Being a tourist town, Rapallo has a vested interest in looking pretty, and pretty it is, especially the parts of town most frequented by visitors. I took some photos of the gardens to show you (earlier in the summer, as a matter of fact). You’ll find them here or over on the right under photographs (Rapallo Gardens). When you click on the link you’ll find yourself on a Picasa page; I suggest choosing the slide show.
Each season the various beds are replanted with appropriate flowers. In Winter it’s cyclamen, in the Spring pansies, and so forth. Even the smallest traffic circle has a little bed of flowers around the familiar blue sign with white arrows.
Rapallo has a large park which includes a play area for children, a mini-golf (!) and the public library (Biblioteca Internationale: books in Italian, French, German and English). There are lovely gardens all through this park. There are at least two other parks for children, one with a pint-sized train that toot-toots around the perimeter. There is another park near an elementary school which is largely cement, but has the advantage of having a basketball court.
Upon entering Rapallo from the Autostrada the first thing you see is an island garden, lately with a desert theme. It has sprouted almost as many signs as cacti, but is attractive none the less. As an aside, in the photo of this garden take a look at the traffic coming into town – a Friday afternoon in July is not the optimum time to arrive in Rapallo by car.
The area between the Lungomare and the street that borders it is planted with cactus, palm trees (festooned with lights at Christmas) and low flowers. The benches along the edge of the gardens are always filled to capacity with ancient Rapallesi.
The Whimsicality Prize has to go to a small garden at the end of Via Marsalla. It boasts two kayaks that have been painted yellow and white and filled with flowers. It is about the silliest thing I’ve ever seen.
If the Polipo Fountain is the sculptural mascot of Rapallo (it is), the living mascots have certainly got to be the ducks. There are zillions of them, some right at the shore, many more in the various rivers that empty into the Gulf. The greatest number of them are mallards, but there are some large white ducks as well. And as if the city were running a genetics experiment, there are several pockets of very confusing looking ducks which are neither one species nor another, but are greatly speckled and strange. The Rapallesi love their ducks; it’s not unusual to see someone with a huge sack hanging over the San Francesco Torrente tossing bread bits to the ducks below. And oh my, in spring when the babies are born everyone keeps track of the number of chicks in each clutch and tallies the survivors weekly.
The ducks are amusing, especially when they turn up where you don’t expect them – walking along the top of a wall, for instance, or trying to enter a shop (this is where I won’t tell you the duck-in-store groaner with the punch line, “Oh I’ll just put it on my bill”) (oh all right, I’ll tell you: the duck walks into the Norfolk Pharmacy and asks for ChapStick. Ever helpful Kevin supplies same and asks, “will that be cash or charge?” and the duck replies… but you know what the duck replies.) Their quacking is one of Rapallo’s background noises; why is it that ducks quacking sound so officious?
What the ducks have to do with the gardens, I can’t say, certainly they are not frequent garden visitors. They are both prominent features of the shore area, though, so they’ve ended up together here.
There are other gardens in Rapallo which I haven’t photographed or mentioned, for example the Verdi garden, where the famous Wall of the Partigiani is, and where a very interesting dog show was held last year for both pure-breeds and what the Italians gallantly call Fantasie (or less gallantly, Bastardi), which is what you and I call mutts. The gardens and parks of Rapallo are lovely to look at, but above all they are put to great use, both casually by individuals and in an organized way for events. Whether it is the above mentioned dog show, or movies and shows behind the Library, there is frequently something going on in one of the park areas of the town. It’s very satisfying in a Yankee kind of way to see space not only made beautiful, but also put to good use. Take a look at the pictures…
PS There are two new recipes today, too – Clafoutis (no kidding, that’s what it’s called!): if you like custard and fruit you will love Clafoutis; it’s easy and yummy. The Sicilian salad is made from oranges and onions; again, really easy, and quite beautiful as well.