Jan 29, 2019
Italy is without a doubt my favorite place in the entire world, solar system, universe. As I continue to check off destinations on my, ‘Places to See Before I Die’ list, I have yet to find any place that has even come close to ousting Italy from the top of my list. I realize this is not an uncommon feeling as who visits Italy and doesn’t love it? But my love for Italy borderlines on an obsession. My friend Kat summed up my obsession perfectly when she wrote this about me and her Italian husband Mike: ‘(They) genuinely believe that they sweat olive oil and bleed marinara sauce.’ Couldn’t have said it better myself!
So you can imagine how excited I was to find out last year that my dear college girlfriend, Ali, decided that she was going to marry her beau, Zach, on the Italian Riviera in Portofino. Upon receiving the Save the Date last fall, Jeff and I eagerly booked our flights from Chicago to Milan. A transcontinental move to Singapore put a little snafoo in our travel plans, but with a few changes to the itinerary and a 24-hour travel day we arrived in Portofino ready to experience a destination wedding that proved to be like none other.
We arrived on a Friday afternoon and sat by the pool for a few hours enjoying one of those 360-degree views that is so breathtaking you want to reach out just to make sure it’s not a fake backdrop. We followed up our pool time with a lovely reunion dinner with my troop of college girlfriends and their plus ones. Post dinner, Jeff and I were in a state of total jet-lagged delirium that we called it an early night so we’d be fully prepared to take on the main event the next day.
As the wedding started in the evening, we had all day Saturday to explore this little nook of Italy upon which we were perched. We opted to spend the day tooling around in the darling town of Santa Margherita Ligure. Santa Margherita Ligure affords all of the oh-so-charming prototypical sights of the Italian Riviera – stone beaches jammed packed with men in speedos and women in bum-baring bikinis, harbors filled with yachts the size of single-family homes, chic boutiques with price tags that are equivalent to my monthly salary, and plenty of perfectly at-ease and perfectly bronzed Italians smoking their cigs and living la dolce vita. (By the way, has SPF or the fear of pre-mature wrinkles – not to mention melanoma – not made its way to Italy?)
In my opinion, travel in Italy is all about killing time in between meals. One of my favorite in-between-meal activities is to look at the food that I can hope will make it into my next meal. Santa Margherita Ligure offered no shortage of darling markets, fruit stalls, fish vendors, and cafes. I would have stopped to take a picture of every one however Jeff gave me the, ‘okay let’s keep it moving’ look after I made about five stops within our first ten minutes in town.
My second favorite in-between-meals activity is shopping for the unique wares and clothes that can’t be found stateside. Now that we live in a seriously tropical climate, a good pair of quality sunglasses is a mandatory. Upon arriving in Singapore, I quickly realized that my junky Target sunglasses were not going to offer the protection that the Asian rays demand. I had searched high and low in Singapore for sunglasses only to come up short every time. Italy did not disappoint though. I wasn’t in Santa Margherita Ligure 30 seconds before I bumbled into a sunglass shop and walked away with not one, but two pairs of, in my opinion, perfectly Italian-chic shades. Here I am wearing the, ‘I don’t really need them, but I really want them’ pair.
Before we knew it, it was time for the next meal! Of course I had done my Chowhound.com research and had a shortlist of restaurants in town in mind for our pranzo per due. We opted for Osteria No. 7 – a quaint hole-in-the-wall joint not unlike so many other to-die-for restaurants in Italy.
Osteria No. 7
Via Ruffini 36
16038 Santa Margherita Ligure, Italy
The saying, ‘when in Rome’ can aptly be applied here as when in Liguria – as we were – one must eat pesto! Showing up on menus from Quiznos to Subway, pesto has become an almost nauseatingly ubiquitous ingredient in The States. But in Northern Italy, where pesto found its origins, you can get the real deal. So, of course our meal included a big bowl of it slathered over homemade pasta ‘sticks’ a.k.a. trofie al pesto. The spinach and ricotta stuffed homemade ravioli with a lovely red sauce also didn’t disappoint. We rounded the meal off with a large plate of perfectly and lightly fried calamari that was so greaseless I could almost pretend that I was eating something healthy.
Oh, and while I have been slaving away in the world of advertising, it seems my long-lost Italian cousins are busy living a grueling life of vinegar making. Seriously, why did my grandparents ever emigrate?
This article was originally published by The Girl on The Ground and reproduced with permission.