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Archive for the ‘Monteriggione’ Category

Monterosso al Mare View

Fragrance of lemon blossoms, the taste of salt-tainted breezes and the wash of persistent sea greet me when I descended to Monterosso al Mare, the northernmost village on the Cinque Terre.

Lane, Monterosso al Mare

This is the largest of the five villages and I find that what the local’s refer to as Old Town and New Town are not substantially different. As I walked through the tunnel which now links the two areas of town, the arc of a sandy beach stretches before me from the breakwater to the small peninsula which juts into the sea on the southern end of the village.

Unlike the other towns along this stretch of coastline, Monterosso is easily reached by car. From the A12 autostrada that connects Pisa with Genoa, and beyond, there are well-marked exits that will lead you to the largest of the villages on the coast.

Please read the “IF YOU GO” section below regarding driving to Monterosso as well as parking challenges near the village.

Historically, the story of Monterosso is not dissimilar to those of the other Cinque Terre Village. Genoa subjugated the residents along the stretch of sea for centuries.

Long on the Italian summer holiday list of popular places to get to the sea, the narrow streets and beaches are always busy in the ‘high season’.

Monterosso Umbrellas

It seemed appropriate that my articles about the Cinque Terre would end in town with two huge statues.

In 1910 the sculptor, Arrigo Minerbi of Ferrara created a nearly 45 foot tall statue of Neptune, complete with Trident and Nautilus. As a result of  bombings during World War II, the “Gigante” was heavily damaged. Still, it stands at the southern limit of the beach, looking over the sea from whence he came.

Neptune of Monterosso

In 1962, Silvio Monfrini, a sculptor who was born in Milan, created a large bronze statue of St. Francis petting a dog. The statue occupies a gorgeous terrace high above the village near the Conventi del Cappuccine. While the steep stairs may tax your muscles, the view from the terrace is breathtaking. Well worth the effort!

Statue of Saint Francis above Monterosso al Mare

As I departed the village on my way north to Genoa, those two statues haunted me. Neptune, who no longer holds his Trident nor Nautilus, hunches armless over the cerulean blue Mediterranean. The five villages that cling to the shores of the Cinque Terre were for many decades falling in to disrepair, nearly forgotten save for the thousands of tourists who descended before and after the war.

Monfrini’s 20th Century work stands high above the village, an ever present reminder of the role of faith and church in the lives of the men and women who have, for centuries, survived on the richness of soil and sea.

The villagers have created bountiful lives through the gifts of faith, sea and soil. Statues may suffer, even disappear, yet the beauty of this precipitous coastline remains to be enjoyed and shared by visitors in years to come.

IF YOU GO:

Driving to Monterosso al Mare:

From the A12 Autostrada, heading either north of south, the exits for Monterosso al Mare are well marked. Follow the signs toward Levanto and, from there, to Monterosso. The road between the Autostrada and the village is treacherous and narrow, so I advise extreme caution especially if you are driving a large rental car or van. Parking in the village is challenging. There are a few public garages, most notable above the ‘new town” , where you enter the village.

Some hotels offer temporary parking for registration and/or departure. Do NOT park if  you are not sure you are allowed to. The local police do ticket and, believe it or not, the tickets always catch up with you.

Diversions:

Angelo’s Boat Tours

My first experience with Angelo and his lovely wife, Paula, a few years ago. Clients I was traveling with were just leaving the port on Angelo’s boat and Paula invited me up to her incredible hillside garden where, from time to time, she leads small group cooking classes. The roses, the oleander, the lemons all conspired to make me want to sit and never leave.

The tours are available through pre-booking on their web site – see below. For information on Paul’s cooking classes, you can contact her directly, via email, on angelosboattours@yahoo.com.

Angelo’s Boat Tours, Monterosso

These are incredible journey’s along the coast and I highly recommend, as part of your visit to the Cinque Terre, to enjoy one of their unforgettable boat tours.

Hotels Monterosso al Mare

A brief word about the Hotel Porta Roca. This would be the splurge of your time on the coast – but the views from the sea-facing rooms, the level of service and the comfort are simply unmatched in any other hotel on the Cinque Terre. This is one gorgeous hotel!

Hotel Porta Roca 

Località Corone, 1  19016 Monterosso Al Mare

Province of La Spezia, Italy

Tel: +39.0187.817.502

Hotel Pasquale 

Via Fegina, 4  19016 Monterosso Al Mare Province of La Spezia, Italy

Tel: +39.0187.817.477

Hotel Villa Steno   http://www.villasteno.com/

Via Roma, 109  19016 Monterosso Al Mare Province of La Spezia, Italy

Tel: +39.0187.817.028

Restaurants Monterosso al Mare

Given the size of the village of Monterosso, your options are varied and numerous. These are only a few where the food and fair pricing have brought me back numerous times. Enjoy!

