Chiavari | Home Away From Home

Chiavari | Home Away From Home

While working on Brian Boitano's Italian house for "The Brian Boitano Project" on HGTV, the American contingent stayed in a town on the Italian Riviera . . . a charming town called Chiavari. (Pronounced "key-àh-va-rie" with a rolling "r.") In the center of town, the Piazza Mazzini, in the photo above, sits in front of Palazzo di Guistizia, the Palace of Justice. There's always something going on in the piazza, from morning to night. A break in the action . . . This guy sat here "levitating" for hours.  I passed him three times over the course of a day.  Is he really levitating?  That's what all the other passers-by wanted to know.  What a way to make a living. One night there were chairs set up in the piazza for a summer concert. When the flea market came to town, the piazza was filled with antiques. The market flowed into the side streets off the piazza.  Lately, I've found that European flea markets have gotten very pricey, but the Chiavari market was fabulous!  Great finds at reasonable prices . . . I couldn't get enough.  Seriously, I walked these streets at least six times, until I had practically memorized every trinket and treasure.  I was still looking as they were taking down the tables and packing up. I loved the shapes of these handblown vintage jars. Wooden crates like this, stenciled with the names of their "azienda commerciale", would make a great side table base. Put a piece of stone or glass on top and it's done. No two vintage Vallauris ceramic plates were alike, and at just 2 € a piece, they were irresistable.  I bought three in graduating sizes to stack on a side table in my home, and one to use as a soap dish in the Italian villa. With my love of travel, I'm a sucker for globes . . . but I am careful not to buy anything that will cost a fortune to ship home.  Like a globe.  I had to be satisfied with a photo. Crystal chandeliers hung on clothing racks in the middle of traffic. I love coral and shells mounted in vintage architectural pieces.  This one was particularly delicate.  Looking at the photo now, I kind of wish I'd bought it. I did buy this one (in front), to sit next to two I have at home that were from the Paris Flea Market. I spotted this lovely painting sitting in the street, and got it for 30 €.  Even without the flea market in town, Chiavari is delightful. These graceful benches rest next to a crumbling stone wall across from our hotel. Blossoms sprout out of window boxes and climb over the tops of fences in front of houses of chalky pastel shades. The gates of this secret garden are open for al fresco dining in the summertime. Glittering crystal chandeliers hang from the arch above the altar of the Church of San Giovanni Battisto. Covered sidewalk arcades line the street, providing shade from the sun, and a pleasant place to sit and have a pompelmo granita. Pompelmo = grapefruit.  Granita = flavored, shaved ice (like a sno cone).  Pompelmo granita = refreshing yumminess. Nun on a cell phone.  It's just too cute. This dog may look sweet, but don't be fooled.  When I reached in to pet her, she just about bit my hand off. It's late afternoon and the locals are stopping to buy their fresh pasta for dinner.  I love this glimpse into everyday life. This little boy was waiting for his mother in the butcher shop. Many of the shop doors have fringed curtains like this. I glanced through the door of this ristorante, all set up for guests.  In a few hours, it will be bustling with hungry patrons tucking into plates of pasta with pesto, and fresh branzino baked with potatoes and olives. One of them will be me. The house in the mountains will be finished in October, and I'll no longer have a reason to spend time in the lovely town of Chiavari . . . So, for now, I'll savor the enchanting view out my hotel window . . . . . . and commit to memory the sound of the glorious bells that mark each passing hour, reverberating from the tower topped with an angel.
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