August 2, 2016
A month has passed since I first discovered the beauty and elegance of Liguria. And I miss it every day!
My first introduction to this region along the Ligurian Sea in northwest Italy occurred in the sleepy community of Tellaro followed by time in Portovenere. More on these towns in another post.
When it was time to say farewell to Portovenere, my new friend Elisa Sambuceti picked me up from my hotel and whisked me away on my weekend adventure in Sestri Levante and surrounding areas. Elisa represents Hotel Grande Albergo in Sestri Levante. And she is an excellent travel companion and guide.
Elisa is fluent in English but always encouraged me to speak Italian too. She made me feel at home from the first moment I met her. We loaded my luggage into the boot of her car and headed for Cinque Terre.
Believe it or not I have never been to Cinque Terre (5 lands). I tend to avoid really busy towns filled with tourists unless it is filled with art. I am so glad Elisa insisted I get a flavor of these 5 lands. We began our journey in Riomaggiore. It was still early in the day and there were few tourists about. The walk down to the sea was spectacular.
We had un caffe’ e un dolce (espresso and a sweet roll) overlooking the water before continuing our walk about.
The small side streets were gorgeous too.
The walk back uphill to our car was difficult for me as I had hurt my knee. It was worth a bit of discomfort however. And the passion Elisa has for Cinque Terre enhanced the entire day.
It was approaching lunch time and Elisa had a plan for our meal. We left Riomaggiore behind and ventured into the green hills (They looked like mountains to me!) above the sea and headed for another Cinque Terre town, Corniglia. The drive was a bit harrowing for me. The lanes are narrow. Elisa would honk her horn so approaching cars would know someone else was on the road. We needed to move over to the edge on a few occasions. Photo op!
And another photo op.
The drive to Corniglia was unbelievable. I am glad Elisa was in the driver’s seat, however.
It was unseasonably warm that day. And the sun shone brightly as we approached the town.
The town square was so small and inviting. Hardly anyone was wandering in the heat. We walked along side streets for a few minutes before heading up the main street where we would enjoy a fantastic meal at La Posada of Corniglia.
Elisa is a regular visitor here and knows Chef Christian well.
He assisted us in our selections. We enjoyed Antipasti Misti di Mare I believe plus the vongole (clams), bread, wine and beer.
It was all wonderful. I enjoyed the raw fish almost as much as the view.
La Posada also has an apartment hotel across the street from the restaurant. Check it out next time you go to Cinque Terre.
After Corniglia, we drove the back roads again to Monterosso al Mare for a walk along the beach to the old town.
We did not visit the other two towns of Cinque Terre. I will return.
On to Hotel Grande Albergo (www.hotelgrandalbergo.it) through the hills once again. As we approached the hotel location the beauty of the city captured my heart. The majority of Sestri Levante is on the water. There are two beautiful swimming areas you reach from the hotel simply by crossing the street for one and a little walk to the other. The temperature was warm but not overwhelmingly hot and the sea breeze was refreshing.
Hotel Grande Albergo was once the Palazzo Giustiniani, the home of the local bishop. It was converted to a hotel in the late 19th century. It has retained its elegance yet offers many modern features I appreciate. The pool on the top floor with views of the sea is so refreshing. A workout area and massages are available too.
Breakfast at the attached indoor/outdoor restaurant is quite good. The restaurant itself, Delfino Bianco (White Dolphin), is a pleasure for dinner too. It features most local specialties and a great assortment of wines and spirits. I loved it.
The view from my balcony. I could have sat here day or night. I was hooked on the view.
Our second day’s adventure began with a walk about in Sestri Levante itself. The city has numerous restaurants and shops, fruit stands and pasticerrias. What it did not have was many American tourists. There were plenty of Italian families here for a bit of vacation and I did hear some German spoken. But very few tourists from the USA. For me, I find that cities like this are more enjoyable as they have not changed who they are to cater to the US clientele.
Next we hopped into Elisa’s trusty vehicle and drove to the hangout of the Rich and famous, Portovino. Along this drive we saw other lovely vacation cities such as Lavagna, Rapallo, and Santa Margherita. I could stay in any of them but upon approach to Portofino I realized we were traveling to another level of summer luxury.
The heart of the city adjoined the marina where huge pleasure boats and little water taxis parked. Everywhere we looked we saw opulence, cleanliness and everyone ha fatto una bella figura! (Everyone looked good in true Italian fashion.)
We selected an outdoor café for a cool beverage and aperitivo. I could have sat there all day. Elisa informed me that Berlusconi owned a home here and you often saw his son traveling through the town on his motorcycle. We would see his home on our way out of town.
It was time to say goodbye to Portofino.
And return to Hotel Grande Albergo. We passed by Chiaveri where I would like to live along with Levagna.
We took a bit of time to ourselves and met for dinner at Delfino Bianco at 9pm. We joined a party of divers who were also working with Elisa and what a great evening we had.
It is all part of my falling in love with this area. It is my new happy place. Next year I hope to rent an apartment near Sestri Levante and learn all about Liguria and the deep blue sea here.
Sestri Levante and Hotel Grande Albergo are authentically Ligurian-Italian. And with its location half-way between Genoa and La Spezia, it is a more peaceful alternative for lodgings than in the heart of Cinque Terre. You can visit by train or car quite easily from here. I urge you to check it out. I promise you won’t be disappointed. Meet me there. Andiamo! Let’s go!
Ciao for now!
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