It was with a reluctant spirit that I said goodbye to Dean after our wonderful week in Tuscany and got on my train to Albisola, in the Ligurian region of North Italy. I didn’t want to go for two reasons; the first because it meant a 7 hour train journey and the second was that I didn’t want to leave Dean. What I didn’t know at that very moment, when i set foot onto that non-airconditioned train in the sweltering July heat, was that Liguria would come to be my favourite region of Italy.
If your have been following our journey through Italy you will probably know we are here to teach in intensive English Camps. Basically we catch a train to a location where we will be based for 1-3 weeks, we have a host family and we get in there and teach some English.
I was met at the train station by my two camp directors, one who did not speak English and would natter away to me in Italian despite my best efforts to explain that my Italian was paltry at best. From there we went to the school, my largest yet, a three storey building. I could smell the sea breeze. I met with my fellow tutors, four of us in total, and was quickly whisked off with my host family; mum, dad and beautiful seven year old daughter.
The first day is always a little awkward trying to get to know each other, but we had two weeks to do that. Their home was lovely up in the mountains, around 7kms from the town, surrounded by what can only be described as scenery of ‘Jurassic Park’. To cap of this already stellar introduction into Liguria they also had a dog, an Australian Shepard to boot! She was wonderful, often popping her head into my bedroom window to see how I was going.
On the Sunday I decided to take the 7 hour return train journey to visit Dean in Turin and go to the world renowned Egyptian museum. The museum was spectacular filled with artifacts, enormous epitaphs of long gone rulers, and even a reconstructed temple. If you ever find yourself near Turin you should go it is absolutely worth the trip.
As the working week began I settled into camp and my routine of teaching and spending time with my host family. The families genuine love for foreign languages made it easy to fit in, my interests were their interests. I watched movies with my host sister and had long exciting conversations with my host mother. At the end of week one all the tutors decided to drink wine on a beautiful bridge looking out over the ocean, visit a bar on the beach and drink more wine with our feet in the water looking out at the moon reflected in the ocean.
On Saturday two of the four tutors left and it was me and my friend from the US remaining, both of us the wandering spirit type. Looking for a little adventure again, and perhaps nursing a little bit of a hangover, we explored the nearby medieval town of Finalbosco. In true Formo spirit we, somehow, got lost for four hours, climbed two mountains accidentally and finally found the castle only to discover the beginning of the path was essentially where we got off the bus. But hey, free exercise right? When we arrived the castle was closed for renovations, haha just my luck.
We probably needed to walk so much after dusting off two gelatos in one day. You could hardly turn down some delicious looking gelato in a beautiful town, with temperatures soaring over 35 degrees celsius.
I was able to attend and celebrate my host sister's 8th birthday which meant she got presents, and that meant I got to play all her new games and put together lego sets with her, an absolute highlight of my stay. Here is a snap of me all dolled up (hair done and cheeks rouged) after playing a sleepover game.
Back at work our camp director fattened us up on ligurian focaccia, no one knows focaccia like the ligurians, and ice cream. A highlight of my work week was taking my students to the beach and playing water ninja banana in the neck high water. iT’s as crazy as it sounds, basically you pretend to be a ninja banana whilst kicking and punching the water, and the kids love it. I also got to be a platypus and hide in a bin for 30 minutes during a game so my students could not find me.
Most tourists flock to the Cinque Terre, of course it’s beautiful, but they forget very similar views for a much cheaper price are available slightly up the coast. It’s underrated but that's great for the people who visit because they do not have to wrestle with the crowds of those famous five little towns on the romantic french riviera. Once upon a time, well actually in Roman times, Albisola was an important town on the road between Rome and Paris, about halfway and it actually means 'sun rise', I can vouch for the beautiful sun rises of this region.
I also sampled my first Italian breakfast of a cappuccino with a brioche (croissant) at a delightfully named cafe ‘Tiffany’s’. It would have been my Dad’s heaven, breakfast at tiffany’s.
As the end of my two week stay rolled around I had grown quite attached to my host family, so much so that I took a week to draw them including the dog as my parting gift despite the fact that i cannot draw.
On the Saturday that I left Liguria, my host mum took me for breakfast on the beach, where Alfie took his final picture with those striped beach umbrellas. We said our goodbyes and I departed, with tears in my eyes, for the next adventure knowing one day I would need to return to this wonderful place and these beautiful people.