20-30 June 2023 – A Conference in Milan…. then a taste of Liguria

Small boats in a harbour at night

Author: Mr A

Location: Milan and Camogli (Ligurian Coast)

A conference husband’s life is not bad one. You help your wife with wardrobe choices, wish her well with the presentation she’s making to senior medical practitioners from around the globe, and then take a brief from her to buy a new handbag to match her outfit! So off I go to to the wonderful boutiques of Milan, style capital of the world.

I quickly manage to tick off the handbag purchase thanks to some diligent research and a very cooperative store owner allowing me send lots and lots of photos to madam! My knowledge of handbags has now grown exponentially..from zero..to the ‘little-bit-is-dangerous’ level. Now I could move to the more solid ground of the serious act of procuring some new smarter threads for myself, appropriate to a stay on the Italian Riviera coming up next. I made a quick reflection as I walked the malls of how our life has changed since moving back to Europe!

The central shopping area of Milan is dominated by the Duomo, a huge cathedral Catherine and I visited when we last came to Milan back in 2012

Mrs A is once again on a mission to help the 7,000 odd members of the support group she runs by attending a conference with the world’s thought leaders on ENT laryngology diseases. She listens to the latest research being debated by the experts, and works through what will be the likely implications for her fellow suffers of idiopathic subglottic stenosis (a narrowing of the trachea just below the vocal cords, with no known cause). She networks like crazy, building new relationships with these practitioners and deepening existing ones. She wants to ensure her support group members have access to the latest data on what’s working and what isn’t in treatment options. Mrs A also has to sometimes call in favours for people in urgent need of medical are, which isn’t always recognised by the gatekeepers making the appointments.

The first ever patient to present at an European Laryngological Society Conference – breaking new ground!
Catherine has been in touch with these doctors for up to 20 years and counts them as friends as well as esteemed colleagues!

Catherine had to crowdfund for this conference her travel and attendance costs from friends (thank you to donors who read this blog, you know who you are!) and her support group, who have given generously recognising the value the community gives them. I am enormously proud of her and the energy and enthusiasm she brings to this new vocation.

We are, I recognise, enormously privileged to have the opportunity to travel like this, combining business (for Mrs A) with pleasure. So after a few days in Milan we headed down on the train to the Ligurian coast, just to the west of Genoa. I have to say after reading supposed `’horror stories” about catching trains in Italy, it was all very civilised. Clearly the authors of these posts had never experienced rail travel recently in the UK!

In 2019, while motorhoming our way across Europe, we had stayed in a car park overlooking this gorgeous Ligurian coastline and randomly caught a ferry that took us to this little village of Camogli. We were besotted.

Catherine and Mark of four years ago, May 2019, when we first stumbled across Camogli

It still has a working fishing fleet, their catch cooked in the local restaurants. We barely heard any language other than Italian being spoken. The houses have been built up six stories, allegedly so fishermen could spot them from way out to sea, and their wives watch for their safe return (I did check and there is no record of women working on the boats).

“We’ll come back here one day” we promised ourselves, and we grabbed the opportunity when we realised we would only be a two hour (and 26 Euro!) train ride away in Milan. Our train journey into London from our home in Somerset takes about the same journey time, but costs four times as much.

So we had decided to treat ourselves to a nice hotel in Camogli. We are still getting used to not being campers, caravaners, and motor-homers, so the idea of paying lots of money for a night’s shelter still rankles! But pay we did, and had a place right on the front with sea views. Privileged indeed. Sitting over a leisurely breakfast with this view will be an enduring memory for both of us. As will for Mrs A having her first (second, third and fourth!) vegan croissant!

This was our magnificent breakfast view each morning, from the terrace above our bedroom

Our days were spent exploring by train and ferry along the coast.

A boat trip to San Fruttuoso, home to a magnificent Abbey
We didn’t feel too sorry for the monks enjoying views like this

One trip included a trip to the more famous port town of Portofino, home apparently to the rich and famous.

Two of the smallest boats in Portofino Harbour!
We climbed up to Castello Brown – once the home of the British Consulate Brown Family in the 1800s. The structure itself dates from pre 1400s, but has been renovated over the centuries
Great view from Castello Brown – now you can see the super luxurious cruisers and villas lining the hillsides

And you can see why. What a visually stunning place, but not an iota of authenticity left we felt, and were a little relieved to get back to our more laid back Camogli. There are a lot of family owned holiday apartments there, and we met people from Milan who had been coming here for generations. It gave a lovely feel to the place as the restauranteurs knew they had to cater for returning customers.

