Yesterday, my sister and I took a train to the seaside town of Sestri Levante. The neighbourhood near the train station rates as, at best, a meh. But walk towards the sea, into the older part of town, and it exudes charm. Normally, I’m not a big fan of substances that exude, but charm is, um, what’s the word I’m looking for? Oh, yes. Charming.
Most of the buildings are painted in pastel colours. Trompe-l’œils on many of the walls make them look like they are of stone-block construction. They aren’t.
(In the preceding paragraph, I foreshadowed the “they aren’t” sentence with my use of the term “trompe-l’œils.” That was a clever use of the literary device of foreshadowing, wasn’t it? Although, “foreshadowing” might not be the right word. “Stating” might be more accurate. “Repetitive” might also enter into a critique of the preceding paragraph. Never mind.)
Sestri Levante has a lovely, little pedestrian shopping street. By that, I don’t mean that you can shop for pedestrians there. You might be able to rent them. But you definitely can’t buy them. That just wouldn’t be right.
What I meant to say is, it is a street lined with shops only for pedestrians. Then again, what else would the shops be for but pedestrians? Cars aren’t allowed on the street, so there are no drive-in shops.
Okay. I pushed the pedestrian-shopping-street bit a light-year or so too far. Let’s move on.
The older, more appealing portion of Sestri Levante sits on a smallish peninsula. The peninsula is narrow enough that even if you’re someone who can, say, drive quite a ways along Cape Cod without finding the ocean, you’ll still have no trouble finding the sea on either side of Sestri Levante’s peninsula.
Other than me, there may be only two people in the world who got anything out of the last sentence of the preceding paragraph. You know who you are.
San Nicolò dell’isola di Sestri Levante
In our wanders, we wondered about an old church that a couple of our tour books mentioned, the church of San Nicolo. When we looked on our online maps, they showed two sort-of San Nicolo churches. Sestri Levante has a Chiesa di San Niccolo and a San Nicolò dell’isola di Sestri Levante, both within a few blocks of each other.
What the heck is up with that? With a near infinite number of names the namers could choose, whatever possessed someone to assign churches such similar names in the same town? Who sets out to intentionally confuse tourists? Evil people, that’s who. Evil people, I tell ya.
It was San Nicolò dell’isola di Sestri Levante we wanted.
In addition to the confusion about the names, our online maps were having a bad GPS day. The position locators on both our phones jumped around a bit.
My sister, who speaks Italian, asked for directions to the church. The woman she asked steered us in the right direction, but told us that the church was closed. They open it only for weddings. I guess there are only so many churches God can attend every day, but He likes a good wedding.
We walked up a hill to the church anyway.
On the outside, it had the appearance of a small, quaint, old (very old) stone church. I think it bore this appearance because it is a small, quaint, old (very old) stone church.
On the inside, who knows what it looks like? My sister is already married. I’m not, but we leave the Ligurian coast in a couple of days. I didn’t think I could find a fiancé and arrange a marriage soon enough for us to get a look inside.
There is another church on the way to San Nicolò dell’isola di Sestri Levante. That is to say, there was a church. It’s now ruins. The Oratory of Saint Catherine was heavily bombed in 1944. The town left the ruins standing as a memorial.
I don’t usually write about meals in this journal, but my sister said to me something to the effect of, “How can you not write about that meal?!” Always respect your sister.
Back in Rapallo, we went to the restaurant, Le Cupole, in the hotel almost next door to our Airbnb apartment. My sister calls the hotel the “Pink Palace” because it’s pink, it’s big, and it has a pleasing architecture. Its real name is the Grand Hotel Bristol.
Le Cupole is on the top floor of the six storey hotel. (It’s seven storeys by North American storey-counting rules.) The restaurant has floor-to-ceiling windows that provide amazing views of Rapallo (its lights twinkling after the sun set), the hills along the Portofino peninsula, and the sea.
We tried a five-course tasting menu, paired with three different glasses of wine. I say five courses, but that’s not counting the amuse-bouche before the meal or the amazing chocolate after the meal.
Every course was delicious and attractively presented. The wines were also very good. All things considered, dinner was terrific.
We were both very contented and stuffed as we strolled the short distance back to our apartment in a light drizzle.
There. I’ve written about it. Done.
The tasting menu at the pink palace restaurant sounds delicious. Counting storeys in Europe for parochial North Americans continues to be a helpful feature in your blog posts. This reader has come to the recent realization that US spelling does with the e of storey what it has done to the u in colour—both letters dispatched like so much flotsam and jetsam. And speaking of matters maritime, I am shocked, shocked to think you might ever have been unable to find the water on any prior visit to a puny peninsula such as Cape Cod. Unless you were there before the advent of GPS, in which case origami map folding might possibly (this is just a theory) have obscured every access to shore. Destination weddings at the cape’s beachfront estates and resorts surely enjoyed a great upsurge in frequency, to prove the previous point, after the introduction of GPS and before the scourge of COVID-19 and its variants. I imagine the closed church you espied today must have weathered its fair/unfair share of poxes and plagues over the years.