Ristorante Miky (web site, as of this writing, not linking)

Via Fegina, 104  19016 Monterosso Al Mare Province of La Spezia, Italy

Tel: +39.0187.817.608

Ristorante L’Alta Marea (no Web Site)

Via Roma, 54  Monterosso al Mare, Province of La Spezia, Italy

TeL: +39.0187.817.331

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I came to Riomaggiore late in my Italian travel life. It was in 2001 during an extended residency in Florence to write my first book, Tuscan Echoes A Season in Italy, that I took a three day/night trip to the Cinque Terre.

When I stepped off the train from La Spezia and walked through the town to the sea, the beauty of this area of Italy completely overwhelmed me. Fishing boats rested on cobble stoned streets, narrow lanes enticed with their cooling shadows, and always there murmured the sound of the persistent sea as it encountered the breakwater of the harbor. From my room in a small, centrally located, B&B below for If You Go), I enjoyed easy access to the streets of the village as well as the trails that crisscross the hillsides above.

Inhabitants of Riomaggiore can be traced to the 8th Century AD. Those early settlers from a nearby valley discovered the rich volcanic soil in the hills along the coast and the abundant fishing. Vineyards were planted and families created lives from the sea’s bounty. Over the centuries, the political feuds that embroiled most of Italy also brought change to Riomaggiore and the coastal villages. Genoa, Milan and Pisa all vied for control of these easily defensible hills.

What brings visitors today is the ineffable beauty of the place. In 1999, the Italian Government designated the five lands, the Cinque Terre, a National Park (Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre). With the goal of protecting both the sea and land along this stretch of coastline. The parks’ designation also protects the area from further development.

What I most enjoy when visiting this area of Italy is the narrow lanes of the town. When strolling along the Via Antonio Gramsci as it precipitously descends to the sea, or along the Via San Giacomo on the harbor, I gain a sense of uncluttered and unchanged time. There is a special spirit and a special group of locals who make the Cinque Terre a place where unforgettable memories are created.

The Via Dell’Amore

The “Street of Love”. What more appropriate name could this stretch of the pathway between Riomaggiore and Monterosso have? Relatively flat and easy to walk, this is the most traveled section of the hiking trails that connect all five of the fishing villages along the Cinque Terre. From sculptures that portray vision of love to the padlocks of lovers who close their personalized lock on a fishing net then fling the key into the sea, this is a beautiful section of the coast.

Via Dell’Amore along the Cinque Terre

If you are on the coast during the summer months, expect this particular section of the hiking trail to be very crowded. Also, make sure you purchase a Cinque Terre Card, your paid access ticket to the hiking paths of the Cinque Terre. See “If You Go” below for most details.

IF YOU GO:

This area of Italy has become very crowded during the summer months. Standing room only on the trains, packed restaurants especially during lunch, full hotels and hoards of tourists are the norm, June – mid-September. If you plan to visit and wish to enjoy a more peaceful time, I recommend visiting from late April to late May and from early to late October. The weather during these ‘off-seasons’ can be a bit unpredictable, the lack of crowds make it worth the effort.

Trains:

You can purchase a Cinque Terre Train pass at numerous locations in each village as well as in the train station of La Spezia. The cost of the weekday card is Euro 5.00 and the weekend card is Euro 12.00. If you purchase the Cinque Terre Train pass you can use that ticket for access ONLY to the Blue Trail, #2.

Hiking:

The entire section of coastline in crisscrossed with many hiking trails, varying in difficulty from beginner to extreme. Maps of these various trails, and information regarding access to them, are available in train station and tourist information sites throughout the area.

For a great place to start exploring options related to hiking in the area, visit: Hiking Cinque Terre

You can purchase a Cinque Terre Basic Ticket at numerous locations in each village as well as at train station. While this card does not include use of the trains that travel along the coast, you still have access to the Blue Trail, #2 as well as other services along the coast.

For either of these tickets, begin at:

Cinqueterre.com

Hotels Riomaggiore

As is true with all of the villages along the coast, you are strongly encouraged to book your hotel rooms(s) well in advance of your travel dates. If you visiting during late October – late March, then you will find accommodations available for ‘last minute’ arrivals. Regardless, reserve in advance and you will have one less worry for your trip.

La Scogliera

Salita Castello, 174 Riomaggiore 19017 (SP) Italy

+39 3346194505

This hotel prefers that requests be sent via email to: la_scogliera@alice.it

Luna di Marzo

Via Montello 387, Volastra Riomaggiore  19017 Riomaggiore, Italy

+39 0187 920530

Affittacamere Edi 

Via Colombo, 111  19017 Riomaggiore Province of La Spezia, Italy

+39 0187 920325

Restaurants Riomaggiore

During high season, you should reserve for dinner in most places in Riomaggiore. The restaurants are, in general, very small and fill quickly for the evening meal.

