Just back in Dublin in the rain and I think I’m getting a cold because I haven’t stopped sneezing all day and just sneezed six times in a row which is dire. How can circumstances change so drastically in a matter of days? It’s only been two days since I got back onto Irish soil, but it feels like the Italian Adventure was all a dream or happened in a different life.
I’ve wanted to go to Cinque Terre and the surrounding towns for years. It’s one of those places that pop up constantly on Instagram and twinkle colourfully at you and tease you as you sit on the bus to college, under a perpetually grey sky. I’d never got round to going. And then when I came home from Vienna and surprised Jacko (did you read the post? It’s here and it’s super cute) he hit back with his very own surprise: we were going to Cinque Terre and Portofino in August.
Of course at the time it seemed like ages away, but now it’s been and gone – a little slice of Italian paradise. There’s something about Italy, isn’t there? Have you been? The scenery, the food, the way of life, the attitude of the people – I adore it. I have already decided that when I retire I want to spend my summers in the streets of Portofino, p’raps with a little jewellery boutique and a dog with a bow in its hair.
Because I have SO many pictures and so much to tell you, I’m splitting this trip into three parts: the first (this very one) being on Rapallo and San Michele di Pagana, where we actually stayed. The next one will be Portofino, and finally the mountainside towns of Cinque Terre. Be prepared for lots of colour, seaspray and an Anchovy Surprise.
Are you ready? Ok.
This is a view of our little village from across the bay:
When we got off the train in Rapallo – the closest proper town – we got a four minute taxi to this little haven where we met our landlord at one of the two restaurants in the village and followed him to our little house on the beach. The meeting was overall amusing and confusing: I speak minimal Italian and she minimal English, so we stuck to our own languages mostly and acted out everything we wanted to say. Once she had left we revelled in the closeness of the apartment to the beach. You could smell the salt water from the kitchen table.
On the first evening we went for some Italian beers and rose in the little beach hut, Habanero, where the owner evidently knew all the customers and made us feel at home immediately. He even brought us a little plate of snacks (which is customary in Italy, but a lovely treat every time).
Since we spent the next two days in Portofino and Cinque Terre, the only full day we got in Rapallo and at our little home base was the last day before heading on to Pisa. But that day was a glittering whirlwind of sea-sploring (we went snorkeling and saw a leopard print crab), lilo-ing, cocktails and street-waltzing (Jack loves when I make him dance about with me in public after a few too many Pinots. Not).
That evening, we mosied into Rapallo, the quite-big town ten minutes walk from us (past the Eden Roc hotel where you can see people floating about having drinks with straws in them in infinity pools overlooking the bay….*sigh* one day). For the first time on the trip we decided to look up reviews of the best restaurants in Rapallo, and quite quickly found one called ‘Rapala’ in the old town with some amazing reviews. So off we went, in our finery.
When we got there (and I was already one very strong mojito deep, mind you) we swiftly ordered some more wine and water. Then we got the menus. And I had a bit of a shock. I’m a vegetarian (well, I’ll eat fish on occasion, though I’m slightly fussy in that I won’t eat anything involving tentacles, or anything completely raw). The entire menu was meat-based or, for some reason, tentacled. How does that happen? I frantically pointed this out to Jack in what I hope were hushed tones, but I cant answer for myself in a panic so who knows.
“Don’t be silly,” he said, “There must be something vegetarian, or at least a fish dish”. Wrong. Then I caught sight of something on the English menu that was just called “Tagliolini With Crumbs”. When the waitress came to the table, I tentatively asked for the Tagliolini With Crumbs.
“There’s no meat in it, right?” I said. “No,” says she, “Just the breadcrumbs, and then the cheese.” Sounded perfect. I said as much. Jack might have asked me if I was sure, I can’t remember. I had found something suitable and I was excited. The waitress said again, “So – is pasta, the crumbs, and then the cheese”. I said “That all sounds delightful. Put me down for that.” J ordered some raw tuna, and off she went, leaving us to our wine and our laughter. About two minutes before the main course arrived, Jack said, “You hate anchovies” – which is true. I can’t stand them. “Yes, and?” I asked, taking another sip of the Montepulciano.
“You’ve ordered a dish full of anchovies”. It was almost one of those movie moments where the girl blows her drink out in shock all over the boys face. But I composed myself – he was surely wrong.
“No, Choc. It’s pasta with breadcrumbs and then the CHEEEESE.” “Er, no. It was pasta with breadcrumbs and ANCHOVIES.” I think at that stage I knew the gig was up, but there was still a glimmer of hope…for thirty seconds, before the waitress arrived back up, grinning from ear to ear, with a steaming bowl of anchovies in her hand.
Well I almost fell backwards off my chair. If there’s one thing I hate more than anchovies, it’s being wrong. And here I was faced with both. Anyway, needless to say, I let Jack help himself to the bowl once he was finished with his tuna, while I finished off the wine, which wasn’t a bad deal, in fairness. On the toddle home we took advantage of a completely empty square with music playing from a nearby window and had a little dance in there, before heading back to the homestead so I could finish off a bag of tomatoes we’d bought at the market the day before.
Seafood Disasters aside, the place was a total gem. I would absolutely recommend it to anyone. I already can’t wait to retire so that I can move there with aforementioned little styled dog.
I’ll attach some extra pictures at the end of this, so you can get more of a feel for the little paradise. And as always, thanks for reading. Keep a lookout for the Portofino post in the next couple of days – it really is a Wonderland.
Ciao for now, beauties.