Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Ligurian Coast

Genoa is the capital of Liguria, a coastal region in Italy.  As a port city, the port is very much the center and heart of Genoa.  The villas follow the terracing of the land and stack up the hillside directing all of the views down into the port and out to the sea.  

The port redevelopment Master plan by Renzo Piano has helped to reconnect people to their port, from which they were divided by sea wall and elevated road for many years.  Now the port is the largest tourist attraction in Genoa, with an aquarium, Il Bigo (a lift for panoramic views), shopping, and restaurants.  Il Bigo, with its allusion to port architecture, is now the centerpiece of the port.      

Many of us have traveled to other nearby locations on the Ligurian coast.  The closest frequented location is still within Genoa, but just south of the center: Genoa-Nervi.  Here a boardwalk extends along the rocky shore, allowing people to stroll up and down the coastline, stopping for gelato or a visit to the art museum.  

Even further south, but only a thirty-minute train ride from Genoa central, is Santa Margherita with a connection to Portofino.  Portofino, famous as a luxury vacation spot for yachters worldwide, is just a short boat or bus ride away from Santa Margherita.  Here the limited development surrounding the natural harbor transforms quickly into forests that extend up the hills.  The castle and lighthouse elevated above, provide beautiful views out to where the earth, water and sky meet.

Another popular weekend destination for our group has been Cinque Terre.  This area, perhaps made famous by Rick Steves, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the Ligurian coast that includes five agricultural villages with hiking trails between.  These small villages punctuate the landscape with their bright colors.  The villages, again centered on the water, with the terraced hillsides behind them exhibit a continuity between architecture and landscape.  These colorful rugged blocks are stacked up the hills seeming that they have always been there.  Hiking between the villages provides fantastic views as you travel from each unique village to the next.

The places along the Ligurian coast that we have had the chance to visit while here in Genoa have consistently provided insight into the relationship between architecture, land and sea.  The vernacular architecture reveals an understanding of the rocky terrain and the importance of the sea.  The buildings built in this region seem integrated into the landscape with their rough colorful exteriors focused on the sea.           

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