Buongiorno a tutti,
I hope you’re all well. Following on from my post earlier in the week recounting Leg 1 of my Italian Tour, here’s what we did in Leg 2…
Santa Margherita is a lovely town on the Ligurian coastline. Despite having two nights in an apartment not far from the center we didn’t spend too much time there. Our first evening, we went out for an aperitivo and dinner followed by a refreshing night swim. This kind of behaviour is frowned upon by almost all Italians because a) they believe you will die if you swim after eating and b) it was night and so therefore ‘cold’ (it wasn’t really) and consequently you will get some terrible illness as a result. I’m pleased to say though that it was fabulous and neither of us died or contracted a terrible illness.
The next day we had an unexpected stop in Sestri Levante as our train was delayed on the way to the Cinque Terre. It’s a nice little town with a cute shopping street but the thing that sticks out for me most in that town were the trompe l’oeil effect paintwork on almost all of the buildings. It was so realistic that in order to work out whether the shutters were real or painted or the walls were bricks or flat concrete, you had to change your angle or get up close enough to touch it. Of the pictures below, only the windows and shutters are real. I was very impressed and would love to give it a go when my house eventually gets rebuilt!
The thing we really wanted to explore was the Cinque Terre. I’d been there once before a few years ago (read about it here). Cinque Terre literally means “five lands” which refer to the five colourful little towns dotted along the lush green coastline. There are several ways to explore it. They’re not easily reached by car so the best ways are by train, walking or boat.
The trains run reasonably often between all the towns and are cheap. There’s a walking route which joins all the towns but unfortunately due to a landslide a few years back there’s a couple of sections that now you can’t walk. They are planning to repair them though and rumour has it that it will be ready for 2020.
We were limited on time and we both love the sea so we decided to go on a boat trip. We were slightly disappointed by the masses of people on the trip we did in Amalfi so this time we decided on a smaller boat tour from one of the towns, Riomaggiore, by a company called Cinqueterre dal Mare. We were glad we did. The beauty of the smaller boat tour was that with only 6 of us in total it was a lot more personal, we stopped off and went for a swim a couple of times, used their phone chargers and put our drinks in their fridge. It was a great way to see the towns too. We stopped off in Vernazza for an ice-cream and finished the tour in Manarola followed by an amazing aperitivo overlooking the town in a lovely bar/restaurant called Nessun Dorma. We could have stayed there all evening but there was quite the queue to get in!
The following day we drove to Portofino just 20 minutes up the coast from Santa Margherita.
It has to be the nicest stretch of coastline I’ve ever seen and is home to some of the nicest boats I’ve ever seen too. The road snakes around numerous bays and the water is so clear you can almost see the fish swimming by as you’re driving. We wanted to stop off at the public beach / bay in Paraggi but there was unfortunately no parking and we were limited on time. On reflection we should have walked to it in the early morning from Santa Margherita or taken the bus. It looked absolutely idyllic (not the private beach mind, which was filled to the brim with sunbeds and umbrellas).
From there we headed to Pisa to catch a flight to Cagliari in Sardinia. We got there in plenty of time for the flight so as a good tourist, I made sure to prop up the tower. Pisa is tiny! I imagined it was a big city like Florence or Siena but it’s not like that at all.
We got to Cagliari in the evening and headed to our apartment at Poetto beach, a very long stretch of wide sandy beach dotted with beach bars and restaurants.
I didn’t warm to Cagliari as a city, though admittedly we only had one evening wandering around the streets and old town. The locals are very proud of their city so I can’t help but think I was missing something!
I did discover a great new pasta dish though which is impossible to pronounce, Culurgiones. In my attempts to pronounce it, I come out with ‘coglioni’ which means testicles. Not wanting to order testicles (I’m vegetarian!), I usually settled for doing the typical tourist thing of pointing to the item on the menu. They’re like ravioli but filled with cheesy potato goodness.
The other thing to try is a ‘dolce’ called Seadas (pronounced say-ah-das). It’s a fried pastry filled with cheese and then covered in honey.
To continue with our boat theme, the following day we had a trip around the coastline on a sailing yacht. There’s something special about sailing and it was nice to finish our trip on a high like that. We sailed to a bay an hour or two down the coast and then dropped anchor for lunch, a swim (or 5) and a sunbathe on the boat. All in all it was a great experience but by then I was spoilt by the Ligurian coastline and in my opinion the Sardinian coastline (around Cagliari at least) is dry and characterless in comparison! If we were staying for longer, we’d have hired a car and perhaps explored the Emerald Coast which is supposed to be more impressive.
That about sums up Leg 2 of our trip. If you’ve been to any of the places I’ve mentioned and/or got any thoughts about them I’d be interested to hear!
In other news, on the weekend of the 13th/14th October, I’ll be selling my artwork at the Sapore D’Autunno (Taste of Autumn) festa in Montefalcone if anyone is local and fancies popping by!