04 Jan THE ITALIAN RIVIERA AND APPENNINES ITINERARY
ITALIAN RIVIERA DRIVING ITINERARY
Sparkling waters lap the Ligurian Coast. Beach resorts, tiny fishing harbours, hidden coves and exquisite Portofino all vie for attention with the famous five villages of the Cinque Terre, where the colourful mosaics of houses tumble down steep cliffs to the sea. Inland lies a landscape of ancient hamlets and shady dry-stone terraces of vines, olives and aromatic basil. Italian Riviera has always been my favourite place in Italy, I can still remember the good smell of homemade focaccia arriving from the little bakeries hidden in the historical narrow roads. In contrast, the Ligurian Apennines are a world apart – one of Medieval Castles and Agricultural villages set among lakes, meadow and chestnut forests, where sheep graze peacefully and horses are still used to log timber.
Where to go. Here I picked the best villages that you can’t miss.
Camogli: Steeped in seafaring tradition and once rivalling Genova in naval power, the town acquired its name, Casa Mogli ( house of Wives), because the menfolk spent so much of their time at the sea. The CaseTorri, the colourful houses up to the seven storeys high, threaded with steep alleyways that are the hallmark of the fishing villages of the Levante coast, are stacked up from the picturesque harbour. Best time to visit Camogli is during the fish Festival in May, the harbour becomes the scene of a festive fry-up when thousand of fish are cooked in a giant pan and distributed free to the crowd. Very interesting the Museo Marinaro that separates the busy harbour from the beach, the museum is full of model of ships, paintings and naval instruments. In Camogli, you can find a lot of restaurants, one of my favourite very traditional is “La Cucina di Nonna Nina”, whether dining in the blue and white rooms or outside in the garden, visitor’s can really enjoy the best of Liguria’s cuisine. Next step is Portofino, head north out of Camogli to Via Aurelia/SP1, then turn right. Fork right onto the SP39, then right again on SP227 and enjoy a stunning view along to the coast to Portofino.
Portofino: Even those without a luxury yacht anchored in the enchanting harbour can appreciate Portofino earned its reputation as one of Italy’s most romantic spots. Window shopping at Missoni and Dior and people watching from a waterside cafe’ may be a draw for many, but for the most gorgeous views, walk to the Castello Brown, one of my dream spot, up in the pines on the Peninsula. The British consul, gave his name to this 16th-century castle when he lived here in the 1980s. Faro, the old lighthouse as the Punta del Capo, Art lovers should visit the Museo del Parco. Take the SP227 north to Rapallo.
Rapallo: The grand hotels and villas lining Rapallo’s lungomare still recall the 19th-century aristocrats and literati, among them Max Beerbohm and Ezra Pound, who were attracted by the town’s inviting climate and location. Along the shore, past the ruined 16th-century castle jutting out into the sea, the ochre Villa Tigullio houses the Museo del Merletto, where drawers full of lace reflect the town’s past history of lace-making. Museo Gaffoglio holds an eclectic collection of Meissein porcelain. For the best view of the area, take a ride up the funivia ( cable car) from Piazza Solari to the striped and pinnacled Santuario di Montallegro, which houses a Byzantine icon said to possess miraculous powers. My favourite place to eat is Osteria O Bansin, you can enjoy delicious traditional fish dishes. Take the SP1 towards Genova and, from Recco, turn right onto SP333. At Gattorna, take SP21 to Torriglia.
Torriglia: a 30-minute drive on a steep and twisting road leads from the coast up to the chestnut forest, lake and villages of the Ligurian Apennines. Torriglia’s main sight is its castle, perched high above the town. The area is known for its porcini mushrooms and canestrelli biscuits. If you want to eat a delicious tagliatelle ai porcini mushroom please have a pit-stop at Taverna dei Fieschi restaurant, enjoy also chestnuts, wild boar and canestrelli. Take the uphill rod north to SP15-1 and turn left and left again, following brown signs to Pentenna have a pit-stop in this little village of stone houses, then drive head back to Torriglia until meeting SP15-1, then turn right just before tunnel, following the signed to Lago del Brunetto and Park near the dam. The lake makes a good stopping point for a peaceful and undemanding walk. Drive throught Fontanigorda and Borzonasca. Next stop is Sestri Levante.
Sestri Levante: Hans Christian Andersen enjoyed his visit here in 1933 so much that the town named the sandy beach Baia delle Favole ( Bay of Fairy Tales). On the other side of the peninsula along which this popular and cheerful resort clusters, lies the more intimate Baia del Silenzio, with its fleet of fishing boats and coloured houses. Close by, the Galleria Rizzi re-creates a palazzo interior of the 19th century, including engaging works of art such as still-lies by Baroque painter Felice Boselli. The fascinating main road Via XXV Aprile/Corso Colombo is a great place for a typical Italian “Passeggiata” with interesting shops and eateries.
Next stops are Bonassola, Levanto with the best beach in the area – long and sandy – and good opportunities for kayaking and surfing. Levanto is also a good entry point for Cinque Terre ( five lands). Monterosso al mare, it is the first village of Cinque Terre and the only one to be built on the flat. Vernazza, regarded by many as one of Italy’s most perfect villages, Vernazza’s pastel- and earth coloured houses, strewn with washing, crowd the little piazzetta that fronts the natural harbour. Take the time to visit Chiesa Santa Margherita d’Antochia and Castello Doria. Head out of the town on SP63 and follow SP61 and SP30 to Corniglia, have a pit-stop in the lovely Enoteca Il Pirun, after sampling a glass or two of the local wine in this cosy wine bar, head upstairs for a bite to eat. Your last stop will be Rio Maggiore.
Rio Maggiore: named after the Rio Major (Main River) that now flows underground between houses clinging to the steep-sided ravine, Riomaggiore is a good place to start walking the Cinque Terre trail. There are great views on the climb to the 14th-century Santuario di Montenero.
Best car for this experience: ALFA ROMEO C4
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Source by: Eyewitness book