January 17th , 2010 → 11:05 pm @ admin

Cinque Terre

vernazza-cinque-terraLe Cinque Terre, which means Five Lands, is part of the UNESCO World Heritage List, and comprises the five small coastal villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso located in the region of Liguria in the province of La Spezia. There is a train service that runs from one end of the Cinque Terre to the other that enables you to get on and off at whichever village you choose. Alternatively, there is a beautiful walking trail connecting each of the villages.

All the towns slope down to sea-level except for Corniglia, which is perched on top of a tall cliff. Four of the towns possess an old-world charm (from North-to-South: Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore) with narrow, crooked, often cobbled streets, lined with colorful old houses stacked haphazardly on top of each other. The northern-most town of Monterosso is a modern sea-side resort with a large sandy beach and lots of beach-side restaurants and cafes.

Lerici, Portovenere, and The Gulf of Poets

PortovenereThe Gulf of Poets is named for some of the world’s most celebrated poets who lived at some points in their lives in the area, namely, Lord Byron and Percy Bysse Shelley. Shelley lived in the village of San Terenzo and died in the Gulf when his boat was hit by a storm. Lord Byron swam from a small grotto at Portovenere, which has since been dedicated to him.

Lerici, the largest of the many small villages scattered around the Gulf of Poets, sits across the bay from the breathtaking town of Portovenere. From Lerici you can walk to San Terenzo and there are hiking trails to small fishing villages such as Fiascherino, Tellaro, and Montemarcello. Lerici has a castle and a small old quarter. It also has a fabulous Saturday morning market, abundant good restaurants, and an open waterside boulevard where you can sunbathe, swim in the warm Mediterranean, or simply watch the world go by. Lerici can be reached by ferry from La Spezia, Portovenere, and Le Cinque Terre. Small ferries between the Gulf of Poets villages run mainly in summer. It’s a scenic drive around the peninsula between the Magra River and the sea, as well as up into the interior.

Gragnola

Terrace-view-to-castleThe closest village to Casa Lucia, just ten minutes away, is Gragnola. This tiny village has a train station (with a regular service from the surrounding villages, Aulla and Lucca), a small well-stocked supermarket with wonderful selection of fresh breads, artisanal cheeses and meats, a pharmacy, post office, bank, and a couple of coffee shops. Above the village, and clearly visible from Casa Lucia, is the Castello dell’Aquila – ‘Eagle’s Castle’ – a spectacular 13th century castle with a long and fascinating history. Restored to glory, this magnificent castle has been used recently as a romantic wedding venue.

Fivizzano

VerrucolaThe town of Fivizzano, just fifteen minutes away from Casa Lucia over the hill is nestled in valley that extends from the Appenines to the Apuan Alps. Historically, Fivizzano has always been an important centre of the Lunigiana region and the castles, churches, and noble palaces are testament to its long and distinguished history. Fivizzano gave itself to the Medici family in the fifteenth century. The walls of Fivizzano were erected by order of Cosimo de Medici in 1540, and the baroque font of the main square was constructed for Cosimo III in 1683. Every summer in July, Fivizzano is home to a medieval archery festival, Disfida degli arceri di terra e di corte, a colourful and charming event at which people dress in medieval clothes, stallholders cook and sell all types of traditional foods, and music fills the warm summer air. Fivizzano has many amenities, including a supermarket, bakery, fishmonger, butcher, gas station, post office, banks, pharmacy, a hospital, and many restaurants and coffee bars.

Beyond the walls of Fivizzano lies the village of Verrucola and its spectacular castle. Nearby are the Romanesque church of Saint Paul of Vendaso and the village of Soliera with the sanctuary of the Madonna of the Necks, the village of Sassalbo, and the Botanical Garden of the Frignoli. About 30 to 40 minutes drive from Fivizzano are many other beautiful medieval towns, such as Pontremoli, Villefranca in Lunigiana, Cassola, Bagnone, and Sarzana.

Sarzana

sarzana-culturaThe town of Sarzana, about forty minutes drive from Casa Lucia, is a pretty town with an abundance of elegant shops, a weekly outdoor market (in the summer months), and good restaurants. Sarzana was founded in 1202 as the successor to the ancient Etruscan city of Luni. The town has remains of its 15th century walls, the Cittadella, and a white marble cathedral in Italian Gothic style (13th century; completed in 1474), containing a painted crucifix from Luni (by Guillelmus, 1138), the earliest dated panel painting in Italy. To the north of the town stands the picturesque castle of Sarzanello.

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