Hitting the road, we drove from Siena to La Spezia, on the way getting a fleeting glimpse of the Leaning Tower of Pisa as we zoomed by. We eventually managed to get off the highway and followed the Tuscany coastline right into the heart of La Spezia. Whilst this was lovely and quiet in March, I expect it would be the hive of activity in peak season – sun, white sandy beaches and palm trees.
La Spezia was for us, the gateway to the Cinque Terre, although for those with literary tendencies it is also very close to Lirici – the place where poet Percy Bysshe Shelley drowned on the 8th July 1822.
The Cinque Terre literally means “five villages” and the best and safest way to reach them is by train. It only takes 15 minutes to reach the first village with the fare costing just over 2 euros. The villages sit in steep valleys between the mountains and the sea, with sheer cliffs creating spectacular scenery. For those that are fit and have the time, you are able to walk the entire coastline between the villages, or alternatively just part of the way, or between one or two of the villages. There are lots of up and downs and steps…..and it gets busy.
RIOMAGGIORE and MANAROLA
These are the two closest villages to La Spezia, both perched on rocky cliffs, almost falling into the sea. The houses are of various earthy colors and sit spectacularly on the hillsides. To walk around these villages you need to traverse many steps and find your way through narrow streets and alleys. It is easy to get lost, and also to lose yourself in the beauty of it all. There are plenty of small eating places and bars to cater for the ever growing number of visitors. Accommodations is also available, but best to book ahead, and remember to take comfy walking shoes!