Fine food and wine wherever we went

We had wonderful dining experiences all week, provided by people who were clearly passionate about their food and wine, and seemed genuinely to take pleasure still from seeing their customers enjoying themselves. It does help I think that I tend to be quite vocal about my tasting pleasure! We sampled some local wines of course, mostly whites, with Vermentino (or blends including this grape) being one of the main varietals. A perfect match for the variety of fresh seafood we found ourselves served. Anchovies straight from the boat, the same for a variety of fish we’d never heard of, but that didn’t deter!

Yes, the new handbag had a bit of a workout
Looking down the coast at dusk
On our final day we hired a kayak for a couple of hours’ explore along the coast
And a unique view of Camogli and our amazing room at the Sublimis Boutique Hotel
Small boats in a harbour at night
Camogli’s old town surrounds its port, home to many active fishing vessels
Looking along the seafront at night towards Camogli’s castle

This spring and summer has certainly had an Italian theme, with two trips within a few weeks of each other. But we both share an excitement for coming back to what we feel is our little slice of Somerset paradise. to walk amongst our trees, check on the veggies, listen to the birdsong. We’re home.

A double rainbow welcomed us home
And the very well looked after Princess Tassie was there to greet us – thanks to house sitters Steve and Sam who looked after her and our home brilliantly!

21 May: Camogli – what a gem!

Author: Mr A

Location: Camogli and San Rocco, Italy

Every so often when you’re exploring new ground, you come across a place that you know will be etched into your memory for ever. The little port of Camogli ticked that box in spades.

We planned a stop over between Genoa and the Cinque Terre coast at a car park that was described by one reviewer as having “a nice view”. What an understatement! This unassuming bit of tarmac overlooked a chunk of coast that took our breath away.

Our view from our sosta – not bad for a free night!

Our first view of the small fishing town of Camogli on the Italian Riviera, about an hour’s drive east from Genoa on the E80, a road that we had been on and off for a few days.

As an aside, what a spectacular feat of engineering the European route E80 is. We didn’t realise until we did a bit of research that in fact it travels through 10 countries as the ‘Trans European Motorway’ from Portugal to the border with Iran. It then joins the Asian highway which continues all the way to Japan! We looked at this freeway in a new light. Living on a rather big island for so many years it really made us think what is possible in Europe.

So this car park was on the outskirts of a small settlement called San Rocco, with a path that led down to the sea, as well as many others which criss-cross their way over the peninsular to Portofino on the eastern side.

The views keep on coming

Blown away by the beauty of the scenery

Looking west from the peninsular – better known Portofino is on the eastern side

Loving where our little Truffy is bringing us….but the bikes weren’t right for this location


Firstly, we cycled as far as we could on the bikes before encountering steps, then packed away the bikes and donned walking shoes.

Feeling happy here…can we move in?

Our wooded walk was accompanied by the sound of water

San Nicolò di Capodimonte, a church along our walk – it officially dates back to 1141, but legend has it there has been a church here since the year 345

A well constructed pathway down to the wharf – quite steep with many steps

Wish we could share the scent of these roses….Devine!

Warmed up in the afternoon sunshine

Spying the ferry we run to the wharf

Without much of plan, we headed off down along this fabulous coastal path, then as we got to sea level noticed a ferry coming in. We both looked at each other and went “why not” so we jumped and were carried around to the harbour of Camogli in style.

Twelve euros later we have bagged ourselves a couple of spots on a boat trip

Portofino Promontory in the background

Love a good boat trip!

Coming into Camogli harbour

The moment we saw this place from the water we loved it. It had a genteel calm, without tour buses, and with a real authentic air of still being a working town. Some guys were just heading off to fish as we landed. I’m amazed there’s any left to catch!

We strolled around and immediately decided this is somewhere we could happily spend as week relaxing in. When I started to write this blog and read about the town, so many people described it as “undiscovered”, well by non-Italians anyway. It sure felt that way.

Exploring the town

Castle della Dragonara, built in the early 13th century, a fabulous entry to the harbour

Looking back out towards our home for the night – the clouds looking like they are descending

Feeling such an affinity with this village

Bagni Lido – the public beach

Reluctantly we headed back up to our car park, via 896 steps…we were ready for dinner by the time we climbed that lot.

A noisy Bean Goose shouting in the stream through town

Up and up the path went…

Fat pheasant in amongst the olive groves on our climb up

May I have some treats?

Yes…Mr A does carry cat treats in his bag!

We discovered Italian cats know the universal sound of cat treat bags…

Camogli, thankyou for giving us such a great memory to take away. I hope you don’t change too much too quickly.