Sunday, September 13, 2009

Relaxation at the beach?? The Cinque Terre

(click on photos to enlarge)
Coming over the range and into Levanto was a bit of an experience. Again we were confronted with blanketing fog on roads that were less than ideal.

Fog over the ranges

However, it didn't last long and as we descended we cleared into the valley leading to Levanto. The advantage of staying here was to have car parking and relatively easy access to the town and the station. I have to say that "relatively easy" is a relative term. In fact getting to and from the Villa Margherita on foot from either place was pretty difficult in the heat of the day and we tended to arrive back looking like boiled lobsters, only to be confronted with about 50 more steps up to the hotel and then to the room. Now had we been young and fit...

Steps from road to hotel door, then 20 more internally

We had only seen the Cinque Terre when the seas were quiet and the sun shining, so the surf gave us a bit of a surprise. You could hear it from the hotel window and for the first two days the boats were not running. We made the most of it with visits to Cinque Terre towns and photos of the waves breaking over the rocks and all the little fishing boats pulled up out of the water.

Waves on the harbour rocks, Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore houses


Up on chocks

We took the opportunity to visit Santa Margherita Ligure which was a pretty town, more protected from the wind and full of houses with the typical Ligurian painting on the facades and hotels that looked very Victorian.

Bay from the fortezza

Decorated Ligurian facade

I got hooked by the display of fresh porcini mushrooms at one restaurant and happily ordered fettucine funghi. Maybe I should have asked the price first because I was charged E15 for the dish, but to be fair, I saw the mushrooms in a market with a E30/kg price. They are never cheap.

We found that sitting in a beach front bar at Levanto having a leisurely drink followed by a leisurely lunch was a good way to avoid walking back up the hill to the hotel. A leisurely drink as the sun set also, perhaps...

View from the beach bar

Sunset, Levanto

However, we did explore the surprisingly historic old walls and castle of the town. Much of the history is well hidden and you need to search, but this was an important port in medieval times and the sea came well inland from where it is now. You can trace the old merchant shops and market places still.

Castle and older house above the beach

Walls and clock tower

I would really recommend this town for families, there is a great public beach with changing and toilet facilities as well as the private beaches and the pools at the Casino. Normally you can take day trips on the boats as well, there is a nice family feel to the squares in the evening and enough places to go to avoid boredom.

All in all, it was lovely, but the exercise rate jumped quite a lot and we welcomed the air conditioning when we returned to the hotel during the day. Not quite as relaxing as we thought, and we didn't even attempt the formal walks available.

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