Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Day 20: Bordighera

The sea is calm and quiet this morning but the sky is overcast. We are able to sit outside for breaksfast in spite of the breeze. After breakfast, we get in the car and drive east to San Remo, the biggest resort town in the area complete with a gambling casino. As soon as we get into the city, we find a lot of traffic congestion. We take a look at the waterfront and drive through the port and then head into the center. We pass some large old hotels with big gardens and views of the sea, but they seem to have seen better days. The main commercial area is very busy and congested....and we get good looks at the fashionable stores as we inch our way down the main shopping street. I had decided to go to San Remo today because it is market day but as we approach the piazza where the market is located, the traffic becomes even more chaotic. After searching unsuccessfully for a place to park, we decide to give up on the market. We drive back down to the water, around a very nice residential area up the hill with big houses and new apartment buildings and past the the very grand gambling casino before leaving town and going back to Bordighera. San Remo will not be on our list of favorite destinations in Italy and we are happy to have decided to stay in Bordighera.

Back in Bordighera, we buy some supplies and have a nice picnic on our balcony at the hotel. After lunch and some relaxing, we get back in the car and visit the small British war cemetery with graves of soldiers who had died in World War I. Although there was no fighting in this area (it was mostly in northeastern Italy near the Austrian border), there was a hospital in Bordighera. The cemetery is small and well kept and, like the others we have visited, very moving.

We take the road up into the hills above Bordighera heading for Seborga, a small hill town that recently has reasserted its claim to be an independent principality. This claim is based on a title dispute from the 16th century and ten years ago, the town elected a prince, and has issued "currency" and postage stamps. The flag of Seborga flies everywhere in town and proclamations about its independent status are posted on the walls. We stroll through the almost deserted streets...it is mostly a weekend tourist destination....and arrive at the main piazza--a minature square lined with shops and a small church. There are some nice views from the town but, in fact, there is not much there, other than the "independent principality" gimmick.

I take a look at the map and decide to take a different road to get back to Bordighera. The road starts out becoming even narrower than the road up to Seborga. As it starts to descend, the number of hairpin turns increases and the turns become tighter and tighter. We meet a car coming the other direction at one turn but he pulls into a small driveway and lets us pass. We then hit a section that has been freshly paved and though narrow, the driving conditions improve. We are little concerned that all the road signs have disappeared, but we have little option other than continuing on. Suddenly, the new paved road ends and the surface becomes very rough and the road narrows. We see one of those road signs that indicate that there are a series of curves ahead....this gives us a bit more confidence since the road is at least on the radar screen of the highway department. However, this confidence is misplaced....the road narrows even more, the surface gets worse and the hairpin turns get even tighter--so tight that there is no way to make them in one maneuver.

Without a doubt, this is our worst driving experience in Italy and we are hoping that the road doesn't just end forcing us to turn around and go back up. But the road gradually improves and more signs of "civilization" appear and finally we make it into a town and a main road. Back in Bordighera, we stop for a drink at a bar to "recover". Diana says that she doesn't want to drive on any more unknown "white roads" (roads marked on maps as unimproved).

We have dinner at a very stylish waterfront restaurant around the point from our hotel called La Reserve. We sit on the terrace with a good view over the rocks. There are a few other occupied tables (other people are having drinks on the patio) and the menu turns out to be a bit "creative" mixed with traditional Ligurian dishes--some of the non-traditional items are sashimi, curry sauces, foams, etc. But the food turns out to be very good. Diana likes her ravioli with hazlenut butter and orata ligurian-style, but her lemon tart is too sweet. My farinata (chickpea-flour crepe) with calamari, onions and peas is innovative and tasty and a gigantic plate of fritto misto--delicately fried seafood and vegetables-- is delicious but I can only eat about half of the portion. The white wine--again a Vermintino--is fresh and flavorful.

We enjoy our short walk back to the hotel along the water, stopping to watch the people fishing off the rocks in the dark.


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