Our flight from Boston to Rome was pretty much a breeze. The line to go through security was on the longer side, but it moved quickly and our gate wasn’t a mile away, which is always nice. The wine on the plane was complimentary, which surprised me, but I didn’t question. The food was okay; however, the gluten free meal that I requested and inquired about at check in was nowhere to be found. Harumph. However, after years of having Celiac disease, I’ve learned to never travel without food so I had plenty of snacks.
When we arrived in Rome, we took a tram to the domestic connections terminal and passed through secondary security, where my over-ear headphones caused quite the scandal. Basically, my headphones fold up in a way that apparently resembles a bomb. Then, we went through passport control which basically consisted of me handing a guy my passport and him stamping it without asking any questions or even really looking me in the eye. I felt a little unsettled by this, but I got a new stamp!
Our flight from Rome to Genoa appeared to be a commuter flight, quite short and easy. In a way, it was nice to fly from Rome to a much smaller domestic airport because there was zero hubbub at the Genoa airport and no crowds. The only thing about flying to a small airport in a foreign country is that you aren’t going to find many English speakers. Fortunately, however, my Italian was adequate and I inquired with a very nice woman who told us that we had to take a bus to the train station. We purchased tickets for 4 Euros each, and took a 10 or 15 minute ride through Genoa, which was actually quite scenic, to the main train station. We had pre-purchased our Eurorail tickets at this point, which maybe wasn’t totally necessary, but it was definitely convenient to have them with us since we were both tired at this point. After looking at the timetable and finding our platform, we checked out the station café where we had our first of many ‘insalate miste.’ Soon, we boarded the train. The train was great. Basically an Italian Ascela, it was in pristine condition and well air-conditioned. We were on the train for a couple of hours until my friend’s mom and her two sisters met us at the train station and we had a late lunch (more insalate) at a nearby café before heading to the bed and breakfast to dump our luggage and freshen up. The b+b was definitely rustic… it met our needs for the night but I wouldn’t necessarily flock there again. The woman who ran the place was great to talk to, however. If you plan on staying at a small b+b in a more rural area, I would definitely suggest bringing an Italian phrasebook or dictionary if you don’t speak the language.
After quick showers, we changed into more comfortable clothes and took a ride out to Porto Venere- an old, seaside port town on a bit of a hill. As a side note, we rented a Fiat Panda which was a good size and we were able to fit the 5 of us, plus luggage in it (surprisingly.) Instead of renting a GPS, we brought ours from home and purchased the European card for it- worked like a charm most of the time. The only comment I have on that front is that the GPS lady’s accent wasn’t particularly fabulous and it was sometimes hard to tell what she was trying to say in Italian. If you don’t bring your GPS from home, however, definitely rent one if you think you’ll be doing any amount of driving. Especially in the countryside there are many unmarked streets and it’s easy to get lost.
We arrived in Porto Venere and parked. From there, we walked around since it was still on the early side for dinner. There were lots of nooks and crannies to explore. At this point, my and my friend sat at a little bar overlooking the ocean for a glass of Prosecco while her mom and sisters walked along the seaside. We then all walked up to an old stone church on a bluff. On the other side of the church, we looked out over people swimming and jumping from the rocks- looked like a really fun activity. Italian is on the more conservative side when it comes to female church etiquette, so unless you’re shoulders and knees are covered, I wouldn’t suggest just sauntering into a church.
We came down from the church and explored some of the shops that lined the cobbled alleys. So Italian! The variety of sardines in olive oil was amazing, and there were lots of little clothing boutiques. I was surprised to see so many stores selling Helly Hansen apparel. While we were browsing we found a promising looking restaurant where we ended up having dinner. I had a cold seafood salad with Squid, mussels, shrimp and octopus. It was great! The seafood was fresh and the olive oil and lemon dressing was perfect. A great meal to start off the trip. After dinner, we wandered around for a little longer before stopping for gelato. I actually had a homemade melon popsicle, which was phenomenal. On the drive back to the b&b, I fell asleep in the car and practically zombied into bed.