I know a small city that has lost its popularity and then its luster. It seems abandoned and haunted. Its glory is now faded but resilient. This is San Remo, Italy, on the border of France.
San Remo had its heyday. I can see it in the 1940s architecture of its Casino and its "Gran Hotels". Just on the beach front, it has 3 or 4 hotels whose stars have turned off, one by one.
I always feed on the images of Talented Mr.Ripley, when Matt Damon and Gweneth Paltrow visit the San Remo Jazz Festival at its heyday, in the 1950s.
Very little has changed from those days. Even the tempo is the same. Just a little less hussle bustle. The Mediterranean gardens grow wild, the palms line the coast, the abandoned train station lies idle, as the tracks have moved to the outskirts of the city.
SanRemo is authentically Italian, without any marks of globalization. The Dolce Gabbana clad "caribbinieri" (cops), the coffee shops offering the best cappucinos, the pastry shops with their old fashioned recipes, the market overflowing with the largest variety of tomatoes in the world!
I pretend to visit SanRemo frequently for the coffee and panini at breakfast only. It is my first priority.But I also enjoy the window shopping along the pedestrian streets, the market shopping with my father, the pastry selection, the shoe shop visits with my husband. My children tag along with their cousins to a quaint toy store that "curates" toys with Italian taste. My sons get their "annual haircut" which consists of an Italian hairdresser sheering them like lambs.
I walk along, studying the colored facades, noticing the laundry that hangs from them, the numerous chiming churches. Wondering how SanRemo had been in its heyday, when American tourists visited.