This blue marble

– and yet it spins

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Lazy days in Bordighera

bordighera-2Plastered, ochre and sand-colored houses with moss green window shutters. Stone slab pavement. A few potted plants. Sparrows chirping in the alleys. A group of locals having pasta with wine for lunch underneath a parasol. Bordighera must have been the same already centuries ago. bordighera-1A century ago one could reach Bordighera from Paris in “just” 24 hours, and London was not much further away. Claude Monet found much to paint in the stillness of hot, languid Bordighera summer days. George MacDonald came over to warm his Scottish bones and to write of fantastical, sometimes dark places while sitting in the shade from the scorching sun.

Bordighera is also one of the two locations André Aciman thought of when writing Call Me By Your Name. Because there are only a few places where days pass in such a lazy pace that there is time to discuss the origins and meaning of the word “apricot”.bordighera-3(Bordighera, Italy; July 2018)

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By the Riviera Ligure

alassio-7The Azure Coast is azure on the Italian side of the border, too. The towns are very Italian, though: attention to small esthetic detail, quite more chaotic roads, and more attention to  beautifully paved boardwalks dotted by gelaterias. Dinner is not available anywhere before 7.30 pm, and only tourists choose to sit down before 9 pm. But the food is equally incredible, thanks to the abundant local produce. And in Italy, it is possible to dine on the beach. Naturalmente.

(Alassio, Italy; July 2018)

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Muro dei cani

alassio-6It is not easy to paint the personality of a human from his or her face. It must be even more difficult to paint the personality of a dog, underneath the fur and fluff. And yet this unknown lovely artist did manage to trace the outline of over 300 unique furry persons, all lined up on a concrete wall by a park in Alassio.

The one in the middle looks like it is up to mischief only – and quite unlike any dog I have seen.

(Alassio, Italy; July 2018)

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On the wall in Alassio

alassio-5Jean Cocteau sure did love the Riviera. His self-portrait is on the Muretto wall by in Alassio, and he self-handedly painted an entire fishers’ chapel interior in Villefranche-sur-Mer.

Cocteau’s portrait ended up on the brick wall in Alassio nearly 10 years after Hemingway’s autograph, though. The story goes that the local café keeper wanted to show off his famous visitors, and asked a few of them to sign a couple of colorful tiles. In the dark of the night they went up on the wall. When nobody complained, he kept adding more. Today the wall stretches across the entire train station square, with over 500 named tiles of visitors to the city; like a guest log  for “those that matter”. Who decides who matters is something I would like to know, as the famous jetsetters’ hangout Caffé Roma is long gone.
alassio-4(Alassio, Italy; July 2018)

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Beach bumming

alassio-3Beach bum day. Yes, today. No other plans than to sleep, read swim, and have octopus for lunch. And maybe sleep, read, and swim in the afternoon. The Eight Mountains is perfect Italian beach reading: beautiful, reasonably light, and insightful.

Even if it’s just us and a few thousand other beachgoers, the last beach club before Laigueglia is less busy.  Even the beach guard’s eyes have an easier task here. alassio-2(Alassio, Italy; July 2018)

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Hey Alassio!

alassio-1Hey Alassio! We read about you, perceiving you to be a quiet beach resort of times gone by, the “forgotten Riviera”. Well, you surprised us. Thank you for allowing this one rare shot with only two people in it – because the rest of the week you crowded us with Italian tourists. And especially at night, while walking on the promenade, you made us feel like we, as the only non-Italian tourists, stumbled upon an Italian holiday secret.

And what a secret. We quickly learned we had to book our beach chairs in advance, as there is such a thing as an entirely full beach. We also quickly learned that any beach shack serves the most excellent lunch (and any dish containing pulpo, or octopus, is not to be missed).

We also learned that it is not correct to stop in front of a pedestrian crossing, if a car is parked or stopped in front of it. The way to do it here is to simply drive and hope nobody gets crushed. Otherwise our little Cinquecento will get crushed by the road rage-y driver behind us. But when we do see pedestrians crossing, we must stop, unless we desire having the hood of our car beaten by a raging pedestrian family father. We know this for a fact.alassio-8(Alassio, Italy; July 2018)

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Dear old wisteria

genoa-9Dear old wisteria, how old are you? How were you brought to the rooftop of the palazzo Doria Tursi on via Garibaldi? Were you a sight to be seen, covered in periwinkle flowers?  Were you the centerpiece of a pre-dinner cocktail gathering? How many kisses stolen and promises of love fervently whispered have you hidden underneath your branches?

Wikipedia tells me that your kind was not brought from far Asia until the early 1800s, which means you are probably not more than two hundred years old. Do you agree? And by the way, did you know that the house you grow on is three hundred years older yet?

(Genoa, Italy; July 2018)

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Party palazzos

genoa-7No, this is not the Versailles. This is not even in France. The Italian aristocrats knew how to build palazzos, too. And in Genoa they built an entire street of palazzos. Imagine it as any other neighborhood: families living next-door to each other – except for instead of a house or an apartment each would have a gilded castle to themselves, complete with rooftop gardens large enough to serve cocktail parties and balls. genoa-6And while we are imagining: what must it have been like to know that any given night there was some dinner or ball attracting dozens of carriages into the tiny street? Oh the hubbub. And oh the shame, if one was not invited.
genoa-5(Genoa, Italy; July 2018)

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genoa-aquarium-1Teeth and bones and fins. That is what piranhas are made of. I once learned it the hard way, trying to fish for a living in the Amazon. They do not make a proper or tasty meal. I tried my best to catch arapaimas and arawanas, but all I got was piranhas. Over and over again, while our base manager miraculously pulled up delicious fish out of the living fish soup that was the Amazon in dry season. Most of the time the piranhas chewed off my bait so I lost the hook and sinker, too. I often wondered whether our base manager was using a spell or a mantra before throwing out his fishing line. Even if we were performing the exact same action I was obviously doing something wrong.

There are impressive piranha teeth – and there are possibly even more impressive sawfish teeth. Why keep your teeth in your mouth when you can grow a jaw outside of your skull and place your teeth around its outer lining? Much easier to stun and cut prey, yes? genoa-aquarium(Aquarium of Genoa, Genoa, Italy; July 2018)