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July 10th 2015
Published: July 10th 2015
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Tuesday 7thJuly Massa to Sestri Levante 48 miles

Red road through the traffic jammed towns, up over mountains or Motorway? We did the Motorway, still quite scenic with lots of little villages perched on hill tops, and we got to the campsite about 10.15am!

Really needed a chill out day so stayed around the campsite chatting with our new neighbours until lunchime, then walked into Sestri Levante, a very pretty little seaside town and got information about the Cinque Terre. (ACSI Camping Fossa Lupara )

Wednesday 8th July Cinque Terre 0 miles

This was the last part of our Italian trip and we wanted to explore the Cinque Terre, which is basically a group of five villages, that peasant farmers who painstakingly terraced the hillsides and planted grapevines over the last millenium. The villages are either hidden in rocky coves or clinging to precipitous cliffs – all in a National Park! Unfortunately it is too hot to do much walking, so we joined the tourists, bought a cinque terre card for 12 euros – this gives unlimited hiking and train travel between Monterosso and La Spezia, and took the train from Sestri Lavante to Monterosso at an extra cost of 7.00 euros each return. The train runs right along the coast and most of it is in tunnels so you don’t see very much at all! The Italians certainly love their tunnels!

Monterosso is tucked into a bay on the east of Cinque Terre and is the largest of the five villages with a population of 1,800. It is in two halves, separated by a tunnel and is a very pleasant place to wander around with its touristy shops and beach promenades. Caught the ferry from the jetty to our next village Riomaggiore, calling in at two of the remaining villages.

This is a sort of V shaped village with the harbour at the bottom and the village stringing it’s was up the cliffs either side! Took the elevator up to the top of the village to see the church and the castle – but couldn’t find it! Just the exit!!

Caught the train back to Manarola that just seems to hang onto the cliff (ok – so we went back to Monterosso on the fast train by mistake first!!) Another very pretty village and we spent a fair bit of time just wandering around the streets and the harbour! Had a look at Lovers walk but unfortunately this was closed

Onto Corniglia on the train (4mins!) and to get to the village (90 metres above the sea!) you have to walk up 365 steps! It’s not actually too bad, as the gradients are quite gentle and at the top you are rewarded with another, really old village, with a couple of nice churches and some tiny back streets to wander.

Our last stop was Vernazza, which is probably the prettiest harbour of them all! A really shabby-chic look with tall houses, faded red, pinks, oranges, all with green shutters – a church, lots of boats and a square with brightly coloured umbrellas- all very cramped!! It would make a lovely jigsaw! Walked up to a tower for the views (Chris climbed it – I didn’t!!) before having our dinner overlooking the harbour!

Train back to Sesti Levante and taxi back to campsite (luxury!!) (ACSI Camping Fossa Lupara)

Thursday 9th July Sestri Levante to Portofino to Sestri Levante 0 miles

Boat trip time again!! Our destination this time was Portofino with a detour to San Fruttuoso. The sea was rough – well there were about 6’ swells so we had a few drenchings on the way, and it was touch and go whether we would be able to dock at San Fruttuoso, but I’m glad we did! It doesn’t take long to explore as there is just an abbey there, dating back over a thousand years with a Tower that was added in the 16th Century by the Doria family! There is also supposed to be a 1954 bronze statue of Christ of the Sea, eight fathoms deep, off the headland, in honour of the divers who have lost their lives and to protect those still working beneath the waves! Needless to say, we didn’t see it! It could have been too rough or too deep – we don’t know!!

Onto Portofino, which is definitely in my top ten list of prettiest places we have visited! It’s a millionaires playground, that explains why there are so many super-yachts…or it could be they were all visiting for a ‘private event’ at Browns Castle that was closed to the public! An army of workers were taking plants, trees, chandeliers, etc, all day, up to the castle! Had a walk out to the lighthouse and then back into town and thought we would also go to the beach. Back up to the castle and then down one hundred and seventy steps to a few rocks and a stony inlet they called “the public beach”!! Chris had a swim before we went back into town for some people watching and ice cream!

Friday 10th July Sestri Levante to Portovenere to Sestri Levante 0 miles

We wanted to get out to the end of the peninsular (Portovenere) so after a lazy start we opted to get the train at 9.42am! Unfortunately they had problems with the train and at 10.10 we all had to get off, board another train before setting off, and we eventually reached La Spezia about 11.30am.

Wandered down through the very well signposted main street to the ferry boats and got the 12.00 ferry to Portovenere that takes about 1/2hr. It was another wow moment!!! A tiny peninsular with a church and a castle and the very tall, thin, pastel coloured tower houses lined to form a defensive wall. Tiny boats as well as the super-yachts dotted the water between Portovenere and the Isola Palmaria. We walked out to the church of San Pietro at the very tip of the peninsular, built over old roman ruins, passing on the way Grotto Arpaia, a favourite spot of Lord Byron where he used to come to seek inspiration! The Bay is now also called Baia di Byron (in honour of his swim across to meet fellow poet Shelly apparently).

Walked on up towards the castle, passing the 12th C church San Lorenzo that has a sculpture over the doorway depicting the martyrdom of the saint who was roasted alive on a grill! The castello gives you views of the town and you can see the houses forming the defensive wall. Walked round – nothing special apart from the views before walking back into town! Chris cooled off with a swim in the popular area opposite the tower-houses.

Caught the 15.00 ferry back to La Spezia where we walked through the gardens along the front and then up through the main street! Caught a lift up to the castle to see if there we any views (not really!) before going back to the train station for the 17.00 train (ACSI Camping Fossa Lupara)

Saturday 11th July Sestri Levante 0 miles

Another hot sunny day, so a day off from sight-seeing, time on the beach, swim and evening BBQ. Head off Sunday on the start of our journey home Via Nice & Monte Carlo.

Sunday 12thJuly Sestri Levante to Isolabona 145 miles

This was our last day in Italy so we drove on the motorway, past Genoa, though loads of tunnels into the Western Riveriera – not so pretty as the Cinque Terre area, but still hills with a few villages on! Got off the Motorway at Imperia and followed the coast road to San Remo where we stopped for lunch and then took the road up into the mountains towards Pigna!

Stopped at Dolceacqua (Sweet Water), a place recommended by some people we met at Portofino! It has an old Roman Bridge with a river running underneath and a castle at the top of the old town, but the real surprise is the Old Town itself ! Full of medieval narrow alleys held apart by buttresses, arches and tunnels. The main tiny pathway snakes upwards towards the castle with lots of side alleys to explore! It really is a little gem! Had a look inside the castle (6 euros pp), but its more impressive from the outside!

Chris bought some local Rossese Di Dolceacqua red wine (13.5%) to sample !!

Onwards to Isolabona and the campsite where we stopped for the night (ACSI Camping Delle Rose page 563 (2698).

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