Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Food with friends and a little balcony climbing

Our last full day in San Stefano was not without adventure. Once again we took a leisurely stroll along the promenade to Riva, where we found our friends paddling in the sea. We enjoyed the bright sunshine sitting on one of the huge rocks by the shore. Then it was off to their apartment for lunch.

After lunch our friends came out to the open air hallway to wave goodbye to us. Meanwhile their door blew shut with the lone key to the apartment inside. Even the estate agent renting the property didn't have a spare but we couldn't get in touch with her anyway because our friends' cell phone was also inside. Normally, this wouldn't be such a problem but in a four story apartment building, they were the only people staying there. Panic started to set in.

Seamus assessed the situation but it was impossible to climb up to their first floor balcony. The good news was that they had left the door to the terrace open. We sent our Italian friend over to the school next door to see if he could borrow a ladder. The answer to that was no.

I discovered a nearly intact old gate in some scrubland nearby. The only problem was that at one side the wiring part had come away from the pipe but the other side was still good. Thank goodness for Seamus, who moved all the plants from the high wall of the main floor apartment below before scaling the wall. He took down their satellite wire and the clothes line as well as moving the table and chairs on the patio. Then we lifted the rickety gate over to him. Eventually it was leaning against our friends' terrace and Seamus started to climb. I must admit my heart was in my mouth. I had visions of the flimsy gate just falling straight backwards but slowly, slowly Seamus made it to a point where he could climb on to their balcony. The day was saved. Our friends returned to their apartment vowing to put a shoe in their door to stop it closing on future occasions. Everything was replaced and Seamus and I headed off for a well deserved beer at least well deserved for Seamus.

Later in the afternoon we took the forty-five minute drive up the twisty road to the hill town of Ceriana. We were greeted like long lost friends by Antonia and her husband at Pellegrin's bar. The hill town Ceriana, which dates back to the 1100s and probably before, is in a beautiful spot surrounded by mountains and picturesque valleys. Unfortunately, unlike other neighbouring small towns it doesn't seem to benefit from money from either Italy or the EU or perhaps no one has bothered to apply for it. As a result it is not in great shape with old cobblestone pathways in poor disrepair. There are lots of abandoned houses. Now immigrants from Albania, and US and European expats have bought a few houses and fixed them up beautifully. It is difficult though, as the young people want to live in the cities, where there might be work but certainly they would be more lively. The population is in a slow decline leaving more unoccupied houses.

There are five bars but not one restaurant in town. It's a shame because there is a lot of history dating back to Roman times, that is if you can find it because even with a map in hand some of the places are almost impossible to find and aren't marked. It could be a lovely little tourist destination, a short drive from San Remo and a real slice of authentic Italy but petty jealousies seem to hold the town back. Even if you came to hike for the day you could get a coffee, glass of wine or even a gelato but no meal. The good news is that the several-hundred-year-old bake shop has reopened again with the third new owners in 18 months.

We were in Ceriana to visit friends and have a light dinner after all our eating. This is always a special treat since most of their food comes from the land. Both our friends work but he is very traditional and still harvests his grapes to make his own wine and olives to make olive oil as well as growing fruits, vegetables and  raising chickens. We enjoyed his wine along with jars of olives his mother had prepared. Tonight the delicious bread came from San Remo. In Italy bread is always sliced and placed right on the table for you to eat. We helped ourselves to tomatoes stuffed with tuna in olive oil. The beautiful creamy, home-made, green borage soup was delicious. Lots of red wine was flowing until dessert when we switched to our friend's slightly sweeter white wine. I had a tiny piece of macaroon followed by a piece of Parmesan Reggiano that I chipped off a huge block of the cheese. I really enjoyed this Parmesan. It wasn't too, too strong. I learned from all my Italian friends that Parmesan is aged for 22 to 30 months or more causing the change in the taste. Who knew? A lovely simple meal and such an interesting learning experience.

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