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Report 125: The Malinka Familyís 2001 Gelato/Gnocchi Trip

By Liz (Moderator) from Vancouver, Canada, Summer 2001

Trip Description: Liz, her husband Frank and their daughters Kali and Chloe vacation in Portovenere, two weeks in Chianti, Assisi, Lucca and Florence.

Destinations: Countries - Italy; Regions/Cities - Cinque Terre, Florence, Liguria, Tuscany, Umbria

Categories: Hotels/B&Bs; Vacation Rentals; Art Trip; Attended GTG; Beach; Shopping; Sightseeing; Wine Trip; Independent Travel; 3-4 people; Adults and Young Children

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Page 1 of 10: Portovenere, Liguria

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This was our familyís second trip to Italy together and we were all looking forward to new towns and revisiting old favorites. I am always on the hunt for special ceramic pieces, but this year I was also hunting out small galleries so we could bring some local art back home. I was lucky on all fronts and found a few special pieces. This holiday had many special moments for my family. It seems to me that those little things, small moments, are the things that make great vacation memories.

Day 1: Aug 1, Portovenere, Liguria

Touch down in Italy after approximately 18 hours of travel and about Ĺ an hour of sleep, give or take 10 minutes! We both feel pretty good though since we took No Jet Lag. Amazingly good actually, will most definitely take this product again!

Arrived in Florence in the afternoon and picked up our car at Europcar rented through AutoEurope - quick and easy, no lines, in and out within 10 minutes! We thought we were getting an Alpha 156, but ended up with a Passat which actually had a much bigger trunk, so that was great!

Frank cut the drive down to 1 1/2 hours to Portovenere, what a surprise! What was really amazing was that my youngest didnít throw up once! I bought one of those grounding strips with us to attach to our rental car and that along with Travel Gum that you purchase from the Pharmacies in Italy really seemed to do the trick for her.

Checked into Grand Hotel Portovenere, great corner suite with sweeping views over the town and the Med. Couldnít have been happier! The girls have their own room, which is an unexpected treat! We immediately got changed into our bathing suits and headed for the nearest beach, which was a 2 minute walk. Heaven, thereís nothing better than hitting the Med for the first time after a long flight!

I had a few recommendations of my own and then asked at the Hotel where their favorite restaurant was, they came up with Antica Osteria del Carrugio. This little place had tons of charm, but the waiter did not! By the end of the evening we were referring to him as a troll. He had the charm of a well lets see now, oh yah, a TROLL! Having said that the food was really good, somewhat limited, but really good. Itís one of those "we cook 3 things and we do them really well" type of places. We started with the Vino della Cinque Terre which was pretty good and Iím not a big white wine drinker. They actually had it on tap and served carafe after carafe of it. We were the only none locals in there, a sign I always look for when traveling, and the rest of the meal just kept getting better. I started with an Octopus Salad, which was melt in your mouth tender. So this is what Octopus is really supposed to taste like! The girls and Frank had the tradition white bean soup, they all cleaned their bowls. We also had anchovies in lemon. This was the start of our religious experiences in Italy for both Frank and I. I love anchovies all the time, but Frank, not so much, well when he tried these he was a convert. What the waiter/owner? lacked in charm, he made up for with his food, but I think he still needs some charm school. Took forever to get the bill since he was the only server. After dinner we hunted for gelato - itís a tourist sport you know! I had to start with lemonĖpistachio my all time favorite combo and than we did our little passeggiata.

Up in bed by 9:30, Frank a little tired from driving like Mario Andretti I guess.

Portovenere is quite magical, especially at night, hopefully tomorrow night we can all stay up longer and experience a little more of it. I am, of course, not tired at all, more like completely wired from the excitement of landing back in my favorite country.

