On the first weekend of May Olesia and I made our way to Alassio. A small quaint town on the Ligurian coast almost in the middle between Genova and San Remo. It was absolutely gorgeous. We were going to be camping so most of the week while I was in school Olesia was looking on the computer to find a suitable campsite. We settled on “Monte e Mare” A camping resort that is stacked on the coast up the side the hills that line the coast and had access to a beach. Half of the beach was public and looked like a beach one finds in the Pacific Northwest, rocky with a little sand but mostly the sand was under the large rocks and was more fine pebbles than sand. The other side of the beach was private, meaning you had to pay to use it which is common for the area. But the price you pay allows for a truly fine sandy beach. It is also the side of a restaurant and bar called BABA Beach. The bar was extremely expensive; 8 euro for a cocktail, 5 euro for an 8.5 oz bottle of beer and the food which was simple went for a minimum of 10 euro per dish unless you wanted a Panini that was 8 euro. And if you used the private beach you had to get something from the restaurant, no packing in your own food or drink.
Across the water from the beach was Isola Gallinara or Bird Island as the foreigners take to calling it because of the Wild hens which have roamed the island since ancient times. It was once home to Monks and Religious personages like St. Martin of Tours. A Benedictine Monastery was built on the top of the Island and became the governing power of the western Riviera to Provence and Catalonia though all that is left of this once powerful monastery is the watchtower that sits at the highest point on the island. The Island is privately owned and closed to the public so we had to suffice with our view of the island from our campsite. But I hear that the island is for sale though a protected nature preserve.
A word on Camping in Italy. It is nothing at all like camping in the states, aside from the fact that you can set up a tent in a designated area. The campground came equipped with a small store two restaurants and three disco techs within 100 meters of the gated entry way. There were bungalows to rent for the many families that were staying there these all came with barbeques, a living room area and satellite TV. There were also Buildings that had all of the comforts of a hotel called the Riviera Suits. By no means roughing it unless you were in a tent because the tent areas were covered with rock like a large grain Gravel if packing light I urge you to remember your camping pads because the bare ground is very unforgiving. So, all in all, we were unprepared for this type of camping but still made the most of it.
We got there on a Saturday and spent most of that day traveling. From Costigliole you have to first take the bus into Asti, but on this particular day it was a national holiday so we had to call the cab driver Nico. We piled into his small cab with four of the Japanese students who were going to Milan for the weekend, which was OK because we were able to split the 30 euro cab fare. From Asti we hopped a “Regionale” Train to Genova. From Genova we got on an “Intercita” train to Alassio. The whole trip took about four hours and luckily the intercita train was late so we were actually able to catch our train otherwise we would have had two more hours added to our trek. As it was when we reached Alassio we had missed the bus to our campsite and had arrived right when it was time for the businesses and public services to take their 2 hour lunch break. So we walked around Alassio and looked at the beaches and closed shops. We walked until we reached the end of the beach and then headed toward the main road where we could catch a bus to our campsite. The bus came about a half an hour later and the bus driver was none too friendly when I tried to speak my Italian to him but we paid our 2.50 euro each for the fare which took us a whopping 2 kilometers to our Campsite. We set up camp and headed for the beach, the public not the private and waded in the water but it was pretty frickin’ chilly but still better than the Pacific at this time of year. After that we headed to the Private beach for a drink, There was only one person who spoke English and he was probably a cabana boy because he knew little about pricing or even what they had to offer. This is how I found out the tiny beers were 5 euro a piece so I only had one and Olesia settled on her 3 euro Fanta Di Arancia(orange Fanta), The weather was starting to turn a bit nasty so we left the beach and headed back to the tent. We went out for dinner at the restaurant in the campground. Olesia and I shared a plate of Brasaola a Salumi made from beef but is very good with a bit of olive oil and vinegar, salt and pepper. For the Main Course, Olesia had a Ravioli filled with meat in a Bolognese sauce and I had Bistec alla Milanese which if you ever order this you should know you will bet chicken instead of steak, a mistake I will not make again. After dinner we went back to our tent to watch a movie on the Itouch and go to sleep. The nightclub on the Beach had other plans though. They started to play top 40 Music and didn’t stop until the birds were chirping to welcome the rising sun.
Sunday, the camp had mostly cleared out aside from some of the blue hairs that were staying in the aforementioned Riviera suites. We decided to go into Alassio again this time we would walk the other way down the beach. We stopped and got some Gelato at a small stand and walked along the boardwalk then took the main street back to the center of town. We stopped by the tourist office to find out about the ancient roman road we had heard would lead us back to our campsite. We found the small bus that took us up the hill to an old church that stands at the gate of the road. It was a magnificent vista from which you could see the whole city and coastline. Walking along the road we were surrounded by the smell of the flowers that had recently started to bloom. The sun made and unexpected but welcome appearance and warmed us on our walk we passed the ruins of a monastery that dated back to the 3rd or 4th century. When we reached the campground finally we were presented with a locked gate. I looked for a place to hop the fence which was difficult to find because the whole thing was topped with barbed wire. I found a small place that was scalable and made my way over with a little trouble. Olesia decided to wait until I could return with a key. I ran down the hill only to find that everything had closed except the restaurant which would be closing momentarily. They told me to call the custodian of the camp from the call box on the front gate. I did so and after a long conversation of few words he was able to bring me a key to the upper gate. When I got back up the hill to the gate I found Ole reading wondering what had taken me so long. So we went back to the campsite had a snack of some prosciutto and robiola on the bread we had baked the previous Friday in class. We watched another movie and went to bed early.
Monday morning we headed into Albenga the next town up the coast toward Genova. We hoofed it because it was only about a kilometer from our campsite. The town was beautiful, we walked around and found a place to restock on meat and cheese made sandwiches and ate them in a piazza near the train station. We bought tickets all the way through to Asti because we would again have to make a tight connection made tighter because our train from Albenga was 25 minutes late, such is the gamble one takes with the Intercita. When we arrived back in Costigliole I had to hightail it back up to the school to take care of the Mise en Place for the next day’s lesson. I was glad that I had not missed any class because the Girls had decided to make a long weekend in Barcelona so they had not planned anything for me to do all by myself. The School had even said that I did not have to return for MEP but I could do it the next morning instead of Italian Class. Not wanting to miss Italian I did the MEP by myself and headed back to Cascina to hear of the girls’ wild time in Barcelona. That was the weekend in Alassio Ciao for now, stay tuned.
Ole Has put pics from Alassio on the Facebook Check them out if you wanna see what we did.