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From atop Castello Brown

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Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous

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View from Rapallo Promenade

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Boat to Portofino

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Tigullio Gulf

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Portofino – in front of whimsical sculpture garden

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Climb to Castello Brown–seeking temporary relief in the shade

View of Portofino from Castello Brown

View of Portofino from Castello Brown

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Panorama from above Portofino

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Zara in private reverie (singing to Bailey)

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On pebbly beach near Abbey of San Fruttuoso

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Abbey of San Fruttuoso

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Waiting for a boat

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Aperol Spritz and tower of delicious, complimentary appetizers

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Rapallo – at night

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Cinque Terra

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Zara’s favorite spot

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Soaking in the view

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Vernazzo beach – Cinque Terra

As we approached the coastal town of Rapallo on the Italian Riviera, I could already sense that I was going to like it here.  The scenery resonated with me in a way that the more dramatic but dry and precipitous cliffs of Amalfi had not.

We had booked a couple of nights at Il Gatto, a charming but reasonably priced boutique hotel within a 5 minute walk of Rapallo’s promenade.  Zara adored the hotel’s cat theme (and the actual cat roaming the lobby) and we felt so comfortable in the hotel (and in Rapallo) that we extended our stay by another night.

Rapallo is a town of about 35,000 people and is located a few kilometers west of the much more ritzy Portofino (just a 20 minute boat ride away).   It feels like a regular town, not one only targeted towards tourists or the mega rich, and I could easily imagine living here for a few months, unlike Portofino where owning a luxury yacht seems a requisite to residency.  (Portofino IS just as attractive as you’ve heard though–I can understand why it has long been a haunt of the rich and famous.)

Rapallo had a lovely promenade where the vacationing crowds strolled late into the evenings.  It was on this promenade that we were introduced to our first (but not last) Aperol Spritzes, a delicious aperitif with an appealing orange hue that perfectly befits a warm summer night.   And we were delighted to discover that when ordering drinks in Rapallo’s restaurants during cocktail hour, you’re treated to a tower of free and delicious appetizers, enough to suffice for dinner if you aren’t ravenous.  (Of course, we still always also ordered dinner!)

On our final day in the area we took a 1-hour journey on a packed train (without AC) to Riomaggiore, the southernmost town of Cinque Terra.  I’d always dreamed of visiting Cinque Terra, but July may not be the best time to do it if you dislike crowds.   We’d all donned our hiking boots with the expectation of walking on at least a portion of the hiking trail linking the five villages, but learned upon arrival that the section we’d planned on hiking was closed due to some landslides from 2012’s torrential rains.  In a way, I was relieved to get out of hiking in the heat.  Instead, we spent about an hour exploring Riomaggiore and then hopped on a boat which took us to Vernazzo where we stayed for a few hours, ate lunch, relaxed on the pebbly beach and swam in the sparkling sea.  We caught the train back to Rapallo from the most northern (and largest) village of Monterosso.  This time it was an express train that thankfully was air-conditioned.

Three days here wasn’t enough.  Trails in the green hills still beckoned, countless beaches were left unexplored and more evenings spent sipping Aperol Spritz’s tempted us.

I know we’ll return to the Italian Riviera some day–just maybe not in July.