07 April 2013

LIFE: Life in Chiavari

CHIAVARI, Italy –  Since this blog post was actually scheduled for Easter Sunday, the plan was to offer a photo essay of Chiavari, something easy on the eyes, and easy on the brain. A sort of walk around town. The original idea was to try and counter the fact that somewhere along the way, France managed to appropriate the name ‘Riviera’, leaving the Italian Riviera somewhat of a forgotten territory in the eyes of the traveling public. The French are very clever that way.

 City Hall
That fact was really brought home when I announced that I was moving to Chiavari, and people starting saying….. where? Of course everyone knew that I had lived in Liguria before, in Nervi, a small section of Genova, actually the very last part of Genova  before you stepped beyond the city limits and into the tiny borgo of Bogliasco. But Nervi had Genova as part of its name, and so it seemed more accessible somehow, even if I had never been there and actually seen the place.

Easter Week - Baskets of Daisies Appeared on Every Corner
I had chosen Genova by looking at a map spread out on my dining room table, long before I actually packed my bags and left the States. It is a fairly large city, I like cities, and it was a city on the sea. Perfect. Besides, it was only 1.5 hours from Milan and 1.5 hours to Turin, so if things didn’t work out in Genova, I could always move.

The Market was Full of Flowers
But then something happened. I fell in love – with Liguria. This place I had never heard of turned out to be spectacularly beautiful. It took my breath away. It was more than just the blue Mediterranean Sea, more than the giant cactus and soaring date palms, more than the sheer beauty of the pastel colored buildings, more than the narrow alleys, carruggi in Genovese dialect, and even more than the amazing food – it was the sum and total of all the parts. And it still is. Then life kicked in and I was off to Milan. A job as editor of The Informer Magazine and later for Women's Wear Daily were in my future.

'Take my picture,' said the Flower Seller, 'I'm the Prettiest One of All.'
When I made the decision to move back to Liguria, the question once again became – where. This time the choice was a lot easier. Now I knew the area and I was able to narrow the selection down to three towns: Santa Margherita Ligure, Rapallo or Chiavari. Of the three, Chiavari was my first choice, and even though it was a challenge to find an apartment here, I’m glad I stuck to my guns.

One of the Shops on the Caruggio Diritto
Chiavari is an old city, a city that developed on the traces of a Roman camp. A pre-Roman necropolis dating from the 8th to 7th centuries has been found here.  The city center was established in the 1100’s and many of the buildings date from that period. The city has kept its soul and I’m happy to say there isn’t a fast food restaurant (without mentioning any names) anywhere in sight.

A Charming Piazza I Discovered Yesterday
The streets of the historic center are protected by miles of porticoes. Some are newer than others. The ones near my apartment date from the 1400’s, and I confess that there are times when I’m walking down the street, I actually get the feeling I’m going to look up and see Christopher Columbus coming around the corner.

Around the Corner From the Piazza
The warren of narrow, covered alleys, with their stone pavements and mysterious, out of the way corners, stole my heart faster than any hill town in Umbria, or piazza in Milan ever could. The even smaller alleys that connect the main streets are hardly ever more than dark stony slits so narrow you have to walk single file to get from one end to the other.

The Doors Do Double Duty at this Shop
No cars can enter them, so they are always pure scenery - or rather wedges of scenery, because they never give you more than a glance or a glimpse of what’s to come. And often what you find when you come out of their shadows is a perfect Renaissance square bubbling with life.    

Hanging Out Along the Seafront (January 2013)
There are still a lot of things to see in Chiavari, places to go, stories to discover, but they are not the kind of stories you discover in a weekend, or even a week. I have a feeling my rambling days are over for this ramble is going to take a while. And you know, I think I’m going to enjoy every minute of it. 

And every day, the street cleaners on their bicycles, make the town all clean and shiny again.

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