November 9th, 2010



Apparently the time to skip Italy, if you want to avoid the tourist jam is July, August & September. What luck for us, then, that we chose to go the first week of November. The weather could have cooperated just a teensy bit more, but we had some sunshine at the end, so we were happy, and after all, rain in Italy on vacation is better than rain at home, right?

The place we stayed was an apartment building up the hill in the west coast town of Rapallo. It belongs to the parents of my colleague, Sara, another love refugee in Sweden. We flew down on Sunday night to Milan, picked up our rental car and zoomed through the darkening evening south to the coast. Anders, who has been in Italy over 10 weeks this year alone (for work) isn't scared of driving on Italian roads, despite my relating a news story my mom had read in USA Today just the week before about Italy being 3rd highest on the list of countries where American tourists die in traffic accidents (Mexico was first).

Rapallo had the feel of a town recovering from a long summer of tourists. Even though there isn't actually that much to SEE or DO in Rapallo, it's on the coast of Italy! There's a little castle built out in the harbor and the entire seafront is lined with palm trees and huge mosaic sea creatures along the sidewalks. It rained pretty much the entire day after we arrived and it was our totally-take-it-easy day, as I had arrived the day before from Boston and was pretty jetlagged. It was relaxing to just walk around and explore our home base, eat delicious Italian gelato at a little piazza in the center of the old town and walk along the waterfront.

Right around the corner from the apartment building was a huge urban cemetery, surrounded by a high white wall. We could see the tops of tombs and mausoleums jutting above it, and during the day, there were a steady stream of visitors going in and out, and the little flower shop conveniently located just across the street from the back entrance was doing a booming business. As we walked down the street, I was very puzzled by several high buildings on the far side of the cemetery that seemed to be full of small windows, filled with flowers and red & white candles, until we got close enough to see that they were actually graves! The lights twinkled late into the night and the kids couldn't decide if the graveyard-apartments were cool or creepy.

All the buildings in Italy, unless they're cathedrals or ruins, seem to be painted in candy colors and to have been built around the same time. There was a remarkable uniformity to the buildings everywhere we went. We ate gelato at the cafe just under the umbrellas. Pistachio & chocolate: YUM!

Even the manhole covers are works of art in Italy! The ones in Rapallo's old town featured dolphins, sailboats, starfish and waves!

The Castello sul Mare (Castle-on-the-Sea), erected in 1551 to counter the frequent pirate attacks. It includes a small chapel dedicated to St. Cajetan, built in 1688.* The model in front of it was on the boardwalk with an information plaque and a couple of blackly rusted cannons.

Shark! We also saw a lobster, a whale, and a stingray along the waterfront.

(All photos copyright Anders Ek)

Sugarcone Sweet Belated Birthday Wishes to 1222, vember and Eva!

*Source: Wikipedia