Lerici - View of a stretch of coastline
Beaches looking over a crystal-clear sea, nestled among spectacular views, an artistic legacy worth discovering, small villages settled on green valleys carrying on ancient traditions: all this and much more awaits the visitor in the La Spezia province.
One of the most wonderful stretches of the Ligurian Riviera can be found here: it is called Golfo dei Poeti, the Poets’ Gulf, named for the love that many great writers and poets have shown for this land.
Steep cliffs, dense pine woods, romantic coves and exceptional beaches draw the coastal landscape that strike the visitor for its beauty and the picturesque villages perched on the top of the bluffs.
Lerici, Portovenere, the island of Palmaria and the islets of Tino and Tinetto are the best-known destinations, with La Spezia in the middle of the gulf.
Driving further along, the visitor enters one of the most beautiful scnarios of Italy: the Cinque Terre, which UNESCO has declared World Heritage Site along with Portovenere for the extraordinary relationship between man and nature, a harmonious balance that stuns the visitor.
Cinque Terre: five lands, five villages: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare.
These are places to discover one after another like museum pieces, each with its own treasures of art and nature, where the mind is still astonished by what it has just experienced and yet, excited for what lies ahead.
Along the furthest stretch of La Spezia's coast lie Levanto, Bonassola, Framura and Deiva Marina, charming villages surrounded by green hills and a beautiful sea that draws the coastline where it meets the beaches and the cliffs.
The La Spezia province, however, is not just about the coast.
The interior has many hidden treasures too.
Green woods, smooth hills, wide valleys marked by the many streams, and medieval villages all combine in an astonishing landscape, filled with history and ancient traditions, removed from the noise of modern life, where people still take care of their land. A land that reciprocates such love with the products that characterize the local cuisine.
The beauty of the coast and the maritime villages are, undoubtedly, the main attraction of the area; however, La Spezia has in store a few surprises. A walk along the promenade reveals a great panorama of the whole bay, with the Alpi Apuane dominating the view. Another scenic spectacle can be admired from S.Giorgio’s Castle, renovated over time and recently restored to house the Museo Civico Formentini and the interesting archaeological collection. Among the other museums, noteworthy are the CAMeC – the centre for modern and contemporary art - exhibiting a vast collection from the early 20th century, and the Museo Civico Amedeo Lia, with masterpieces from Sebastiano del Piombo, Tintoretto, Tiziano and Pontormo.
Lerici and Portovenere, in front of one to the other, are must-see destinations. The symbol of Lerici is the impressive Castle, one of the most interesting defence buildings of the region, from which one can enjoy an unobstructed view to Palmaria Island. Narrow ‘carruggi’ and steep stairs wind around the picturesque houses of Lerici’s old town.
Art, nature and the sea are the three elements that set apart Portovenere, with its small port at the bottom of the old town, the steep stairs that give the impression of hanging onto the cliff and the colour of the houses mixed with the green of the maquis. One should also visit the small S. Pietro’s church, which seems to be all one with the rock it was built on, and the islets of Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto, now belonging to the Porto Venere Natural Park.
Less known, yet charming, are Ameglia, Tellaro, Bocca di Magra and Montemarcello, immersed in a gorgeous scenery. A steep slope to the sea, with multicoloured houses hanging onto the rock and terraces with vineyards and olive groves, cliffs and coves open to a deep blue sea: one feels to have entered the Cinque Terre when such a landscape, so marvellous it resembles a painting, completely surrounds them.
Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore are linked by an incomparable beauty like nowhere else. They should be visited following the trails that connect one to the other. The traveller will enjoy the treasures of art and history, and will discover the remotest corners of the area filled with colours and the scent of the agave, the broom and the mimosa that accompany each step.
Past the Cinque Terre, the itinerary follows the coast where nature dominates and the towns provide with all the comforts. Also known as the Valle dei Borghi Rotondi (the ‘valley of the round-shaped villages’), Val di Vara is dotted with old and charming villages where streets, squares and houses follow a plan around the church or the castle, according to the medieval urban planning. Fresh streams cross the dense woods and the green valleys.
