Saturday, June 15, 2013


It's been a pretty slow week for sightseeing.  While touring Genova, I somehow developed a pinched nerve in my shoulder; and then, I don't know how, the heel of my right foot got bruised and it hurt to walk.  So I laid low for a few days.  

I went to the street market here in Porto Maurizio on Thursday, where you can buy fruit, vegetables, shoes, cheese, salami, batteries, a blouse, underwear, linens, and on and on--a wide assortment of goods at cheap prices from 50 plus vendors.  

Then Friday was a most delightful day, because my friends from Puglia, Tina and Donato, came to visit me.  I had not expected them to be able to come--it's a very long drive and one thing after another has prevented them from driving north.  

But, lucky, continuously lucky me.  We had a delicious lunch at a local seafood restaurant, then spent the afternoon just wandering around Porto Maurizio, mostly in the marina area, enjoying each other's company.  

Today, we drove along the coast, intending to tour the coastal town of Diano Marina, but, after more than 30 minutes trying to find a parking place, we gave up.  Finding a parking places in Italy is very, very challenging.  You have to pray to the parking fairy, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.  Today, it doesn't.  

My Ligurian friend, Riccardo, had suggested that I visit the town of San Bartolomeo al Mare, which was very near the marina town, so we headed in that direction. There really didn't seem to be much there, and I wondered what it was he thought would be interesting to see.  

I had caught  glimpses of this little town up on a hill, and initially thought it was the place Riccardo recommended, because it looked like a medieval town.  We decided to check it out, and I'm guessing this is the village Riccardo wanted me to see.  I fell in love almost immediately.  I know--I'm so fickle when it comes to these charming little Italian villages--but I just can't get enough of them.  This turned out to be one of my favorites, for reasons you'll understand after you see some photos.  And I'm going to show you more than usual, because there are just too many good ones.

We found a parking spot right away (good sign) and this castle greeted us first.  

We discovered right off that the name of the village is Cervo, population 1,200.  In its present form, it dates back to the 1600's.

The village is one charming alley after another.  You couldn't walk 10 feet without seeing another photo op.  

And there were flowers everywhere....some artfully arranged.

 Others were meandering the walls.

And then, of course, there was the breathtaking view of the sea, from all around the town.

There are two noteworthy churches here, and the first, the Church of St. John the Baptist, is one of the most romantic churches I've seen, and you know I've seen a lot of churches.  When I use the word "romantic", I don't mean romantic love.  I use it in the Italian sense, meaning something that inspires emotion and imagination.  
This church was built in the baroque style in the late 1700's/early 1800's, but it's not overly ornate like some of the baroque churches I've seen.  When Tina and I entered, my senses were immediately engaged.  There was religious music playing softly in the background, the scent of floral incense, a soothing stillness, and visual beauty everywhere.

The lighting, as usual, was very dim, so it's difficult to capture the beauty of this church, but here's my best photo of the altar.  There were also beautiful side altars, and the decoration of the robes of Jesus and the Virgin Mary was simply elegant and different from the norm.  I sat at a pew and just let my senses take in the wonder of this church.  I was emotionally moved to a degree that's occurred only in a couple of other churches that brought a similar sense of tranquility to me.  

Afterward, we had lunch at a trattoria beside the church, where we enjoyed the magnificent beauty of the sea coast.  I had spaghetti with tuna, capers, and olives in a fresh tomato sauce, another first for me, and it was delish!

We continued our tour, shortly coming upon the second village attraction, the Romanesque Oratorio di Santa Caterina, which was the village's original parish church, but now used as a hall for exhibitions and concerts.

Over the entrance is this fresco of St. George slaying
the dragon.

There's a main altar, which is nice, but this unusual fresco caught my attention.

And you can see that there were several frescoes painted on the walls, but most have been totally damaged.  The only large one left on the side walls is quite eroded.

We continued roaming the alleyways, checking out a couple of shops and just enjoying the quaintness of the village.  

You can feel the age of the place when you look at some of the really old stone stairs.

Walking on these stone walkways is a bit dicey. 

I loved this flower, which I think Tina said is a hydrangea--at least the Italian word sounded closest to that flower.  I don't remember seeing one this like in the States, though. 

Before we left, we sat on park benches outside the castle walls and just enjoyed the sea breeze and the view.  

It was a really delightful few hours and a very special day because we shared the experience of discovering a new place together.  I hated to say goodbye to these two wonderful people, for whom I hold such great affection . But, I'm very sure that we'll meet again. 

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