Day 2: Aug 2, Portovenere

Woke up at 4:15, opened our shutters and watched Portovenere wake up. It was dreamy, I had the first of many vacation Moments. At 7:30 we went down to breakfast, which was quite extensive, then cruised the town. We had been to Portovenere 2 years prior but only for about 1 hour so we had a lot to see. Scoped out the places we wanted to visit later and than headed for the beach again. I had never actually been to the beach at 9:15a.m. before and discovered that this is not a totally horrible experience. We left the beach by 11:00 a.m. and went to climb up to the Castello museum, which had expansive views over the area, we were the only ones there. They also had a gallery up there as well with a collection of some local fellows with some not so inspiring art.

Next we headed over to the Isle of Palmaria for more fun in the sun. Itís a 3 minute water taxi to a bigger beach with all the conviences, but still not crowded. Our girls made friends with some local girls, which was great, they hooked up later in the town square after dinner. We were actually approached by a nice gentleman on the beach who heard our girls speaking English and was interested in where they were from. Well when he found out, he came and introduced himself and told us he had been to Vancouver many times with his business and that he loved it there. He was a man who was born and raised in La Spezia and now resided in Portovenere, we told him how much we loved his little corner of the world as well.

After a few hours in the sun - actually we had lovely umbrellas and lounge chairs that we snoozed on - didnít want to get burned the first day, we headed back over to the mainland.

Before heading back to the hotel I stopped at the local Antique shop and found a great little painting by a local artist. I was thrilled! Itís so hard to find a gallery thatís actually open in August to begin with so my art search had begun.

The girls had a short siesta before going to dinner, it was no fun waking the zombies up! Tonight we went to Da Iseo on the main promenade. Everything was so good. We started with the anchovies in the lemon sauce again, simply couldnít resist. I had penne with porcini and Frank had the pesto pasta, everything was so fresh and simple and wonderful. Off for more gelato.

Day 3: Aug 3 Ė Cinque Terre

We took this little cruise (see resources) up the coast 2 years ago and decided we had to go back for more. Caught the 9am boat and relaxed and waited for the first stop of Riomaggiore about 20 minutes later. Cruised the town and then hit the beach. This beach was recently rated best beach in Italy by some magazine and itís not because itís overly pretty, mostly I think itís due to the fact that itís very secluded and only a few people go there. The water was lovely and it was a great start to our day in the Cinque.

Next stop Manarola - we had to take the boat since the Via dell amore was still being cleared of slide debris from months back. A little bit of a disappointment since thatís the only part of the walk that the whole family could handle together in that heat! Toured the town and had to dash for the boat to Vernazza, missed swimming in our favorite hole in Manarola due to misreading the schedule, so we will have to go back again!

Strolled through Vernazza and found a great little local gallery Linea Cinqueterre (see resources) artist Antonio Greco, and found painting #2. My personal favorite of the trip, is of a antique Italian racing car and driver.

Next we headed to the beach again and Frank and the girls tried out their new snorkel and mask and spotted fish for a couple of hours. Later up to Gelateria Artigranale for the highly recommended Tartufo flavor, oh my god, definitely better thanÖ well you know!

On to Monterrosso with the intention of having lunch, but we were on holidays and not paying really close attention the time so all my highly recommended places were of course closed. So we just cruised town and guess what, found another gallery. Bottega dí Arte on Vicola S. Martino 3. Now normally I never find anything on holidays and I just couldnít believe my eyes. I found a great little nude, sheís really lovely and adorning my piano now. Anyways found a spot for a quick piece of pizza and a frosty beer and decided to head home to Portovenere as we were all pretty beat from all the swimming and schlepping.

Enjoyed the nice relaxing cruise back to town, I really do recommend this way of seeing the Cinque, itís so relaxing and you really do get a great view of all the towns this way.

When we came home, Frank and Kali headed back to the room and Chloe and I went to go visit the artist (Sergio Seletti, Galleria DiArte Il Carugetto on Via Colonna 4) that I had bought a painting of the day earlier. She found a little gem that she loved and proceeded to do her own negotiating. She is very proud of her little piece and it has a special spot in her room now.

We did something that we have never done on holidays and that is go back to the same restaurant as the night before (Da Iseo). Well things were actually better this time, if that was possible, may have had something to do with the over tipping the night before. Well off for more gelato, roll me home!

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