In Search of Genoese Harp Guitars, Part 9: A Day in Paradise

I hope everyone enjoyed last week’s look at one of the local Genoese guitar denizens (our new friend, Marco Cassissa).

After a good night’s rest, we were up early for a special “day off” – a short drive down the coast to Portofino (part of the “Italian Riviera” and then on to Franco’s second home in Camogli (Ka-MOL-yi, I learned).  Except that when I say “drive down the coast,” it doesn’t quite work that way.  Due to the gorgeous mountain-meets-the-beach geography, if one wants to get to the next coastal town over – say just a few miles – one has to go up into the hills for a lengthy and harrowing winding ride, then come back down to the ocean.

But in no time at all we were in the ancient and incredibly charming fishing village of Portofino.  It doesn’t cover a lot of ground, but all that ground is chock full o’ charm and wonderful vistas.

Ljuba, Jaci and Rosella on the cobblestone wharf.
Directly above the stylish local in the T-shirt is Castle Brown, a hike we were told we had to take.

A view of the harbor with the castle upper left, as we begin the walk

For every few steps we ascend, the view changes

Halfway up, we get a look at the unusual layout (and color!) of the village.  Our indefatigable translator/guide/walking encyclopedia Sylvia told us that in the old days the houses were each painted a different shade of color so the returning sailors could easily pick out their own.  Serious!  The tradition is maintained to this day.  This shot is my screen saver.

Almost to the top, the castle’s foundation was in full wisteria bloom

We saw a lot of these small, beautiful, green “Italian wall lizards” (Podarcis sicula, I would later learn).  Try as I might, I never captured one for field study (sorry, once a herpetologist, always a herpetologist).

At the top.  Is this picture postcard perfect, or what?!

We’re at the outer corner of the castle base.  This is my typical attempt at a series of panoramic “stitched” shots.  This is still taking in only about 5% of what the eye sees.

Castello Brown was built as a fortress in the mid-1550s.  In the 1860’s it was purchased by Brown (Montague Yeats, then English consul in Genoa).  A new couple bought it in 1949, and before selling it to the city (1961) refurbished it, with one unusual new decoration: on every wall were marvelous framed photographs of Hollywood movie stars from the 1920s, ’30s & ’40s.  No, not cheesy souvenirs – apparently this was the Hollywood hideaway vacation spot for decades, where the stars could enjoy themselves relatively unmolested.   The photos were all taken by professional photographers in the village; photos of Clark Gable, Bing Crosby, and dozens of others.  Those of Buster Keaton and Laurel & Hardy were especially fun.  It was another surprising historical glimpse of the town.

I snapped one of the photos (randomly chosen) for an example…

The hike back down was a lot easier, and then it was off to Camogli, another short jump down the coast (at this point, we’re still going mainly east, plus a bit south).  Franco tries to spend some of the better months here.

I forget the step count – about 200?  Jaci decided to ride the easier, but excruciatingly slow, people-mover that Franco installed for his late wife.  Giulia (Franco’s granddaughter), patiently waiting.

After the ride, just a bit more to the house

Looking out the front windows to the southeast

And to the west.  Genoa is jutting out there, I believe.  My routine blog-readers may recognize this view…
Note the church and old ruins down at the docks…we’ll be going there next – starting close to the end jutting out at the right.

But first, lunch, and an impromptu concert by Rosella and/or Ljuba.  By dumb luck, the bench held a copy of Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite for 4 Hands – one of my favorite works ever.  They obligingly sight-read a couple challenging excerpts for me. (No, I’m not being silly in this shot, I was literally lost in a reverie of sheer and profound beauty and had my eyes closed to avoid tearing up.)

And so down to the wharf.  Franco’s house is the one directly above the red strip of a building.  The castle ruin and church are just to our right.

We walked around on the inland side and are again looking west.  I forget the story and age of this, but it is old.

More recent is the church, the yellow wall at our left, as we look back east.

The church door, in amazing condition, just begging for Jaci to take her obligatory photos.

Walking now along the row you saw 2 pics above.  Like Portofino, the same delightful multi-hued buildings.  But here, we were greatly entertained by the fully-detailed use of trompe l’oeil.

If you don’t have enough windows, why not paint them on, so your neighbors think you do?!
Can you tell where “real” ends and illusion begins?

How about now…?

(Only the right green shutters are real)
Endless creativity and care in home exterior decorating.  From the distance, we couldn’t tell if the cat was a fake!

And now we’ve reached the end and need to head back before dark.  This was a day both relaxing, exhilarating, and soul-fulfilling in every way.  I close my eyes, and I’m back there.

Next week: An out-of-way guitar collection in the country…and you’ll want to be sitting down.

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