I Get Around
To Coast (v.i.)
At the other end of the Cinque Terre region, for all intents and purposes farthest from Sestri Levante in the village line-up, is La Spezia. While somewhat less touristy than its better-advertised neighbors up the coastline, this town has a quiet, bustling character of its own—self-assured, going about the daily business of being a community of residents whose generations have thrived here.
We spent a week here, quite happily, a few years ago.
Like many downtowns in Italy, you will find the street patterns have been shaped to accommodate actual lives being lived out here. There's plenty of room to walk, separated from the hazards of ever present cars and trucks. A refreshing mode of doing a city.
Seductive, even, to a visiting American.
You will either love or hate the rail system here. It's the most direct and economical way to get anyplace along the Ligurian coast. The practical California-alternative, of course, would be to dynamite intervening mountains and enable five-lane freeways to be poured over the entire length.
Thank God that impractical people have prevailed here, at least.
Portovenere (yes, the Port of Venus) is as tony a suburb as the name suggests. Its monied shops and plazas beckon from the northern edge of La Spezia's harbor entrance. And it is beautiful; several Romantic Era movers and shakers swooned here; P.B. Shelley drowned in these waters. The Gulf of Poets still beckons.
Trudging past Tabacchi shops with their endless racks of postcards and cell phone refills, past sidewalk eateries whose aromas should have been patented decades ago... past the cutest little boutique handbag stash in the corner building, even, the wild or semi-wild hinterland awaits. Trails, miles of them, many with steep parts and all with spectacular views that can only be enjoyed when venturing forth.
These little boats rock and nod their prows endlessly in Manarola's little harbor. Their gentle voices speak to me. Happy words.