Trompe l'oeil, or “trick the eye,” is an art form that is ultra realistic, creating a three dimensional illusion from a two dimensional painting. Think of Wiley Coyote painting a tunnel on a rock for the Roadrunner to smack into. Then imagine a whole little village with that kind of fake stuff everywhere. That’s Ovada. It’s really cool.
We began our walk along the streets of Ovada, a quaint little town between Genoa and Alessandria, with our beautiful friend, Claudia, hostess extraordinaire. She has introduced us to so many of the most wonderful, out of the way Italian treasures and has an incredible knowledge of the specialties of each region she reveals to us. Her passion for her country shines through her eyes and is immensely infectious. She also has a wicked sense of humor, as this narrative will show.
We were under the impression that walking around with food was not cool with the cuisine-serious Italians (gelato being the exception, of course), so we were very excited when Claudia introduced us to farinata. Ovada is known for this street food made of chickpea flour. Farinata is baked in a wood oven in a pan similar to a pizza tin. It is cut into every-which-way slices and handed over wrapped in paper. We waited in quite a line for these crispy on the outside, soft in the middle, straight out of the oven delights. It is pretty heavy, so one order goes a long way.
With farinata in hand, we explored. Ovada is delightful with its distinctive shops housed in brightly colored, window box bedecked buildings. Draping plants and flowers festoon each balcony and little details abound--a crest here, a little mural with an odd color scheme there.
After a few hours of walking, Veronica looked into a shop window that was painted like the interior of a circus tent. The striped canvas and billowing interior was so realistic, it took her breath away. She could almost smell the elephant dung. Excited, she pulled Claudia to the window and pointed to her find. Claudia simply smiled and did a 360 degree point to every single building around us.
It was ALL fake! Yup, every last bit of Ovada is one big optical illusion. Bricks, windows, arches and niches. Fake, fake, fake and, oh yeah, fake. It’s incredible. Claudia just stood there like the cat that ate the canary--if we weren’t so flabbergasted, we would have punched her for letting us walk around like idiots for two hours.
Thank God for the hearty farinata because, armed with this new knowledge, another lap of Ovada was necessary--this time snapping photos every two feet or so. “Oh! Look at this one” (Oh! Guardate questo!) became the phrase of the day.
Claudia, you are forgiven.
David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com