Postcard from the Riviera – II

Postcard from the Riviera – 2


According to legend, the Tuscan Archipelago was formed when a necklace slid from the neck of Venus, goddess of beauty and love, and fell into the waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Had I known this story ahead of time, I probably would not have been surprised to find the island of Elba to be a place of beauty – rich and varied scenery of mountains ringed with old forest, lagoons and inlets, small hill towns nestling against the shore in timeless tranquility. However, like most of us who studied European history, I only knew of Elba as the island to which Napoleon Bonaparte was first exiled in 1814. This in turn conjured in my mind Alcatraz-like images of a bleak, forbidding place. The reality turned out to be a very pleasant surprise. Though he only stayed on the island for 10 months, Napoleon had two residences: the Palazzina de Mulini located in the highest part of Portoferraio, the island’s main port, and the other the villa San Martino, his summer residence, and one that we had the opportunity to visit. The later edifice was purchased for him by his sister, Paolina, considered to be one of the greatest beauties of the time. Napoleon had been stripped of most of his fortune, and she was married to a Borghese, one of the richest of the Roman families. Paolina also had a history of conquests, though in a different realm than her brother, earning her the sobriquet “Paolina the horizontal.”


We visited Porto Azzuro, a sea-side resort on the opposite end of the island from Portferraio. Elba also has large iron stores and mines, accounting for the legends of ships being “drawn” to the island, as in fact magnetic compasses can be affected by the significant iron deposits found there. We did not visit the Miniature Mine nearby, though the brochure I saw looked interesting. Elba turned out to be the surprise gem of our Italian Riviera experience.


The last day of our Italian Riviera experience finds us visiting the highlights of the Gulf of Poets, staring with Portovenere, a fortified town recently given World Heritage status by UNESCO. Doria castle (open to visitors) dominates the town, and on a rocky promontory stands the small but exquisite St. Peter’s church built in the 13th century in Genoese gothic style with alternating bands of white and black marble guaranteed to draw any photographer’s lens. We move on to Santa Margherita Ligure, a seaside resort town defined by charming shops and an unusual mix of nautical and Belle Époque styles. Since the days of the 17th century, when the Genoese nobility built beautiful villas here, the town has attracted an international mix of visitors. It’s lunch time, and rather than wasting our time in a restaurant, we stop in a bakery, pick up a fresh baguette, that stop by to purchase some great mortadella, cheese, which we consume along with a bottle of local wine on a bench by the sea. This prepares us for the short ferry ride to Portofino, a tiny 19th century fishing village transformed by countless celebrity visitors into one of the most painted, photographed and celebrated gems of the Italian Riviera. The town square with its multi-colored houses and the marina with its fairytale yachts, though seen in photos by almost all visitors prior to arrival, still have the capacity to take your breath away. It’s a small wonder that this area held sway over so many writers, artists and poets, from Nietzsche to Hesse, Wagner, Kandinsky, Freud, Hemingway, and Guy de Maupassant.


One of the pleasures of traveling with a group of friends and co-workers is the opportunity to get to know each other better, as being removed from the surroundings of our everyday existence and being strangers together in a foreign land puts us all on a more or less equal footing. At work, we all tend to wear our professional masks and demeanors. Here, we had the opportunity to allow sides of us our colleagues don’t get to see come forth. I was pleased to learn how many good humored, interesting, funny, and talented people I work with, as well as have some personal conversations with old friends that sadly we often don’t have the time for at home. Another bonus turned out to be the cohesion that developed not only between the sixteen of us I had recruited for the adventure and the other half of the group who were contacts of Fran, our travel agent. Everyone mixed well, looked out for each other, shared stories, and developed an esprit-de-corps that made us all sad to say good-bye to each other at the end of the holiday.


Next: The French Riviera

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14 Responses to Postcard from the Riviera – II

  1. Beth says:

    Your trip sounds absolutely wonderful!

  2. dawn says:

    we both hit sent at the same time on my space, almost like magic ;)i have to run out now but i\’ll be back later in the day to read up on what you have been up to and i sure hope you enjoyed your fishing trip, Jorge. many smiles, dawn

  3. Hope says:

    sounds like you had a delightful time..
    the words you left for me.. are ever so true.
    and something I needed to hear.. thank you..
    have a wonderful day..
    soft hugs Hope

  4. Charlotte says:

    Well, now, that was a pleasant ""fishing trip"" eh?  Thanks for the history lesson…  Amazing what I learn when coming here.  I am glad to hear that you had a wonderful trip and enjoyed so many sites.  hugs, lottemae

  5. Barb says:

    Beautiful Jorge.. no wonder these are the areas of love stories!
    I have browsed some of your photos all equally lovely all telling
    their own story. How delightful you and friends got to know each
    other in a different way.. such friendships feed the soul.
    I look forward to the next leg of travel
    BE Well

  6. Marge says:

    Jorge, ever since my first visit here (how long ago…?) I have not ceased to wonder at your tales of adventure after returning from your travels. For those of us who are not able to travel the world as you do, your stories of the sights, sounds, and flavors of the places you\’ve visited provide welcome fare for our imaginations.
    I could see, in a small way, what you saw, fleshing out your vivid descriptions in my imagination. On this rainy, dreary, miserable early spring Iowa night, I\’ve been transported to a place far across the sea where the sky is blue, the ocean is, too, and the geography rich and varied.
    I thank you for that, my friend.
    More, please..?

  7. dawn says:

    sounding kewl, Jorge. 🙂 its so true what you said, after awhile, this time together one has spent away from the hustle of daily life is probably the essence of memories and the bond which one falls back on. love. communion, almost 😛 i hope this day has been going great for you. hugs, dawn

  8. sweeti's says:

    The Italian Connection.LOL
    well  Jorge  when ur  out of the working place  and  doing other  things with colleagues its like  u have  more  closeness  with them
    u talk more   even more private things..its good  to hear  u had a good group Coz  its  a big difference for the  trip
    I know Italy is having so much  culture its everywhere.
    and our  king   his  wife is  Paola  from italy  (Wink)
    we have so called  Italo freaks in my working place  ..really obsessed  by Italian food  Italian  language.
    but  i know for sure  when u write abt French  its gonna be romantic  Yes????
    i love France  its loaded with  ppl  who have all the time of the world..
    looking forward forthe next story

  9. Stephen Craig says:

    Jorge,  Reads as though you had a great trip and is a fine read.  Will wait for the next chapter.
    As ever be well.
    Stephen Craig Rowe

  10. Cheryl says:

    A great read and it sounds like a wonderful time. 

  11. Gelert says:

    Hello Jorge – long time no see. I\’ve missed reading you, so here I am. So good to hear you are well and enjoying the world. Always a warmth here on your blog.

  12. Lisa says:

    (many apologies if this posts multiple times.  it seems to be the pattern today).  What an absolutely spectacular trip you were able to take.  I, too, adore spending time with the people I work with away from the office:  I love seeing different sides of their personalities and what really "makes them tick."  A well written post … I\’m looking forward to the French Riviera as well!

  13. PJ says:

    Good Evening Jorge,
    I am so behind in my blog hopping. I actually have the weekend off, so I shall return and "catch up".
    Have a grand weekend.

  14. Jana says:

    wow, you put together 16 people! What an excellent idea! It is true, in these busy days we don\’t have time for each other.
    Beautiful writing.

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