Trattoria “Via dell’Amore” di Rosa Rafaella

19017 Riomaggiore (SP) – Piazza Rio Finale, 8

Tel: +39.0187.920.860

web: http://www.trovalaspezia.info/trattoriaviadellamore.htm

Il Grottino

Via Colombo  Riomaggiore, Province of La Spezia, Italy

Tel: +39.0187.920.938

Cappun Magru in Casa di Marin

Via Volastra 1, RIOMAGGIORE 19017

Tel: +39.0187.920.563

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Pitigliano View

South of Grosetto, the southern most large city in the Tuscan Province, stands the village of Pitigliano. Though it was not until the 11th Century that written records first mention this village, evidence of both Etruscan and 5th Century Christian presence have been discovered. The commanding position of the village, surrounded by valleys, is a spectacular sight regardless of how you approach the ancient walls.

During the 16th Century, city and state governments in Italy moved their Jewish populations into Ghettos. Many of those Jews who had been closed within the Ghettos of Siena, Florence and other cities began to move to the little-known, quiet, retreat of Pitigliano.

This is not meant to imply that Jews lived an easy life in these times; it was never easy. Despite requirements to wear certain types of clothing to mark themselves “Jew”, the closely knit community made a reasonable life for themselves in the tiny village.

The town’s unique geography includes a maze of spaces within the tufa that were created by prehistoric volcanoes or carved by those who sought shelter.

It is a curious twist of both Italian and Jewish history that this small town became a refuge for those seeking a more peaceful and protected way to life.

Some friends who live near Florence related the story that, during World War II, the non-Jewish residents of Pitigliano hid and protected the Jewish community, literally, under the village. Chambers once used by the ancients became a refuge for those persecuted. Throughout the war the townspeople stood resolute in their determination to protect the innocent.

I must admit to a certain ‘ache’ when I visit Pitigliano. The domination of religions and the persecution of centuries all seem very raw even in the narrow lanes and streets of this lovely Tuscan village. When I have explored the tufa spaces beneath the city, I have felt the presence of those who have gone before. At sunset, when the bells of churches toll there is, for many visitors, a clear sense of the terrible cost exacted from those whose religious beliefs were in conflict with the ‘powers that were’.

IF YOU GO:

The easiest access to Pitigliano if you do not have a car is by train. Trains connect Grosetto with both Rome and Florence and run on a regular basis throughout the day. Once you arrive by train you can take one of the numerous buses which travel to/from the village. Buses leave from directly in front of the train station in Grosetto.

If, however, you have a car, I strongly encourage you to add a day’s visit to this fascinating and historic village.

Bus schedules and details can be found here: RAMA Grosetto

Hotels:

There is one hotel within the city walls, the Albergo Guastini. This is an intimate hotel and its location offers immediate access to the village.

Piazza Petruccioli, 4, 58017 Pitigliano Grosseto, Italy

Tel: +39 0564 61410

Outside of the city walls, there are numerous choices. Most will require a car to visit the city if you choose one of these accommodations.

S.S 74 Maremmana Ovest,

58017 Pitigliano Province of Grosseto, Italy

Tel: +39 0564 616112

Via Valle Orientina, S.R. 74 , 58017 Pitigliano, Province of Grosseto, Italy

Sites to visit:

  • The Orsini Fortress, which achieved its present state in 1545 but represents a reworking of the earlier medieval fortress
  • the town’s walls and gates, the best preserved of which is the Porta Sovana.
  • The Cathedral of San Pietro e Paolo
  • The Jewish Synagogue and Museum

Quiet Corner of Pitigliano

Restaurants

(Note: You might enjoy trying the Bianca di Pitigliano, a local white wine produced from the vineyards surrounding the village.)

Il Tufo Allegro

Vicolo della Costituzione, 5

58017 Pitigliano Italy

Tel: +39.0564.616.192

My favorite. Slow Food, beautifully prepared with lovingly served. Don’t expect fancy. Expect exceptional food.

La Ceccottino*

(no web site)

Via Vignole

58017 Pitigliano

*I have never eaten at this restaurant, though the reviews are consistently good and friends say it is equal to “Il Tufo Allegro”.

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In the course of many years travel across Tuscany, I have created a list of my favorite places to enjoy lunch or dinner. This particular short list focuses on the areas in, or near, San Gimignano, Monteriggione and Barberino Val d’Elsa. Great food, fair prices and consistently good service? Try these if/when you go. Meals enjoyed at these restaurants have always been memorable.

