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Report 834: There's No Such Thing as Too Much...Pasta and Ceramics

By Palma from California, Fall 2005

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Page 2 of 23: Monday, September 5: Portofino

photo by Palma Hansen

Hotel Splendido view

At 5:45 a.m. I was in our garden watching the sunrise and listening to a neighborhood rooster crow “Buon Giorno”. Since there was no coffee until eight, I made do with a Coke Light from the minibar with my first cigarette. We gathered for a breakfast of coffee, fresh fruit and croissants before leaving for our daytrip to Portofino.

We left at 8:45 and our first stop was the “Cavo di Marmi” above Carerra by 9:30. We drove by marble quarries, through tunnels that made me think of the seven dwarves singing “Whistle While You Work,” and stopped at the Museo di Marmi of Signore Daneli. He has gathered examples of marble, tools and demonstrated the process of cutting and carving slabs of marble into art, statues and useful objects. I bought six different colored decorative balls and a rolling pin. We stopped in Carerra for a latte and bathroom break, then returned to the Autostrada and proceeded north to Portofino.

Brad had been driving cautiously, but as we drove through the busy streets of Santa Margarita, an old woman on a bicycle veered too close to the van on the passenger side. I saw her from the front seat, and feared it would be close. Our side view mirror nicked her elbow, we all shrieked and turned to see if she was alright. She appeared to be fine and kept riding. Traffic didn’t allow us to stop until she was out of our rear view vision. There was total silence in the car, and I knew Brad felt terrible, but it was unavoidable. When we arrived at the car park we reassured him that it wasn’t his fault, and he apologized for causing the tense moments.

We wandered around Portofino where I replaced lighters that had been confiscated at LAX and Brad got a beautiful white linen shirt on sale. We gathered at the square and chose a restaurant for lunch. I had pasta con sugo di noci and a glass of house vino bianco. Brad had fusilli with pesto.

After lunch we drove up to the Hotel Splendido where I stayed on my first trip to Italy in 1987. It is as beautiful as I remembered. We had cokes and lattes on the terrace overlooking the sea and relaxed. I asked the concierge if it would be possible to visit a room, and he arranged a tour of a Junior Suite (that costs 1,261 euro per night!) The furnishings and fabrics were stunning, as is the view. I’m glad I had the Splendido experience when I did. Brad, Jan and Les were all a little disappointed in Portofino being smaller with fewer boats and yachts in the harbor than they expected. Brad drove back to Lucca and we had time for a nap before getting ready for dinner.

We walked inside Lucca’s wall and found our restaurant, All ‘Olivo. We sat in the outside garden. I had a delicious gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce and a wonderful veal chop grilled and topped with a sauce of sage, juniper berries and lemon. Brad had ravioli in brown butter, sage, and balsamic; and a duck breast in a grappa reduction sauce. Yum! Jan enjoyed her papardelle con porcini and a fillet with grilled Portobello. Les had proscuitto and melon and the veal chop. We drank a bottle of Pinot Bianco and were served a tray of cantucci and torrone. The guys had some vin santo with biscotti. It was a terrific meal.

We walked around Lucca after dinner, scouting stores for tomorrow’s shopping day. Like a homing pigeon, I found the Furla store, ceramics, and Jan saw jewelry that might have to come home with us.

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