Liguria Italy off the Beaten Track on the Via Julia Augusta

The Italian region of Liguria borders France, Piedmont and Tuscany. The coastline is the same as that of the exclusive French Riviera and offers similar benefits; beautiful cliffs, beach areas, fishing seaports, a maritime economy and water-sporting activities. Liguria has been popular with tourists and locals for decades.

Liguria is also one of the smallest of the Italian regions, it is densely populated and relatively prosperous economically. Genoa is the capital of Liguria, a large seaport with heavy cargo and cruise ship traffic – more details on Genoa can be found in a previous post.  The famous Cinque Terre is also a large attraction for the region.

Albenga Baptistery #Albenga #Italy @GingerandNutmeg

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Fabulous Florence Italy

Ginger and Nutmeg had been away from Canada for almost 10 months, and they were both experiencing the need for some interaction with their Calgary friends (read: a little too much one-on-one time). That sentiment was not quite strong enough to persuade Nutmeg to book a ticket home, no need to rush from the South of France. However, when they received an email invitation to a small gathering in Florence to celebrate a wedding, they said YES without hesitation, despite the 7-8 hour drive.


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A Roman Holiday

NO, Ginger and Nutmeg are not going into the film business. The famous old (1953) movie Roman Holiday, with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, was not the impetus for their visit to the Italian capital city. There were two compelling reasons to indulge in a little three-day Roman holiday. The first was a chance to visit with dear friends, and the second reason was the last time either Ginger or Nutmeg had stepped foot in Rome was over 25 years ago!

Fleur de Sel and Espresso arrived on their transatlantic flight a few moments after Ginger and Nutmeg’s short flight from Marseille. In fact, it was just enough time for a quick Italian espresso and a walk to the right terminal. Once settled in their hotel rooms and they all met for lunch on the beautiful Piazzo del Polpolo. This plaza has a fountain and it is relatively free of the crowds, as compared to the major sites in Rome. Unfortunately, the concierge recommended a restaurant on the square, which was a bust, so much for her suggestions.


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Pisa Italy Not to be Missed

Ginger does most of the driving when the duo is “on the road”. In an effort to break up a longer drive he decided that an overnight stay in Pisa would be a good idea, so he found a great little hotel in the historic centre.  Nutmeg had been to Pisa in the 1980’s involving a quick trip from Florence on the train for dinner.  The idea was to take the late afternoon train, allow some time for a few quick photos of the famous Leaning Tower or Campanile (bell tower for the Cathedral) and allow more time for dinner and beverages.  Nutmeg will admit that her memory may be the odd bit fuzzy but at that time the tower was interesting, the grounds were crowded and the rest of the site under-promoted.

Things have changed in Pisa, since Nutmeg’s last visit. The Leaning Tower and the rest of the site were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.  The tower remains today on the National Geographic “7 Wonders of the Middle Ages” list.  Visitor access to the tower had been stopped years ago to prevent further erosion; it is now open on a limited basis. The not-for-profit Opera Della Primaziale Pisana (OPA) manages the whole site today.  Visitors are able to walk around the buildings in “Miracle Square” however can only gain access to these beautiful structures with a ticket.  There two ticket variations, with or without the tower visit.  G&N chose without, as the wait to go up the tower was 3 1/2 hours – so go early if you are really keen to get a view from the top of the tower.

Pisa Campanile (leaning tower)

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Cinque Terre Italy Heaven on Earth

The Cinque Terre, literally translated “The Five Lands”, is part of the Italian Riviera.  A visit to this part of Liguria has been a dream of Nutmeg’s for a long time.  The rugged coastline is noted for the beautiful vistas, and the walking trails that connect five fishing villages – Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore.  The villages, the coastline and the surrounding hillsides are now classified as the Cinque Terre National Park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The villages remain tiny and relatively undeveloped, compared to other resort towns on both the Italian and French coasts. To this day there is no road joining all five villages.

Cinque Terre #Italy #CinqueTerre

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A Tuscan Sampler

A couple years ago Nutmeg had the pleasure of biking through Tuscany with a group of friends. Ginger was at school so he was not able to participate.  The moment Nutmeg arrived at their beautiful bed and breakfast accommodation, in the middle of a vineyard; she knew that Ginger must visit Tuscany.  Anyone who loves wine, history and beautiful countryside should visit, and fall in love with Tuscany in their lifetime.  Ginger and Nutmeg set-off on an early season (April) visit to explore Tuscany.  At this time of year the fields are only just starting to turn green and the gnarled grapevines are showing their first shoots.

