”.

Ristorante La Loggia, Piazza del Popolo 7, closed “settimanale Mercoledi”
Shrimp cocktail, mixed salad; Trofie al Pesto, swordfish, french fries; white wine, water, dessert, one espresso. Lunch for two, 56 Euro

Back to the apartment after lunch and we alternated sleeping and reading. Maybe it was the five towns in one day that did me in – or just all the social excitement being with friends for the weekend – I was tired! I also find that on these longer trips (although this one at 5 weeks is a short trip for us), that we really have to have one day a week where we do NOTHING. We don’t travel at such a frantic pace the other days (as you can see from this blog), but we still need a day off from it all each week.

We found a self serve laundromat in town – 10 Euro to wash and dry one load – and I think I will use it before we leave to get ourselves ready for our last few days in Tuscany and Rome. We go home one week tomorrow (Wednesday). This trip has flown by. I was thinking at one time that we might extend the trip by a week or two, but I don’t feel like it. We both have some new work projects to get started on and really we have been pretty worn out for most of this trip – not as enthusiastic about doing lots of stuff as we usually are. In our old working days (20 years ago), we only took vacations to Hawaii so we could just do nothing. That is the kind of tri p we needed this year – and really it is they kind of trip we did. Switzerland is a no-brainer of a trip for us and so was this time in Levanto. Not much to read to prepare for the days outings – mostly walking and swimming and a few drives.

Our last few days will be a blur of social activity with the big GTG lunch on Friday, dinner with Gary and Zak Friday night, another lunch on Saturday, hopefully seeing Joanna’s new house then too, drive to Rome on Sunday (meeting Tom and Rob for lunch on the way), Monday morning with Robert, Monday GTG lunch, Tuesday GTG dinner – home Wednesday morning. A social whirl!! And I am really looking forward to every minute of it!!

Some of you reading this may think, why did we do this trip when we really did not have time to plan it and took the easy way out by staying longer in fewer places. Couldn’t we just have gone hiking in Colorado? My answer is that I would rather have a less adventurous trip like this than not do a trip. I love coming to Europe and if I had to come tired and not able to be going flat out the whole time, then so be it. At least I get to come here and do a few things. It has been a fabulous trip (and we still have a week left). We both got a really good break from work and from being at the computer. We have done so many trips to Switzerland and Italy now, that it is easier for us being here than it used to be. I more or less understand how things work and how we live while we are here – so I don’t need the time to prepare (well, I could have done some preparation). Blah, blah, blah – what a ramble.

Dinner at home tonight I think. The kitchen is not great, but I have made several dinners here, so it is good enough. We usually have basmati rice (I bought extra in Switzerland because it is hard to find here) and vegetables.

I finished my book, Donna Leon’s “Wilful Behaviour”, 2002. It was much better than her previous one, “A Sea of Troubles”, which ended with a stupid chase scene. This one is back to her old style of good writing and a good mystery. It was set in Venice. I am down to reading Gore Vidal’s “Julien”, which I put aside because it was not that interesting and “Pagan Holiday” which Steve read and loved. I will read “Pagan Holiday” next. I still have the new PD James mystery, but will save that to read on the plane home (although I usually end up gorging on movies the whole way).

Published by

Pauline Kenny

Pauline Kenny and Steve Cohen are US expats living in Dorset. We moved to the UK in 2010. Read about our move. If you would like to talk about travel, please join us on the Slow Europe Travel Forums.