I recently came back from some wonderful days at the Italian riviera. Purpose of the trip was launch of our 15th branch, YoungShip Italy, as I´ve written about in a previous post. Since I gotta bring my little son for travels, I try to make sure the trips are not ending up as stressful and “efficient” trips (airport-hotel-meeting/dinner-hotel-airport), but instead plan for some extra time in each end so we’re both hopefully calm and happy. Luckily, my sister Kristine joined us as baby sitter, plus a friend & her 1y-o daughter. After a flight to warm & sunny Nice Wednesday afternoon, we arrived by car in Genova 2h later. One of my former colleagues in Wilhelmsen, Irene Parmeggiani, took us to the cosy Bar & Pasticceria Mangini at Piazza Corvetto, where we endulged in their specialities while waiting for Alberto Banchero & Carolina Villa.
As the evening fell and they arrived, we went to Valeria´s beach house, between Rapallo & Santa Margherita. We were amazed! Up a small, narrow road, where a lovely house was situated above the bay of San Michele. Valeria´s apartment was warm, cosy and the typical welcoming Italian combination of casual stylish. We gathered outside, around a large wooden table, surrounded by an over-grown pergola. The garden stretched down towards the sea, where only occasional lights outlined the bay below us. Big olive trees lit up te garden from the ground, and on the table – – an enormous bowl of fresh pasta followed by the most tender day-fresh swordfish I have tasted, accompanied solely by spices, oil and porcini mushrooms harvested from the area.. In spite of a hectic day of meetings, plus a 5-hour drive from Rome(!), Valeria welcomed us in the best way possible. We enjoyed a great night of wine and chatting, before retreating back to the 2nd floor apartment they had prepared for us.
The next morning, Valeria left early for her office in Genova and a full schedule of shipping week-meetings and gatherings. Sliding the curtains open, the view which met me was simply amazing. Clear, blue sky and candy coloured houses spread along the hillsides, golden beach and a dark turquoise sea with small wooden boats of various shapes and colours moored to floating buoys all across the bay. Valeria´s mother Francesca greeted us, and had prepared a superb breakfast table for us at the mid-floor terrace. Cakes, fruit, sweets, good & strong coffee and fresh, salty foccaccia (San Michele speciality..!) – all you could want and completely high-carb!
After breakfast, we packed and walked with Francesca down to the beach, where we were taken out to their boat.
Great day for a boat trip, and Francesca pointed out the celebrity houses along the coast, which included Dolce & Gabbana´s and Berlusconi summer houses, Cavalli´s futuristic yacht, plus the number of well-known Italian business families residing in the area. Kristine was allowed to steer the boat for a good while, while Anette & I enjoyed the warm breeze in our hair. Knut, being already quite comfy with boat-life, fell asleep to the rocking and steady engine sound.
Cavalli´s yacht & Berlusconi´s summer house, – infamous for a few “parties”…
After a nice lunch in San Michele, I prepared for driving back up to Genova. As the opening and press release were to be held on board a yacht in Porto Antico, I went for a quite casual look, including my all-time favourite (jeans) – but should have remembered that casual has a slightly different meaning in Italy 😉 Nevertheless, a great gathering!
Almost 100 people onboard the classic motor yacht, which resembles Trygve Hegnar´s Grace here in Norway. The owner was an acquaintance of the organisers, and had graciously lent it to YoungShip Italy for this occasion.
A new first – giving a presentation in front of industry people and journalists bare feet. Added to the laid-back atmosphere, as everyone had to take of their shoes due to yacht restrictions 🙂
The presentations went great, and afterward we enjoyed a delicious range of antipasti and bubbly drinks, before Andrea & Valeria brought me along to the next venue; Genova Shipping Club and the Burke & Novi´s Dinner Party.
I was given a lift on the back of a Vespa scooter, the best way to get around town.
Following the Novi party, we went deeper and higher into Genova, to the luxurious and well-preserved villa on a beautiful estate where Bravo Tankers hosted their traditional and prestigious garden party. Lit by torches and buzzing with people, the venue atmosphere was static. Large outdoor grills with chefs slicing tender pieces of wild boar and lamb, and cocktail waiter´s mixing superb drinks for the guests.
Friday evening, it was time for the prestigious Shipbrokers & Ship agents Gala Dinner, hosted by the Young Italian Brokers´ and Agents organisation. The YoungShip Italia co-initiator Alberto Banchero, has been president of this group until earlier this year, and held the main responsibility for organising this great event.More than 3.000 people were gathered from all parts of the world, though predominantly actors from the the Greek, Italian and British areas.
Saturday was the day for Wista Italy´s conference, where Valeria was among the speakers. We spent some hours relaxing in Sta. Margherita, and met her for a quick coffee following the event, before she headed back to Rome. Enjoyed a quiet evening under the pergola with Anette & Kristine, with various specialities from the Rapallo restaurant Vecchia. Sunday morning we packed our things, and enjoyed some hours at the beach before heading for Piemonte and a private visit to the Rosina sisters´ winery “La Mesma” in the Gavi district. Amidst all the hectic events of the week, Valeria and her mother had organised the visit ♥
Getting to La Mesma actually turned into a quite funny story; We were on our way, had spoken with Francesca (one of the owners) on the phone and were about 10 minutes (we thought..) from hers. Somehow (or to no surprise..) we managed to confuse the directions, and had to turn. She instructed us to go back and look for a long, white road of pebbles to our left. And so we did. After a while we see a woman walking in our direction, smiling and waving. Not precisely a white road, but – again…
We greet her and she waves us to enter her driveway. With 2 kids in need of new diapers, food etc., we were quickly parked and out of the car. I was shown into their office, where she let me change Knut directly on her office desk. Then, we talked with the whole family; the young handsome son, “la nonna” and nonno, before she walked with us out into the grape fields. We chat away, in her very limited English vs. my limited Italian, taste the sweet, ripe grapes and have a great time in the warm afternoon sun.
Then I comment to her, just on pure coincidence, that we are so grateful to be allowed a visit, and how nice Valeria and Francesca are. She looks at me, eyes square, – who? I try again; “- well, the Novella´s, your family friends?” Now her eyes are just big question marks. It then turns out that this welcoming, charming woman was not at all expecting us – we are in fact a good 10-15 minutes drive from our planned destination… She was just happy to have visitors, and of course; in the most wonderful and laid-back Italian way which I love(!) – opened her house and vineyard up to us as the most natural gesture ever. On top of this, she even escorted us by car to a meeting point, where we were met by the actual Francesca Rosina.
Francesca and her husband gave us a great afternoon at the peaceful “La Bella Alleanza”, (means Lovely Alliance), named after a treaty which took place in the exact area, during the Napoleonic Wars. Wine production has traditionally been a male dominated industry, but Francesca and her sisters started up from scratch 10 years ago, and now produce excellent white wine. I brought home a cascet of their spumante, which will be saved for a nice occasion – such as the girls´ Christmas Dinner later this year….(!)
Following our visit, Francesca also had booked us in at a super charming B&B (Casa Meli) in the nearby village of Cadepiaggio. I had a quick dinner at Ai Nebbioli, a true hidden gem which can be recommended for any of the dishes I tried. Being our last night in Italy, I watched the babies while Anette & Kristine went out for dinner, as they had covered for me the previous nights while I discovered Genova by night. As it turned out, the waiter at their table had his birthday. And as they got lost in translation over some quite special intestines (not what they expected… ;-)), they were invited to stay and join the celebrations.
Quite a nice end to our week in Italy. Here in Norway, we most definitely have a lot to learn in terms of hospitality – maybe a good idea to start taking after our Italian friends…?