Tuscany San Felice

So what is Tuscany all about? Wine, History and Countryside

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The Faces of Genoa Italy

The coastal city of Genoa (Genova in Italian) was Ginger and Nutmeg’s first overnight stop en-route to the Carnevale di Venezia and the Italian ski resorts.  It was a logical stop as it allowed for a just the right amount of time in the car (not too much, not too little). Genoa is the Ligurian port city where Columbus was born in 1451.  The current city and surrounding area encompasses a population of just over 1.4 million.  The historical city was listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2006.  Genoa is home to the Bank of Saint George, one of the world’s oldest institutions, and it continues to hold a strong place in the Italian economy today.

Genoa-galleria-mazzaniGinger and Nutmeg stayed at the Bentley Hotel in Genoa.  This hotel is really beautifully appointed, however has little classic Italian, Mediterranean or European charm.  The hotel could be found in any major centre globally – it was lovely and the bathroom did NOT include the dreaded Euro shower.  Setting out on foot from the hotel to the historic district is an easy walk, although involves a long set of stairs as the hotel is located on an upper ridge of the city.

Genoa as a port city is well situated and organized for cruise ship traffic.  Many of the key attractions are found just along the waterfront including; the aquarium, the museum of the Antarctica, museum of science and technology for kids. The city tourist bureau has a large map (font and size) and an excellent web site available to visitors.  Nutmeg’s advice – get away from the very touristy port as one should not miss Genoa’s Via Garibaldi and the Palazzi dei Rolli.  These 16th and 17th century buildings were residences of the powerful families who were highly involved in the financial and sea based trade of the time.  For the most part these multistory palaces have been beautifully restored and are generally open to the public for viewing the open staircases, loggias and sculpted gardens.  Today these buildings are used for a combination of public (university, government offices, museums) and private uses.


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A Taste of Bologna Italy

Warning! This post has nothing to do with the horrible sandwich meat.

Nutmeg LOVES the Italian language.  After fighting rush-hour congestion, some GPS misinformation, tiny crowded streets and a retail strip thronged with groups strolling on a Saturday evening – There is something immediately soothing to hear “buonasera signora“!

Allora that is how the visit to Bologna began.  Arrival on a Saturday, at the height of late-day shopping and the start of the “apero” (cocktail) time, was an adventure.  However, once settled in the very centrally located Hotel Metropolitan, a city map in hand and some restaurants suggestions, Ginger and Nutmeg ventured out into the crowded streets.  Bologna is located in Northern Italy, it is the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region. Bologna was called Felsina in the time of the Etuscans and later renamed Bononia under the Romans. Bologna is home to the oldest university in the world, which dates back to the 1088. Today Bologna continues to have a strong student population.  It is also known as a gastronomic capital in Italy.


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Bologna Italy Mercato delle Erbe

Ginger is a good sport and keen travel partner, he agreed to several days of sightseeing in the cities of Genoa, Bologna and Venice.  He gamely played tourist; walked all day, took lots of pictures, visited old churches, and climbed up towers, but when given the choice of sleeping-in or visiting a market – he chose his pillow.  Nutmeg was not deterred; she grabbed her camera, some money for a cappuccino and walked the short distance from the hotel to Bologna’s Mercato delle Erbe.

Mercato delle Erbe

Bologna is well-known as a city with a strong culinary reputation. This is not light cuisine; there is a heavy focus on meat, cheese and pasta.  There is a near addiction to cured pork meat; such as prosciutto, salami and mortadella.  Pasta comes in every variety, with the ragù alla bolognese as the most famous. The local region is also well known for Parmesan cheese, Modena balsamic vinegar and of course some great wines.

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Red Sports Car at Ferrari Maranello Italy

There are several brands that epitomize Italian style, one that is known worldwide is Ferrari. Boys of all ages, have visions of racing in the streets of Monaco in a red sports car. Bright red is truly one of the distinctive traits of the Ferrari automobiles, a patented colour, “Rosso Corsa,” or Italian racing red. In fact, red is the international color for all Italian race cars, while the French use blue, and the English defaulted to British racing car green. On a recent visit to Bologna, Ginger and Nutmeg made a small side-trip to Galleri Ferrari, the official Ferrari museum located in Maranello, to experience these magnificent machines up close.

Aside from distinctive color the Ferrari coat of arms, a bright black stallion prancing on a yellow embossed background, is iconic. History surrounds the emblem: the black stallion symbolizing the Piedmonte Reale Cavalleria which World War One, Italian flying ace Francesco Baracca had painted on his fighter plane. Ferrari originally received approval to use the prancing stallion on its cars from Countess Baracca who suggested it would bring luck in car races. Yellow is the official color of Modena, an Italian province in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. Modena has been deemed the “Supercar Capital” as it has been home to carmakers Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborgini, and Bugatti. Two scripted letters “S” and “F” are also included on the logo and are important as they signify Scuderia Ferrari, or the “Ferrari Stable.” The stable got its roots in 1928 as a collective of amateur race car drivers led by Enzo Ferrari. The crest is an appropriate coat of arms for such a legacy of great automobiles, which have been built with ever increasing horsepower.

Ferrari Logo

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