Italy

Fall in Love Again...With Italy

Manarola, Italy

Manarola, Italy

A visit to Italy is by far one of the most breath-taking experiences that one can make. There are so many exciting places to visit, you wonder to yourself, where do I start? Well if you have never been to Italy and always dreamed of making a trip, well here is what you have awaiting your visit.

Nestled on the Gulf of Poets at the eastern end of Italy’s Ligurian coast, the ancient port city of La Spezia is the perfect jumping off point for countless incredible destinations — like the locally-loved beach towns of Lerici and Fiascherino to the east, and the iconic cliff-side villages of the Cinque Terre to the west. Cultural capitals Pisa, Florence and Genoa are also well within reach. When you have so many options for adventure just a train ride away, it’s easy to overlook La Spezia. But if you can dedicate even a few hours to this bustling, postcard-pretty naval base, you’ll be in for a real treat. Its narrow winding alleys, romantic waterfront promenades, and amazing selection of family-owned trattorias serve up an authentic and refreshing taste of the Italian Riviera that many tourists miss out on.

The Bucket List

Trek the Cinque Terre

As far as seaside cities go, La Spezia is a gem, but it’s best known to travelers as the gateway to the Cinque Terre. The less glitzy, more laid-back little sister of the Amalfi Coast, this rugged stretch of coastline along the Riviera di Levante is home to five impossibly beautiful villages where colorful terraced buildings cling to cliffs bounded by brilliant blue harbors. Many guided tours visit several towns in a day, but you can also explore on your own aboard the Cinque Terre Express, which connects La Spezia to all five villages. The largest, Monterosso al Mare, is less than five square miles, so it’s easy to visit a few in the same day.

Riomaggiore

Eight minutes away by train, lively Riomaggiore is the closest of the Cinque Terre villages and among Italy’s most romantic destinations. The view of its stacked, rainbow-hued tumble of houses from the tiny harbor below has probably popped on your Instagram feed — it’s one of the most photographed sights in the region. If you’re feeling ambitious, make the 45-minute trek uphill to the Madonna di Montenero Sanctuary for breathtaking views of the coastline.

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Corniglia

Tiny Corniglia sits more than 300 feet above the waters of the Ligurian Sea, surrounded by lush vineyards that date back to Roman times. Because of its remote location and the fact that it doesn’t have a harbor, it’s the least visited of the fab five — which means it’s also the quietest and the most peaceful. Life moves at a slower pace here, measured by grape harvests and the flowering of bougainvillea that spill over village balconies in pink and purple bursts.

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Vernazza

People describe Vernazza in superlatives — it’s the steepest, the quaintest, the prettiest town in the Cinque Terre. Streets here offer head-spinning sea views framed by lemon trees and blooming redbuds. Tantalizing scents of fresh-baked bread waft from cozy focaccerias along Via Visconti and Via Roma, and bells at the 700-year-old Santa Margherita di Antiochia Church keep track of time, even if you don’t. You can see plenty
in two hours, but you’ll want to linger and enjoy what locals call il dolce far niente — the sweetness of doing nothing.

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Monterosso al Mare

Furthest from La Spezia (but still less than 30 minutes away) is vibrant Monterosso, the largest and oldest of the villages and the only one lined with true sand beaches — but arrive early to claim your spot. Flatter than
its sisters, Monterosso is easy to get around if the thought of endless stairs and hills makes you cringe. The cash-only beachside Bar Lo Spuntino is perfect for an aperitivo and panini break, and a great spot to watch
the impromptu parties that often break out along the shore.

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Amalfi Coast, Salerno

The lively cliffside village of Salerno is a gateway to the many historical and scenic coastal towns with cruises to the Amalfi Coast. Take a stroll by the water along the city's modern promenade, or stop into a cafe for a refreshing limoncello. Break a sweat with a hike up Mount Vesuvius before you wander through the ancient city of Pompeii. Or take a drive along the coast on the winding roads, and bask in views of steep cliffs over crystal blue water.

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More To Explore

From La Spezia, you can hop on a thirty-minute ferry ride to the spectacular, secluded island of Palmaria. Its many hiking trails and wild landscape have long distinguished Palmaria as a favorite destination among outdoorsy travelers and locals from nearby towns. If you venture to the island’s remote west side, you’ll find steep white cliffs riddled with caves and hidden coves. The two most famous are the Blue Grotto, accessible only by boat, and the Cave of Pigeons. To reach the latter you’ll need to shimmy down a rope, but it’s worth the effort — two million-year-old fossils and evidence of prehistoric human life have been found here.

Blue Grotto

Blue Grotto

La Spezia offers several museums to satisfy all sorts of history buffs. Nicknamed ‘Liguria’s Little Louvre,’ the Amedeo Lia Museum celebrates art across the ages with sculptures, paintings and miniatures that span millennia. The Naval Technical Museum — one of the most important nautical museums in Italy — pays homage to the city’s rich seafaring heritage with maritime marvels like model ships, navigational instruments, cannons and diving suits. And an archaeological exhibit inside the city’s hilltop St. George’s Castle calls to ancient history enthusiasts with artifacts dating from the Copper and Iron Ages.

Sst. George’s Castle

Sst. George’s Castle

So if you want to Fall in Love Again, then your next trip to Europe must be to Italy. The country has so much to offer in countless ways. Whether you take a trip on your own, a land tour or cruise, you must experience this wonderful country with history and culture dating back thousands of years.

GO AHEAD, FULL IN LOVE AGAIN...WITH ITALY.