7.17.17 Rapallo, Italy.
The summer going into my freshman year of college was one that you would expect from a Long Island high school graduate: NYC internship during the week days followed by boozing weekends away in Montauk. Most of my time was spent tanning on some shoreline between East and West Hampton, saying goodbye to my childhood best friends, and obsessing over my dorm room decor for the upcoming fall semester (newsflash: nobody cares what your dorm room looks like- the pink puff of a makeup chair and monogrammed duvet won’t even be recognizable under the heaps of dirty laundry, textbooks, and red solo cups that will burry them for the entirety of the year- and if your room is by chance clean at any point, please know that you are doing college wrong.)
In celebration of my Mom’s 50th birthday my family and I ditched the summer scene and boarded a plane for a two and half week stay in Northern Italy. I, unlike my two teenage brothers (Conor, 18, my twin- yes, I said twin and, no, we are not identical– and Peter John, 20, whom I look much more alike), was thrilled to spend this time abroad. Beautiful scenery, Italian shoes, and all the pizza I could eat- who wouldn’t be? Lily (13) was more on board with the excursion than the boys were, and her eagerness definitely had nothing to do with the makeover her instagram feed would get.
The day of our departure started with a surprise for my Mom: sitting at the gate waiting for us to get through security was Gram fresh out of hip surgery, hobbling and happy to be brought along. After my Mom dried tears of surprise and joy, we boarded the plane that would take us back to the country we visited on our very first family adventure nine years earlier. As we settled into our seats and prepped for the next seven hours, a familiar feeling of adventure awakened within us all, a sensation drowned out by many busy years filled with sports practices and homework. After many movies and a smooth landing, my Dad rented a small stick shift bus (I repeat, stick shift bus), the only vehicle that could accommodate a group of seven (Shouldn’t Italians be more equipped to transport large families?), while we gathered the luggage.
Portofino, Rapallo, Cinque Terre and Santa Margherita are located in the region of Liguria, known to tourists as the stunning Italian Riviera. The Metropolitan City of Genoa is northern Italy’s most alluring coastline- small Italian fishing villages and prestigious picturesque harbors dot the seashore alike, creating a seaside ambiance rich in old school Italian culture. I quickly fell head-over-heels in love with these cities. I was mesmerized by the architecture of immaculate seaside mansions-especially staggering when juxtaposed against the ragged seasides cliffs they were built into- I stumbled upon gorgeous small town churches hidden down back alleyways, topped with crumbling steeples, but behind paint peeling doors were adorned with the most dazzling chandeliers and colorful stained glass. Every village was filled with new discoveries, and my favorite, the best Italian cuisine the coast had to offer.
Our rented house, located along a winding cliffside, was my first introduction to the understated elegance of northern Italy’s architecture. Pink flowers climbed the white stucco summer cottage, which sat perched high on a hillside of Rapallo, a quaint village 15 minutes outside of Portofino. A breathtaking view of the crystal Mediterranean sparkled behind trees and flowers of every kind and color, violet flowers blossomed between the stones on pathways that wound throughout the property, looking around (a glass of wine and freshly baked bread in hand) I couldn’t help but feel as if I was living in a fairytale.
Looking back, I realize that renting a house as opposed to staying in a hotel, allowed me the opportunity to fully immerse myself in a lifestyle so unlike my own. I hiked the seasides in the cool of the mornings while locals were out fishing or sprawled out on cliff edges reading the morning paper, I came to like the espresso from the beachside pizzeria more than that of the most luxurious restaurants, and I learned how to play briscola from a group of old Italian men set around a folding card table on the seaside.