The beaches here are little more than boulders scattered in front of the sea. The bluffs mark land’s end, and the towns cling to the edge. The sun marks the time of the season as it marches across the sky, each day now shorter than the last. The locals mark the time from park benches, stationed like sentries, observing the comings and goings of the tourists, students, families, and nationalities from all over the world. Now, in late autumn, there are fewer visitors, though the sun still warms the Mediterranean waters. The movie stars and the paparazzi who chase them have returned to their own homes in LA, Paris, and NYC. Soon, the locals will have their town back, the streets will be less crowded, and the last of the cruise ships will leave them in peace again.
This is the Italian Riviera in late fall. It is glorious-the sun shines bright and warm, but is low in the sky-it is not hot, but welcome against the coming winter. It is easy now to get a reservation in even the finest restaurants. The buses aren’t crowded, and the people seem relaxed. There is a sense that things are returning to normalcy again.
On the promenade harbor-side in Santa Margherita Ligure, old couples walk arm-in-arm along the seafront. Young mothers push strollers, and the men walk the dogs. The fishermen still mend their nets preparing for the day’s catch. Further ashore, the flowers are on display in the town square.
It is October 31, and, like in America, the children have dressed up in their favorite costumes. Cleverly carved pumpkins, each a unique creation, are for sale in the market.
I go to Portofino, where tall yachts dot the harbor, and where you are charged $12 simply to sit at a table. High up, past the eyes of the cameras poised at gated entryways, there are panoramic views of the hills and cities surrounding the natural harbor, a protection from the ravages of the sea today, and from marauders 500 years ago.
I pause at a lighthouse point, aware that this moment will pass, ephemeral, like all do, yet also aware that this exact point in time is all any of us will ever have. A wave crashes against the rocks far below. I gaze into the abyss, transfixed. A gull calls out far above me. I look to the church, yellow against the hard grey stone, and head for home. This town is not for the likes of me. After all, I am neither rich nor famous. I leave it to the winter, which will come for us all, rich and poor alike, eventually.