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23 September 2013

Going Around the Italian & French Riviera (Part 2): Lerici, Portovenere, Sarzana,Tellaro & Vezzano Ligure

Well it's about time, I know. All sequels have a certain turtle-like pace in coming out anyway so I am using that reason for my delay.  Patience is a virtue and the act of waiting is rewarded with something good. That's what I was always being told when I was young because I was Ms. Impatience myself. The group of towns I shared in the post about the First Part of the Italian & French Riviera are focused on the central part of Liguria. This time, the towns are concentrated on the southern end of the the Italian Riviera, close to its border with Tuscany.

All the towns in this post have their own particular characteristics that make them worthy of a visit. Lerici, Portovenere and Tellaro are along the coast and have small harbors and beaches. Sarzana and Vezzano Ligure are more inland while the latter is a simple hilltop town.

Lerici (pictures above and below, until the food pictures). I can easily recognize this town from its 12th-century castle strategically positioned on the cliff to control the gulf and the boats parked at its harbor. Aside from the picturesque scenery of the town, it had also been popularized by English poets Lord Byron and the Shelleys who lived here, thus, it is also referred to as the Golfo dei Poeti (Gulf of Poets).

I have visited this town twice with a gap of years in-between and I was still captivated by its beauty the second time around. Everything remained the same as the years passed. What am I saying? This town existed from 7th Century B.C.! It's not as busy as the other Italian Riviera towns but it does get throngs of tourists anyway. The piazza (square) in front of the harbor is big with a number of restaurants to choose from. We found one, Ristorante Il Frantoio (where we ate well) in one of the main alleys which you will see as you scroll down the pictures. Lerici is also a good departure point to see the Cinque Terre and Portovenere with their frequent ferry service. Go to the site of Consorzio Marittimo Turistico to see the schedules.

Tellaro (pictures below). On our way to Lerici, we saw a sign that leads to Tellaro. It was not in our list of towns to visit but as soon as we saw the sign of Borghi Più Belli d'Italia, it became obligatory in my list. Any town under the wing of Borghi Più Belli d'Italia (Most Beautiful Villages in Italy) merits a visit because it is an association that gives importance to beautiful small Italian towns with strong artistic and historical interest. 

Tellaro is one of the towns in the Gulf of Poets where famous poets found inspiration in writing. I thought to myself, if I am immersed in such a beautiful and simple fishing village, I would be so inspired to write something too, sitting in front of the sea, eating freshly-caught fish and enjoying the silence of nature. The outside world wouldn't have existed anymore.

Vezzano Ligure (pictures below). This small, hilltop town was a nice find. We stayed here for the night to cut the long drive back from France to Rome. It's at the southern end of the Italian Riviera, almost at the border of Tuscany. Arriving at dusk, we went up the winding roads uphill to reach our hotel. The town is very small with just a couple of restaurants (at least the ones we saw), and a few cobblestoned alleys. In daylight, we were rewarded with a more beautiful view from the town's tower and nice quiet square. 

Portovenere (pictures below). A town with exemplary beauty. I've been there twice over the years. Once inside the ancient walls and once outside the walls from the sea. Both times, with different perspectives of the town, I was simply amazed at how much it withstood time. Its beauty continues to fascinate people from different eras. The 12th-century gothic Church of St. Peter (in the pictures) and the Doria Castle are among the monuments to be seen. Along with the Cinque Terre, Portovenere was also designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

The pictures of Portovenere (and Sarzana) that I am sharing with you were taken in the past years during my past trips around Italy. They are a bit grainy, using older cameras, but just the same, I know you can still see the beauty of the subjects. Portovenere is a place to see when you are at the Italian Riviera. The town is accessible by road, rail and sea. Ferries depart from Lerici, La Spezia and the Cinque Terre.

Sarzana (pictures below). The pictures are from my past trip with an old camera so please excuse the quality. This town is more inland but it doesn't mean it that it cannot compare to the other seaside towns of Liguria or the Italian Riviera. Sarzana is known for its fortress. It is strategically positioned at the entrance of the valley of Magra where it held an important military position during the Middle Ages. 

I hope you liked this Second Part. If you haven't read the First Part yet, please click on this link to get to know the towns of Portofino, Santa Margherita Ligure, Rapallo & Camogli. I am ending this series on a third post (or maybe even fourth!) with the remaining towns on the northern side of the Italian Riviera and a couple of towns of the French Riviera. Soon!

Enjoy your weekend!