Balconies with a sea view, moonlight dinners and bushels of roses and other fresh, fragrant flowers are the norm in Portofino, Italy, as are wealthy people with yachts to envy, couples in love and 28 members of the Qatar royal family. This disqualifies Joyce and me (mother, daughter) but that did not stop the hotel staff from trying to make sense of our odd coupling.
At dinner on the terrace of Splendido, La Terrazza, we snapped lovely pictures documenting our stay. Seated with a stunning view of the Portofino cove, we relaxed with a glass of wine and began perusing the menu, but upon closer review I realized my menu contained no prices. Perplexed, my mom reported her menu had plenty of prices listed. We decided she is “the man” or perhaps “Mr. Mom,” and therefore responsible for paying the bill. Albeit old-fashioned, traditional etiquette dictates that the person paying for dinner receives the menu with prices. I’ll take this as a win. We enjoyed lobster and rocket fish for the starter, followed by sea bream and veggies for our main course–all fresh and very delicious–and to finish, an Italian-sized serving of creamy panna cotta with raspberry sorbet.
Before retiring to bed, we entertained ourselves with people watching from the terrace, serenaded by live music from a Barry Manilow-like besequined pianist who fancied my mother and sang her favorite song, Nella Fantasia. She sprang to his side upon recognizing the melody and even patted him on the back to show her gratitude. He then stopped playing and gave us a history of the song for the next 10 minutes. I wrote down Lady Caliph and promised I would do something or another with that information.
We retreated to bed and I found the turn down service placed blue slippers next to my bed. I yelled to Joyce in the bathroom, “It’s so weird! I have blue slippers and last night I had white.”
She then started hysterically laughing and shouted back, “They must think you are the man because you left that XL Michigan State T-shirt on your bed.”
Sorry, Spartans, it’s back to lingerie and pretty things for this princess to sleep.
With two more days to admire our incredible sea view, Joyce and I decided to mingle amongst the tourists and see other parts of the Italian Riviera. We hopped a shuttle to a water taxi and 15 minutes later docked in Santa Margherita, a much larger port than Portofino.
It’s noisy and busy and more commercial than our base. It has beautiful beaches, lengthy hikes hugging the coastline up into the hills and more casual restaurants and shops. Whereas Portofino is a special kind of luxury, Santa Margherita is hustling and bustling and perhaps provides a more ideal stop for the everyday traveler. There are more accommodations, and it also serves as a transportation hub to other towns and villages along the coast.
We sweated a fair amount walking the streets of Santa Margherita, and worked up a desire for a refreshing scoop of gelato. I mean, there are so few calories in a cup of Italian gelato… why not order two scoops? And we did. To add to further insult, a bird shat on me while we waited for the ferry. They say that means good luck and by “they,” I mean those individuals who see it as a bad sign and want to feel good about themselves.
This is the second time a bird has relieved itself on my head. I would define it as an unwelcome and very unfortunate experience.
We returned to Portofino, gobbled up a cheese and arugula pizza, and considered another helping of gelato, but with dinner plans in our future and Joyce already in a shop, waving her wallet, we skipped it. Besides, hell is about to freeze over. We are going to 6:30pm Mass on vacation in Italy, where I am sure to find plenty of air-conditioner in the 114 year-old Catholic Church. Yeah right!