It may sound very obvious, but for me it’s very true. I never appreciated the beauty of the place I come from, until I started traveling, and then I came back.
I was born in Santa Margherita Ligure, in the Italian Riviera. For me, the colors of the houses, the blue/green-ish sea just in front, the hills all around as a frame to the landscape, were always normal. I grew up in a colorful, pretty, clean place, and always took it for granted.
When my friends came from “the city” – Genova – they were in awe, and I was told why, but I didn’t see why.
As a kid, I would wake up in my beautiful villa with typical Italian architecture, and a breathtaking view on the little gulf, and the hills in front of me, walk through my entrance’s columns and I would go to school in the center of the colorful village, passing by a fruit stand with a big guy with a mustache, and a bakery, smelling the freshly baked, hot bread and focaccia.
All this was normal for me.
I grew up and as every other teenager I started to dream about the UK, the USA, the big cities. Why? Because that was where my favorite singers and bands were from – the Take That first, then the Oasis, the Aerosmith, and so on… And I kept complaining about the region I came from, for a million reasons, but most of all because “it’s boring”. Well this is still quite true, but you never know what you’re talking about until you can compare it to something else!
I won a scholarship in 2004 and left to the UK. Finally I was going to have some real life! Or at least I thought so. I spent 9 months in St Andrews, Scotland. What a beautiful place! Scotland is amazing. But when you live there, and it rains every day, and the shops close at 7pm maximum, and you have nothing to do (but drink in pubs, and I don’t drink), you start thinking about your hometown again… which was not that bad after all!
And there’s something else I realized after years of traveling, and feeling there was always something missing, but I couldn’t tell what it was… and then suddenly I understood – of course: colors! How could I not think of that.
And then came Cairo, and I fell in love with this big, crowded, polluted, dirty, dusty, humid, hectic, grey, concrete jungle style city. It was not about the beauty of the place, but rather the atmosphere – friendly people, a new culture, the oriental feeling, an experience that was all mine. And that became home.
I came back from Cairo a week ago, to a shy Italian spring, with beautiful sunny days and sudden thunderstorms, and a blue sky that always comes back from beyond the clouds, at some point.
And, poetically speaking, I was like: WOW.
Here’s what I saw in the past few days, while working (!) or just walking around the area with my friend Jason. Enjoy.
The day after I came back to Italy, I had to shoot some photos in a very unique venue: Castle Brown in Portofino. I can’t believe I worked in Portofino for 3 years (!) and never walked all the way up there. See? I was taking it for granted. And my jaw dropped when I saw the views from up there… Portofino, I hate it and I love it, but I can’t say it’s not beautiful! It looks like a planet of its own.
Another view of the beautiful Portofino. As I said, I used to work there… my first “real” job was in Portofino, as a hotel receptionist. I rolled my eyes when I heard the guests saying they wanted to get married in Portofino, in the Church of Saint George that you can see on the left. I didn’t get it. Now I do!
It’s been raining for months now, and if there’s a positive thing in this, it’s that our mountains are greener than ever. In this photo, the colorful village of Portofino looks like it’s surrounded by a Caribbean vegetation. Beautiful!
Do you have enough of Portofino yet? It doesn’t matter from where you look at it – this village is always beautiful. Here, I was walking back from the Castle, and loved the views through the trees. A little interesting information: that last little house on the right is the Coast Guard building. Yes, they always get the best spots…
I’ve seen photos of these houses right above the sea all around the internet. And every time, I comment “I know this place!” – because I used to drive past them every single day for 3 years… can you imagine? Beautiful location, too bad they are rarely inhabited. As you can see, in this photo all the windows were closed, and there was nobody around (I wouldn’t mind house sitting there if possible).
Here’s one of the beautiful villas that you can find on the way to Portofino. Not bad… So exclusive and unique. I can’t even imagine how much one of those may cost. But I know that Italy’s former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi rents a nearby one for about 1,5 million Euros per year.
Ok, enough Portofino! This beautiful water belongs to the bay of Paraggi, technically part of Santa Margherita Ligure, but closer to Portofino. This is the only sand beach of the area. It’s a very small one, with beautiful clear water, but incredibly expensive: prices for a sunbed can go up to 40 Euros per day per person. No wonder I never went…
This postcard-like, super colorful town is called Camogli and I would say it’s my favorite in the area. All villages here feature these narrow, tall, colorful houses (without elevators). But Camogli is my favorite, for some reason. When I was 18 I found my first summer job here, as a waitress in a bar. And so every day I would drive all the way to here, with my first car (a green Opel Corsa), and served drinks to the many tourists… a job I was never good at.
The weather was not the best, but it made good pictures. I took this photo just before running away from the thunderstorm. It came and left quickly. The water has a special color in this area. Being born and raised next to the sea will always make me miss it even if I am not a fan of swimming, but I need to have the sea close to me. It makes me feel comfortable.
Just looking up you can see tiny little villages on the hills… just try and imagine what a beautiful view they have from there. This small village is called San Rocco and it’s just above Camogli. It looked very vulnerable with the storm coming.
Just a small lighthouse, but there’s always something special and poetic about lighthouses… Right? Another reason why I wanted you to see this photo is that it shows the way my region looks like: mountains that go directly into the sea. This is what surrounds me at the moment.
My last photo for today is something slightly unusual. I am not sure what was going on here: people were building this giant Lego man just in front of the church in Camogli. I don’t know what that is for, but I found it funny and very cool! It made a wicked picture. Even if I am not sure what is that thing he’s holding in his hand… a binocular or a joint? Either way, it’s fun!
Another super famous area that I have just about one hour away from home is Cinque Terre… I have only been there once, many years ago. I know, I need to go back and write about this wonderful place, take many photos and share them… But most of all I need to go hiking Cinque Terre!
I hope you enjoyed the tour of some of the places where I grew up. Would you like me to share more photos of this area? Who’s been here, and how did you like it? I’m all ears!