So far I have been so lucky with travels this year. I've been to either beautiful or new places, the former catering to the senses, the latter - to curiosity. Last week I travelled to Genoa, Italy and Milano which were both new and beautiful. I have been to Italy half a dozen times but never in Liguria and Lombardia. And....the fact that Giuseppe Garibaldi unified Italy so late (compared to other European nation states maybe with the exception of Germany) means that regions are still quite different.
We flew to Bergamo very early in the morning and started the day with a beautiful view of the Alps - white sunny, snowy peaks as far as the eye could see and a bit more. Only one day earlier I had returned from a skiing trip in Tyrol, Austria so it was funny to fly back over the same region so soon. I would have gladly jumped with a parachute from the plane with my skis on - it was definitely going to be a beautiful, sunny day for skiing in the Alps. But....one can't have everything as they say (a counter argument says: one can't have everything but one can at least try...).
After feasting on capucco and chocolate croissant at the airport (ordered twice to fill the emptiness inside...) I suggested to my colleagues Venelina, Dora, Zsuzsa and Dusan to rent a car instead of taking the public transport. I offered this as we were going to have a full free day and only with a car we would have had the possibility to drive along the Ligurian coast which was my goal. As far as the environment goes, at a Life-cycle Analysis in Zurich in 2007 I heard that the carbon footprint of 3 people travelling by car from Paris to Geneva equals the carbon footprint of a train travel of the same number of people. As there were five of us, things were fine from this point of view.
So quite unexpectedly I was up for a full day of driving - south to Milan and then further south crossing this part of the Apennines separating the Lombardian plane from the Ligurian Sea. It was a fun southern drive put aside the horrendous traffic jam around Milan. And then....the yellow and orange Genoa, bathed in sun, looming over the emerald Ligurian sea. It was such a change from the heavy snow falling in Tyrol only two days earlier. Crazy.
We dropped our bags at the hotel, only 50 m, from the birthplace of Cristopher Columbus (his house functioning as a museum) and set on a beautiful drive East along the coast from Genoa to Portofino. The road winds past olive trees, cypresses and pine trees and it was actually quite dangerous as I shared my attention between the sea and the road. I don't know why I offered my colleagues to drive to Portofino. I think one of the four novels in Michelangelo Antonioni's and Wim Wender's Beyond the Clouds took part there.
And indeed, I was not mistaken. Portofino is cuddled at the end of a curving road, by a turquoise bay. The colours of the houses vary from orange to lemon to grapefruit to sunset. The hills around the bay are covered with pines and olives whose branches played with the soft afternoon sun. Narrow stairs go up from the small port and lead to a terrace, by a chapel, from where one can watch the sea batter the rocks and foam as it had been doing for thousands of years. Another path goes to 16th c. Castello Brown and from there to a terrace by the lighthouse. I sat in a chair and dozed off sweetly for 10 minutes tired from the early start of the day, the flight and the drive.
Later, we sat in a Bar Americano by the sea in St. Margharita and I could see a full moon hanging by the branch of a palm tree on the background of an ink-coloured sky. I thought life is not as bad as that if it occasionally offers us glimpses of such intense beauty.