26.05.2015 - 26.05.2015
We leave Siena today for La Spezia (the Cinque Terre coast). I only went to Siena out of duty because Bill was keen to go. It exceeded all my expectations and I am so glad we went. We went for breakfast to a Patisserie, recommended by the manager of the apartment (who was very helpful even getting us a 10% discount on our meal last night), which was just up the road. It was a classy patisserie - a lot of the people who came in were quite classy too (including us)! We had sandwich pizza and pastries (very nice) with great coffee. We then hit the road. We drove on a B road through “Castellina in Chianti” and “Greve in Chianti” – these are delightful towns. It was a windy road through the most beautiful countryside with vineyards, villages and green forests etc. We stopped for a few photo shots. We kept passing the same cyclist on the road, we would pass him and then stop for a photo shot and he would pass us. If he hadn’t noticed us stopped for photos he must have thought there are a lot of orange Jeeps around today! Note for David – lots of bikers use this road. No doubt because it has lots of bends, is hilly and is very scenic. David would really enjoy cycling in this area. This brought us to the outskirts of Florence and then towards the coast. As we came near the coast the countryside became very rugged with steep forest clad hills. We passed near Carrara which has been famous for marble from ancient times. You could see the marble quarries in the hills behind.
We then came to La Spezia (a city about the same size as Toowoomba) on the northern coast of Italy. It is located at the head of the Gulf of La Spezia. It is difficult to work out streets in Italy for us English speaking people, and that’s where the Tomtom is indispensable - we would never have found our accommodation without it. Our apartment was located high up on the steep hills which surround La Spezia and has great views of the mountain range to the north and the La Spezia harbour. The narrow road to the apartment winds up the steep hill – I lost count of the hairpin bends.
The owners of the apartment are a very friendly elderly Italian couple who speak just a little English. It was interesting communicating with them – but we succeeded. The apartment is very nice with a queen sized bed and a single bed in a large room and a well-appointed kitchen and dining room. We are very pleased with the accommodation.
After we settled in Andrew and Bill went of shopping to a shopping centre in La Spezia. They bought items for dinner tonight. They reported that it is a shopping centre along the lines of Chermside etc. and were quite impressed by it.
After they got back, at about 6.00pm we went out to visit Portovenere (or is it Porto Venere) which is located on the tip of the southern arm of the Gulf of La Spezia. Because of the steep hills in the area access to towns in the area is limited and roads tend to be congested.
Two problems in this area are steep hills and parking. The tendency is to grab the first parking spot you find and generally it is up high and means you have to walk down a lot of steps or down a steep road to get to the villages. We did just that, only to find there was a lot of parking available beside the sea. It is a very pretty area. The town looks over the Gulf of La Spezia and across to the Island of Palmaria which has a lot of history attached to it. It is very scenic looking across to the island. We walked along the foreshore (with its crystal clear water) and came to Byron’s Grotto. This is a rugged area which looks out on the Mediterranean Sea – there are cliffs and grottos (sea caves) – very picturesque. Apparently Lord Byron (the poet) used to meditate at this point. Apparently he also swam from this point across the Gulf of La Spezia to Lerici (7.5 km) to pay a visit to another poet named Shelly. This has become the basis of an annual swimming race. Beside the area is the ancient Church of St Peter. There are also the ruins of a castle and some old mill buildings. It is a fascinating place. Bill went into overdrive with his camera taking photos of the area.
We left when it was getting dark (nearly 9.00pm) and came back to the apartment. Andrew prepared a pasta dish for dinner tonight – it was delicious. He is a very good cook.
So a lot of travelling today – but it was great to visit Portovenere.