AMY FINLEY was the winner of the third season of the hit show The Next Food Network Star. After her win, she hosted Food Network’s The Gourmet Next Door. A Paris-trained cook and pastry chef, she was a regular contributor to Bon Appétit. She lives in San Diego, California, with her husband and their children.
Portofino, Rapallo & Italy's Riviera di Levanteby Amy Finley
The scent of herbs and pines, the startling blue of the sea. The brilliant white of cliffs tumbling into the depths. The sound of pounding surf, the chiming of church bells. The sight of mountain peaks that break the clouds, the chill of an alpine breeze. All this, and more, is the Italian Riviera. Pinned between the mountains and the sea, on a steeply-sloped crescent of land stretching from the French border to Tuscany, the people of the Italian region of Liguria - commonly known as the Italian Riviera - developed a character and unique way of life. The area is only 170 miles long, and 23 miles wide at its widest point. Some have theorized that the geography of Liguria had a profound psychological impact on the people who lived there. They reason that the limited landmass - with the sea on one side and daunting mountains on the other - had an "island effect," compelling the Ligurians to take to the sea as fishermen, traders, explorers, and sailors. Among their number is perhaps the most famous explorer of all time, Christopher Colombus. East of Genoa lies the Portofino Promontory, an outcrop of land separating the Golfo Paradiso and the Golfo del Tigúllio. On the otherwise smooth arc of eastern Liguria it juts out into the blue sea, capped by the heights of Mt. Portofino. A thick network of trails crisscrosses the landmass, passing through perfumed Mediterranean maquis on the southern slopes and crossing into woods of ash, chestnut, hazelnut, and maple in the northern hinterlands. Tucked among the crags of its western flank is the town of Camogli, which Dickens once declared "the saltiest, roughest, most piratical little place." The hardened sailors of Camogli were sought after as mercenaries, and in the 18th century the Camogli fleet rivaled that of its powerhouse ally Genoa. Today, the sons and daughters of Camogli are still drawn to the sea and it's not uncommon to hear a ship blast its horn as it passes by the captain's birthplace, bound for the ports of Genoa. Leaving Camogli, the cliffs are tortuous, inaccessible, and largely barren until you reach the small bay of San Fruttuoso on the southern side.There are still no roads across the promontory to San Fruttuoso. The only way to visit is by boat or on foot, and in summer its miniscule pebble beach is dense with day-trippers who sojourn here from their hiking, or arrive on the ferries from Camogli or Portofino. Though today it is the consummate yachting destination, picturesque Portofino started out as just another sleepy fishing village, albeit one surrounded by some of the most glorious verdure of the Italian Riviera. Its harbor is nearly hidden, which gave it great advantage against attack during the piratical centuries when seaside towns were regularly forced to fend against marauders. "Discovered" by English tourists in the late 19th century, in 1901 a former abbey was made over to become the Hotel Splendido, forever associated with the height of Hollywood glamour on the Riviera. The promontory's only coastal road begins - or, you could rightly say, ends - at Portofino, and jogs past private villas to reach Santa Margherita Ligure, another elegant seaside town. Being much larger than Portofino, it is less exclusive but no less posh and a favorite of boaters who launch here to explore the marine sanctuary that wraps around the promontory. Finally, on a crescent bay where the promontory rejoins the coastline, is Rapallo, a resort town with one of the oldest (and loveliest) golf courses in Italy. The most populous town on the Golfo del Tigúllio, it's a genteel place to unwind while enjoying tennis, riding, or boating, and many travelers make it their home base while exploring the nearby towns.This guide tell everything you need or want to know about this region - the places to stay and eat, what to see and do, the history, the culture, and much more. Color photos fill the guide.
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