How many steps from San Rocco to Punta Chiappa? I meant to count, but of course lost track somewhere along the way. I can tell you this: the change in elevation is from sea level to 210 meters above sea level; and the last little staircase on the return back up to San Rocco has 206 steps.
But I’m getting ahead of myself…
Punta Chiappa is the rocky tip of one side of the Portofino Peninsula. Like San Fruttuoso, which is not far distant, you can get there only by boat or on foot. The difference is that to reach San Fruttuoso by foot takes several hours from either Camogli or Portofino. You can reach Punta Chiappa in about half an hour from San Rocco, the lovely community above Camogli on a delicious woodsy path that has long paved sections and, by someone else’s estimate, 900 steps.
From Punta Chiappa there is a fine view back towards Camogli and the big hills behind it; down the coast to Genova and perhaps, on a clear day, the French Riviera; and to the southeast the continuation of the Portofino peninsula.
The point itself is made of rock, and plenty of it, although some brave plants have found a foothold there.
All the beaches on the peninsula feature these beautiful gray rocks with white lines in them.
The day we walked down was hot and steamy, but in the early afternoon the clouds rolled in and thunder began sounding its alarm over the mountains. Nonetheless we set out on our adventure. In fact the storms never materialized, but the cloud cover made the hike down and the looong hike back much more bearable.
There is not a lot of commercial activity at Punta Chiappa. Once upon a time a lot of ship related iron work was done there, but no more. You can still see the small cranes that moved heavy anchors and so forth, mounted on the side of the path. There are several great looking restaurants there. I’ve never eaten at one, but it’s now on my list of things to do. There is also, a bit further on, a restaurant for cats.
The door is well locked, but the kitties can come and go through the mouse hole below. Inside are several trays full of kuckies – which is what we call cat kibble, because when the cats chew it it sounds like kuckie kuckie kuckie. We saw one of the generous women who keep the restaurant stocked, as well as several satisfied customers who were just leaving.
(By the way, if you like pictures of cats, check out the web album Cats of Italy; click the button for a slideshow.)
It felt a bit like stepping into a child’s story book when we arrived. There were not many people and there was a magical haze over the sea; boats drifted in and out of visibility, and it was not hard to imagine there were some great pirate adventures happening out there (if you squint you will see a 4-masted sailing ship in the photo below).
We swam a little, and read our books as the ferry and fishing boats trolled back and forth. A sudden movement caught our eyes: a school of sardines skimming across the top of the sea, with a dark shadow not quite breaking the surface behind. A second school appeared and skimmed, followed immediately by the graceful black arc of the back of a dolphin in search of supper. It all happened so fast we weren’t sure we had actually seen it. But we had, and it was wonderful.
Wonderful too was the walk back up to San Rocco. We took a much steeper, but shorter path which brought us in no time to San Nicolo’ di Capodimonte. I know! another San Nicolo’. Am I fated ever to find San Nicolo’ when I am with this particular friend? Evidently so!
This church, however, is in much better condition than its namesake near Genova. And there is another restoration underway. We saved our visit to the interior for the walk back, and were rewarded with a cool and peaceful respite. This church also is very simple inside, though it boasts a particularly beautiful rose window.
San Nicolo’ di Capodimonte is reputed to have been consecrated in 345 CE, although of course there are no written records to confirm this. The present Romanesque church is supposed to have been built around the year 1000. Like its poor brother church, this San Nicolo’ too passed into private hands in 1860 during the suppression of the churches, which accounts for its lack of interior decoration. In 1865 Cav. Andrea Bozzo bought the church, restored it and built the neighboring residential houses. The church reopened for worship in 1870. After the death of Cav. Bozzo’s son in 1910 the church again became ecclesiastical property.
I can tell you two more items of interest. Although the church is called ‘Capodimonte’ it is nowhere near the top – more like halfway down. The second thing is this, heed my hard-earned advice: if you take this hike, and I hope some day you will, don’t wear sandals!