Boun giorno! Boun giorno!
That is what we heard as we sailed Berkeley East into San Remo, Italy. A portly man came running out on the dock, arms wide open, welcoming us to his marina. He said several sentences in Italian - "Welcome to Italy! Your yacht is so beautiful! We are so happy to have Americans in our country!" At least that is what we assumed he said, we really had no idea. He then pointed at another man, on a bicycle, who was waving his arms, gesturing, "this way." We followed, the man on the bicycle, he stopped at every turn to make sure we were still with him. As we made our way through the marina, there were Italian men on the bows of boats waving their arms and pointing, "that way." In the end, we had three marinaras (sailors) helping us with our lines. Everyone was happy. You would have thought that Berkeley East was the only boat they had ever had come into the marina. Boun giorno! (Hello!) - it was a wonderful welcome to Italy.
In it's heyday, San Remo was a glitzy resort city where wealthy Europeans went on holiday. Today, it is a working town, with faded elegance, where those same European visitors are now revisiting their youth. We used San Remo as our first Italian port of call. We bought a sim card for our cell phone, found an Italian internet plan, and got a Constituto for Berkeley East. Now all we need is to learn the language.
Our Own Private Marina
Our next stop was Loano, at a brand new marina that was barely open, and Berkeley East was about the only boat there. Again, we had sailors helping us dock. For this reason alone, we love Italy. Docking a 54-foot boat with just the two of us can be very challenging. We have done it many times, but prefer to have hands on land to catch our lines.
The town of Loano was about as sleepy as the marina. Clearly, it was a family town, as the beaches looked more like playgrounds than the hip white sand beach clubs that we got used to in St Tropez. Loano was very Italian though, which we discovered when we went to a local restaurant for dinner. No English descriptions of the food, no familiar Italian words, no pictures, no English-speaking waiter. We talked with the owner a bit, shook our heads at everything he said, and ended up with a delicious meal. After that experience, we almost hate to see English on a menu.
A Day Trip
From Loano, we took the bus to a beautiful medieval village called Albenga. We loved exploring the town, but our favorite experience, again, involved a meal. We stopped at a nice little place for pizza. The waitress spoke to us in Italian and we responded "Parla inglese?" (Do you speak English?). She said "No, franco" and walked away. We didn't know what "franco" meant and were frantically looking in our English-Italian phrase book when a man (Franco) arrived with his Italian-English phrase book. He spoke no English, but between our book, and his, we managed to order a delicious salad and pizza. It was the most fun we've ever had ordering lunch.
We have found that not knowing the language when ordering food has made us much more adventuresome in our eating. We try foods that we would never even think of eating in the states, and aside from some pig trotters in Spain, we have been pleasantly surprised.