Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Friends, food and laughter in Ceriana


After an uneventful drive across France we arrived in Italy, 52€ lighter with the cost of tolls on the autoroute and autostrada. You could have easily closed your eyes and known that you were in a different country. First there were the vineyards on terraces reaching high up to the top of the mountains, then there were the tunnels painted in France and much grubbier in Italy. The vegetation at the sides of the roads hadn't been trimmed and in some cases it was difficult to see beyond them. But we were in Italy and the first Italian espresso on the autostrada was wonderful.

From San Remo with its beautiful manicured gardens, we started the climb up the twisty road full of hairpin bends towards Ceriana. This year there seemed to be even more abandoned and dismantled greenhouses. This is the Riera die Fiori, Floral Riviera but  cheap Chinese floral exports have decimated this industry in Liguria. It was lovely to still  see some roses popping their heads out through the broken glass. The scenery as we climbed, looking back over San Remo and the turquoise Mediterranean, was beautiful. What a lovely spot! As we continued on the drive passing olive groves and vineyards, we noticed everything was quite lush. There has been a lot of rain and it was running down the rocks on the mountains forming new streams, even causing rock falls in a few areas.

Finally, there was Ceriana, our destination, in the distance. The first view of the old medieval hillside town is always quite dramatic. Soon we were having a glass of vino with our friends, Penny and Dino in their house overlooking the valley with vineyards, olives, fruit and vegetables growing. Clarissa, another friend, was there as well. It is an indescribably beautiful spot. Eventually we got the key to our house, parked at one end of town and hauled our luggage down the cobbled pathways to our door. Our apartment looks out over an old bocce court and other old, old stone buildings. Some of the floors in these buildings have been long abandoned while people still live in other floors. Unpacked and with the bed made up with two yoga mats and two duvets on top of the mattress on my side we were ready to go for dinner at our friend's house.

After more vino and lots of bread and the creamiest Gorgonzola cheese, Walter and Rosella arrived for dinner. Now we don't speak Italian but we can understand if we concentrate hard. It didn't matter as English and Italian were flying around mixed with much laughter, miming and more dolcetto wine from the Piedmont. Italians always know how to have a good time.

Finally, it was time to walk back to town and down to our apartment, with me wondering would I be like the princess and the pea and feel the mattress springs? Would we sleep with the church bells from the church right above us ringing all night?

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