Leaving the beautiful landscapes of Tuscany behind us, country lanes are abandoned for the main highway where all roads lead to the next leg of our adventures road tripping around Northern Italy. We are setting Footsteps on the Ligurian Coast, part of the Italian Riviera. Buzzing with excitement because the next few days will be spent exploring the once hidden gems but now famous colourful fishing villages perched atop the cliffs that adorn the Ligurian coastline. Cinque Terre (pronounced chinkweh thherreh) with the rolllll of the Italian tongue, is our next destination, but there is one last stop before we exit Tuscany. We couldn’t exactly leave without visiting Pisa, could we?
First stop: Pisa
Pisa is incredibly touristy, and the only reason I say this is because this is where alllll the tourists in Italy seemed to be hanging out! I had become accustomed to the solitude of Tuscany and her wine routes! Not that I am complaining, just making an observation. You know you have stumbled upon a tourist spot when all you see before you enter a site are little kiosk upon kiosk selling the same souvenirs even before you get to the main attraction!
I know, I know, fellow wanderlusters that there is more to Pisa than just the tower, but then again, this time round all M and I wanted was to see this monument and then be on our merry way to Liguria. And get my fix of this I did, amidst the throngs of ipads, selfie sticks and people trying to take THAT shot of trying to push the tower over! But, monument: check!
Next – Enter: Portovenere!
Driving along the Ligurian Coast and entering Portovenere is like stepping into the pages of a novel set in another lifetime: Father Time hasn’t quite graced this area quite yet. Portovenere is not considered part of the villages that make up the Cinque Terre, but in hindsight and having visited them all, I must say that the charm of Portovenere is unlike any of the other five.
How did we even stumble upon Portovenere?
Well, when planning our road trip, every blog and guide I read mentioned that there isn’t anywhere to park within the Cinque Terre. This is actually true, however for some reason unbeknownst to me, Portovenere was left out. Anyhoo, this lack of parking dilemma had M and I debating on how we were going to drive into Liguria: options at that point included possibly leaving our car at the station in Pisa for this leg of our travels. Or, shock horror, even abandon the idea of going into Cinque Terre! It is true that when you really want something, the Universe conspires with you to get it. A bit more delving, and lo and behold: we stumbled upon Portovenere and the holy grail of road trips: a hotel WITH parking! I swear I heard Angels sing! Hallelujah!
There is literally one main street from the moment you enter Liguria that takes you around the windy cliffs of the coastline, alongside the sparkling blue waters of the Ligurian sea and straight into the parking garage of the hotel! Couldn’t be more perfect than that!
Oh, Portovenere…talk about Gorgeous!
Portovenere is so pretty. Postcard pretty. The kind of pretty that makes you sigh with happiness and make you want to stay a while. And if I were a full time blogger, this is a place where I could easily have spent a couple of weeks, just steeping my soul in the prettiness and charm of the little, picturesque maritime village.
The one big hotel out here is the stuff dreams are made of: luxury heaven with boundless views across the blue sea, boats and yachts bobbing around in its marina. Colourful houses line the single strip from end to end along the marina, like a rainbow coloured parade. Shops, cafes and restaurants have their tables and chairs spilling onto the pavement from where you have the most perfect view of the marina and the sea beyond. Behind this row of colourful buildings lie narrow, interlinked cobblestone streets that are lined from end to end with the cutest shops selling all kinds of paraphernalia. I am in Wanderlust heaven just ambling around and soaking it all in.
The home of REAL Pesto
Liguria, and specifically Genoa its capital, is the home of Pesto: the green pasta sauce made from basil leaves and pine nuts. Now, up until I ate Pesto in Liguria, I must say I didn’t have much of a taste for this sauce mainly because I am lazy and my version came out of a jar bought from the supermarket. Out in Portovenere, I indulged in the Ligurian signature pasta dish: trophie coated in oodles of freshly made Pesto, and until I literally wolfed this dish down I honestly didn’t know what I had been missing out on! The saddest thing is that I can’t get or replicate that taste anywhere, and I have even stopped being lazy and tried making it from scratch and even that doesn’t come close to the Ligurian recipe!
Consumed by Wanderlust
It could have been the ambience around me as I savoured this dish: simple but comforting and so more-ish whilst sat outside on the street on a small blue chair, at a restaurant that made this fresh on demand, on a warm summer night. The alleyway was cosily lit up, a warm glow being cast onto the cobblestones by the lamps overhead. I could hear the sound of the waves crashing on the cliffs: and I was sat in a place that was once the stuff of my dreams and a figment of my imagination. I had to pinch myself to confirm I was really here. This to me, IS the epitome of Wanderlust. I don’t want to get all poetic here and you know I have a tendency to ramble on somewhat, but my dear Wanderluster, if there is one place that should be on your ever growing WanderLustList it should be Portovenere. And, when you visit, please make sure that fresh, home-made trophie coated with oodles of freshly made pesto sauce is on your culinary list of things to eat. I promise you that your taste buds will thank you! Life is sweeter with dessert, and there is nothing more romantic than getting some bacci gelato (the Italian version of Ferrero Rocher), and savouring every creamy, nutty, chocolatey spoonful whilst ambling along the marina graced by a starry sky. Sigh.
Lord Byrons Cove
It is easy to see how poets like Lord Byron were inspired to create great literary works in such stunning surroundings. Further up from the colourful buildings of Portovenere lies Lord Byron’s Grotto, where the poet would go and meditate. With the waves crashing against the cliff, their surf spraying you as you watch the tide ebb and flow and the sun sink into orange nothingness, one could be easily forgiven for the thought that you too could pen words that could inspire someone to the extent that a published Poet did!
I truly loved every moment of being in Portovenere: it really is the perfect mix of quaint, rustic beauty mixed with a touch of luxury. Thank you as always dear Wanderlusters, for spending a part of your day with me as I reminisce about my time in Liguria. Join me in my upcoming post as I explore the villages of the Cinque Terre! Until next time, xoxo.
-On Entry into the Leaning Tower of Pisa
We managed to find parking in a paid lot very close to the Tower. Your GPS usually has details of parking lots and that’s how we found ours. There is no entry fee into the Field of Miracles, where you can view the Leaning Tower and other monuments for free on the outside. You can however go inside the Tower but you have to purchase a ticket and visit at an allotted time. Sadly we didn’t have enough time and so opted out of this.
Cost of entry into the Tower: Euro 18 per person, however tickets are limited. *Price correct at the time of publishing this blog however as always, please do your own research as prices are subject to change.
-On the Road to Portovenere
We drove along the A12 from Pisa to La Spezia and then had our GPS direct us to our hotel from La Spezia. It is a pretty straightforward road and incredibly scenic.