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Exploring the Italian Riviera

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In June of 2013, I had the opportunity to visit the Italian Riviera with a fantastic group of 23 Wisconsin alumni travelers. Our home base throughout the excursion was hotel Vis a Vis, located atop the town of Sestri Levante. Our hotel view of the Mediterranean Sea featured two bays: Baia delle Favole (Bay of the Fables) and Baia del Silenzio (Bay of Silence). Our travelers were delighted at the 360-degree view from the hotel dining room, with windows from floor to ceiling — not to mention the open-air rooftop terrace, pool and bar. The view was breathtaking, and this was all at the hotel!

During our trip to Cararra, famous for its marble quarries, we visited the very mountain that Michelangelo frequented to pick marble for his timeless sculptures. Once atop the mountain, we learned about the history of the marble industry, as well as present-day practices. In the town of Carrara below, we visited a studio to see works in progress and finished sculptures. Seeing the process from raw material to finished piece was an great experience — and as an artist, this was especially meaningful for me.

Genoa was the largest city we visited. Pictured here is the Cathedral of San Lorenzo, reconstructed in Romanesque style during the 12th century. The scale and detail of this cathedral were unbelievable. As with many cathedrals in this region, marble and slate were used for its construction. Once inside, we learned that in 1941, a bomb entered the cathedral but failed to detonate. The shell is on display, with an inscription giving thanks for the cathedral’s escape from destruction. The rich history we learned along the way gave our travelers a real understanding of the places we visited.

Throughout the trip, I enjoyed seeing shopkeepers closing up their storefronts, laundry hanging out to dry and beautifully manicured, potted gardens adorning doorsteps. Although we were in a large tour group, we experienced local life and visited places that we may not have found on our own. The local tour guides were a wealth of knowledge.

We visited many ports, Santa Margherita Ligure, Portofino and Camogli (my favorite!). Historically, these ports are fishing villages, but they’re also tourist destinations today. Toward the end our our Italian Riviera tour, we spent a full day touring the Cinque Terre and its five villages. Every destination we reached was unique and just as spectacular as the last.

Thank you to the wonderful Wisconsin alumni travelers for being such great comrades throughout this trip, and to David Tuttle for the photo archive of our activities.

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