A yacht enthusiast's dream cruising the Italian Riviera
May. 8, 2005 03:00 PM
When it comes to spending a weekend lying on the deck of a motor yacht, somehow puttering about in your own backyard does not have the same appeal, as say Genoa, Portofino or the Italian Riviera, which probably explains why I did not think twice when invited to join a charter aboard the stunning Maluva, a 65 foot Princess that was about to leave the Genoa Charter Yacht Show and head south to Portofino for the weekend.
Maluva may well have been the smallest of the yachts on show at this annual beauty parade of charter talent displayed for the world’s charter brokers to inspect, but her cheerful crew, well-appointed layout, to say nothing of a more affordable charter rate, puts her definitely into the pocket of the yacht enthusiast rather than the rich and famous. Frequently it is the crew, their disposition and attitude that makes or breaks a charter but at our very first meeting with Ben and Alice I knew we had struck it lucky. Ben is being groomed for stardom; he is a professional yacht captain who is cutting his teeth on smaller yachts but will no doubt, in time, command one of the larger and more glitzy yachts that line the adjacent quayside. The smile Alice gives us is as welcoming as the glass of chilled champagne she offers as we walk up the gangway.
The yacht can charter up to 6 guests, and the accommodation is comprised of 3 guest cabins - 1 double master forward, 1 double VIP and 1 twin cabin with upper/lower berths aft. The doubles both offer TVs connected to satellite television, and all cabins have en-suite facilities. The bathroom of the twin cabin also doubles as a day head.
We are introduced to our host, the owner, who has invited us to share in the delights of this weekend. If our crew are slightly jaded after a week of smiling at charter brokers they are certainly not showing it as we all gather round and chat in the cockpit to plan and discuss what we want to do. Our host is a busy man and will return to the U.K. on Monday morning so we quickly decide to spend Friday night in Genoa, leave early Saturday morning, and return on Sunday evening.
Genoa is a maze of tiny alleyways that, at first glance, appear to go nowhere yet are the key to getting around the city with comparative ease. The shops are open until late and this spring evening is the perfect time to stroll around gazing in the windows of shops large and small. Doing so reminds me of how little life has changed in this city that is the birthplace of the original navigator Christopher Columbus. Genoa is the gateway to the Mediterranean; it is a proud yet shy city that yields to no one yet welcomes everybody. It is a city that captivates and puts a spell on visitors who become reluctant to shake it off. Genoa’s beauty lies in her old port; it is her very heart. Surrounded by billowing hills around the bay, the city is enclosed in a virtual amphitheatre where she takes center stage and the old port is the starring role. The Lanterna lighthouse was rebuilt in 1543 and to this day its 117 metre-high light can be seen 33 miles away. We walk the Sottoripa, an arcade of one thousand paces built to hug the waterfront. It is a lively trading center full of shops, restaurants, cafes, and bars. Behind it is the Piazza Banchi, once the seat of the first money exchange and one of the most elegant of Genoese squares with its palaces, and Loggia della Mercanzia, that in the 19th century hosted the first commodity exchange and today houses exhibitions and shows. Porto Antico, the old port, is bustling with activity; under a white marquee surrounded on three sides by water and suspended by a massive derrick, a jazz quartet plays on the same spot that in winter host skaters gliding on an ice rink. This is just beside the stunning aquarium created in the shape of a cargo ship moored in the harbor. Deep in her holds are shark and dolphin; there are huge tanks that are habitats to hundreds of critters that swim in the oceans of the world. There are even shallow pools where small rays and skate surface to have their tummies tickled.
Tired, yet hungry, we reboard Maluva where Alice has prepared a feast of splendid proportions. We are eating Italian fashion tonight, she says, as a huge platter of antipasti is placed before us. The stars of this selection have to be the fresh fava beans and the Sant Olcese salami. This is followed by trofiette, a local pasta made from chestnut flour topped with a vivid green fresh pesto sauce whose pine nuts still retain some crunch. Don’t eat too much we are warned; there is more to follow, and there it is: fritto misto, a mouthwatering array of deep fried fish so crisp and crunchy you do not even think of the calorie word. This is all washed down with the local Val Polcevera Bianco. We just have room for pandolce, a cake studded with raisins, pine nuts and candied fruit.