Remarkable are the Castle overlooking Varese Ligure, built around the church of S. Filippo Neri and S. Teresa d’Avila, and the Brugnato Cathedral, erected upon an old Benedictine settlement now visible behind glass walls. Val di Magra is a mixture of different landscapes, laid between two mountain ranges and crossed by the homonymous river. Old villages, characterized by their medieval plans are scattered around this expanse on the border with Tuscany. In addition to a visit to the two Fortresses and the Cathedral, every year Sarzana hosts cultural events and festivals to celebrate the local products. The Guinigi Tower, 33 meters high, rises above the town of Ortonovo, famous for being close to one of the nation’s most important archaeological sites – Luni – with the ruins of the ancient Roman town.
A swathe of land molded by nature in its every shape.
Mountains, valleys, streams, beaches and the sea: it is all there, and there are countless ways to explore them.
It is hard not to start from the sea, the dominant element of the landscape.
It is so rich and beautiful that it is now a protected area, the Cinque Terre National Park. Scuba diving, sea-watching or snorkeling, such are three ways to discover the underwater treasures of this great marine heritage.
Sea fans and Posidonia seagrassmeadows, rocks and walls, caves and sudden drops constitute one of the best destinations for those who live the sea to the fullest. Every year in the summer, whales, sperm whales and dolphins gather in the Cetacean Sanctuary where the Cinque Terre are situated. A whale-watching trip is an exhilarating experience both for children and adults, a way to know better these gentle giants and learn the rules of conduct to protect the area and its inhabitants. The Sentiero Azzurro, or Blue Trail, meanders along the coast between Riomaggiore, Monterosso, Manarola, Coniglia and Vernazza. It is an opportunity not to be missed if one loves trekking and hiking in the wilderness. The segment between Riomaggiore and Monterosso, carved in the rock at the beginning of the 20th century during the railroad construction, is now called Via dell’Amore for the beauty of the panorama that makes it ideal for romantic walks.
Canoeing, kayaking, rafting, canyoning and hydrospeed are fun ways to explore the waters of the Vara and Magra rivers through woods, rocks, meanders, caves and beaches.
Scenic hiking trails cross the two valleys of the area and the Montemarcello-Magra Reserve. Whether trekking, mountain biking or horseback riding, there are innumerable ways to savor this pristine wilderness.
Wine-trekking is a new and original way to meet art, history, nature and the taste of the wines produced around La Spezia.
Festivals, concerts and other cultural events are held almost everywhere; these are joyful gatherings where one can discover local traditions and products, spanning from cuisine to the handicrafts. Noteworthy is the Palio of the Golfo dei Poeti, in La Spezia, a rowing competition between the 13 maritime contradas of the Gulf, introduced by a theme costume parade.
Wine and olive oil, the foundation of the local cuisine.
The vineyards that cover the sunny terraces and the Magra Valley hills are the evidence of the ancient wine-making tradition.
A passion that is powerfully perceived, together with scents and essences of this land, when tasting a glass of one of the local wines.
The Luni, Levanto and Cinque Terre wines mate perfectly with the local cuisine, simple and flavorful at the same time.
Golden with shades of amber, intense and persistent aroma with hints of apricot, dried fruit and acacia honey, this is the Sciacchetrà, the famous DOC wine, excellent with sharp cheeses and, in its strong and sweet version, with pastry.
Another key element is the extra-virgin olive oil, obtained from the vast expanses of olive groves on the coast and inland. The oil produced in this particular area between the Alps and the Tyrrhenian Sea is protected by the Riviera Ligure DOP label, which is a Consortium that associates the producers of the four Ligurian provinces and guarantees the accordance with the rules of the Protected Origin Denomination.
It is a unique oil that enhances the preparation of the local recipes, based mainly on the fish caught in the clean waters of the Ligurian Sea.
Among such delicacies, the ‘muscoli ripieni alla Vecchia Spezia’, mussels stuffed with eggs, bread, mortadella, parmigiano, parsley and olive oil. Excellent are also the Monterosso anchovies, either fresh with some lemon juice, fried, stuffed or pickled. The ‘mesciùa’ (mixed) is a delicious pulse and cereal soup with a few drops of the precious local oil and black pepper.
Pizzas, focaccias and handmade pasta are other mouthwatering delicacies of the local cuisine, as well as the ‘trofie al pesto’ now widespread throughout the region.
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