La Spezia / Cinqueterre

On Monday we drove down to La Spezia.

We quickly deposited our luggage at the hotel and then went on a tour of the Cinqueterre, a coast region that has been declared a national park, and for a good reason.

The landscape is beautiful, consisting of many green hills that descend very steeply into the sea. There is a small winding road high up.

Here's a view on Riomaggiore:

If you want to visit one of the villages you have to drive down another, even smaller road until you come to the inevitable parking lot for visitors. Then you walk down the little streets towards the shore.

The first village we visited was Manarola. Like all of them it is located in a valley and the houses go up on each side. The small river in the middle is covered by the main street. With the dark volcanic rocks, the blue water, the colorful houses and the green hills you get a picture that is just incredibly beautiful! We walked up and down and probably took far too many pictures.

Then we continued and just as we were halfway down to Vernazza we noticed that our car was running out of gas. So we asked for the next station - which was in Levanto, approximately 18 kilometers away. And the most direct way was along a road that was theoretically closed. "Just drive very slowly!" the man said....

Well, we wouldn't have gone fast anyway. Most of the road was just wide enough for one car and we wouldn't want to know what would have happened if we had crossed another car.

It was even worse because last October during very heavy rains parts of the hillside had slided down and had either covered the road with debris (which was of course cleaned away by now) or taken the valley side of the road with it (which they were still in the progress of fixing).

But in the end we made it to Levanto, filled our tank and had a short look around. But besides a beach which was not much in use yet there didn't seems to be much to see.

So we turned around to go back up the hill and then down in the next bay to Monterosso al Mare. Now this was another village worth the visit!

Although you could also see here that the October flood had damaged the village. Every second house had photographs on the wall outside that showed how it had been affected by the waters that had come down the hill and all the wood and earth it had brought along.

But they were doing repair works everywhere and a lot had already been restored.
There's also one of the typical black-and-white churches:

Down by the little beach it was business as usual - which means only few people at this time of the year. Even though the sun was shining from a blue sky it was very windy and only about 22 degrees celsius.

We had a snack and then walked around the rocks to the next beach which was longer.

Neptun holding the balcony...

Every now and then a train came through. Yes, they had actually once built a train route that goes mostly through tunnels and connects all of the villages on the coast - this or the boats would probably a faster way to visit them than by car!

On the way home we drove on the other side of the hills which was also very beautiful. We parked the car by the hotel and then walked directly into La Spezia.

This being a bigger town it has a much different feeling than the villages on the coast but it's also very beautiful with big, elaborately decorated buildings.
It has a large pedestrian area with lots of little shops. As if we hadn't been walking enough all day long we went around for over 2 more hours, including some of the stairs that go up the steep hillside.

In the end we went to a cozy small Osteria for some risotto and fish.
I was already totally exhausted and thankfully it was close to the hotel where I collapsed in bed soon after that.