For further details about this area of Italy:

www.private-italy.com

Restaurant Price Points:

*: Euro 15 – Euro 20 per person without alcohol

**: Euro 20 – Euro 30 per person without alcohol

***: Euro 30 – Euro 40 per person without alcohol

****: Euro 40 and above per person without alcohol

– – – – – – –

Hotel La Cisterna, San GimignanoLa Cisterna **

This Ristorante is located in the Hotel La Cisterna, on the Piazza of the same name, in the heart of San Gimignano. Llarge sliding glass windows face the valleys below San Gimignano. For lunch, especially, this is a wonderful place to eat. The food is fairly priced, traditional and the wine list pricing is fair for a city so full of visitors.

I recommend calling to reserve at table prior to your visit. You can also, on the day you arrive in San Gimignano, walk to the hotel and reserve a table for your lunch or dinner. Lunch begins at 12:30PM, dinner at 7:30PM.

IF YOU GO:

Albergo Ristorante La Cisterna

Piazza della Cisterna, 23

53037 San Gimignano (SI) Italy

Tel: 0577 940328

www.hotelcisterna.it

Dorando, Slow Food, San GimignanoDorando ***

When the Slow Food Movement began in Italy, Dorando was one of the first restaurants to deliver on the goal of incredible food, great wine list and time to enjoy the meal. The restaurant is located down a narrow alley, directly off of the Piazza Duomo in San Gimignano. There are no views, as the restaurant is located in the cellars of a 14th Century building.  Lovingly and beautifully restored, you will not miss the view – the food and wine are the focus in this fabulous restaurant.

This is not an inexpensive place – and you should plan at least two hours for a meal, especially dinner. Reservations strongly recommended.

IF YOU GO:

Ristorante Dorando

Vicolo dell’Oro, 2

53037 San Gimignano (SI), Italy

Tel: 333 2786611 (Owner Cell Phone)

www.ristorantedorando.it/

Bel Soggiorno **

Just inside the Porta San Giovanni, the main gate of the town of San Gimignano, is the Hotel Bel Soggiorno. UnbeknowDining Room, Hotel Bel Soggiorno San Gimignanonst to many visitors, the hotel offers one of the finest restaurants, with some of the most gorgeous views, in Tuscany. This is also a lovely hotel, providing clean and comfortable, though not particularly large, rooms. There are a few rooms available that have large terraces. The views across central Tuscany are unforgettable.

The restaurant is located off of the lobby at street level. As you enter the space, the entire valley below San Gimignano spreads before you through huge glass windows. Great place for lunch or dinner. I do highly recommend reservations if you plan dinner.

IF YOU GO:

Ristorante Bel Soggiorno

Via S.Giovanni, 91

53037 SAN GIMIGNANO

Tel: 0577 940375

www.hotelbelsoggiorno.it

View of San Gimignano from above Poggio AlloroPoggio Alloro **

Some Florentine friends introduced me to this restaurant five years ago and I’ve returned many times. The local Florentine beef is outstanding – some of the best in Italy. The wine list is certainly sufficient and the prices are very fair. The view of the towers in San Gimignano from the terrace is one in a million. I can’t recommend this place highly enough for both lunch and dinner. It is the unique combination of perfectly prepared meals, the view and the loving care that the owners give to their farm, that makes this place very special.

Please note: The Poggio (small hill) is located outside the San Gimignano city gate of San Matteo. You will find the Poggio on your right as you drive down away from the Porta (Gate) San Matteo. The sign for the place is not very easy to spot…but just keep looking to your right as you drive away from San Gimignano. If you drive more than ten minutes or so, you have missed the turn into the Poggio. Well worth the effort!

This is an Agriturismo, so you will find vacation apartments and a gift shop along with the restaurant. A wonderful place to enjoy a shaded lunch or dinner with spectacular views of San Gimignano.

IF YOU GO:

Fattoria Poggio Alloro

Via Andrea Mantegna, 23

53037 San Gimignano (SI), Italy

Tel: 0577 950153

www.fattoriapoggioalloro.com/

Restaurant Il Pozzo, Main Square, MOnterggioneIl Pozzo, Monteriggioni **

The village of Monteriggione is located within sight of the Florence-Siena motorway, but you will hardly notice that proximity. This is a true medieval walled town that has little changed since it was built by the Sienese centuries ago.

There is one small piazza and Il Pozzo is located directly on that square. Tables on the terrace offer umbrellas for shade and lunch or dinner at this restaurant is – for good reasons – memorable.

If you wish to eat on the terrace, come early. Lunch begins at 12:30PM.

IF YOU GO:

Ristorante Il Pozzo

Piazza Roma, 20

53035 – Monteriggioni (SI)

Tel: 0577 304 127

www.ilpozzo.net/

Osteria L’Antica Quercia **

A family run, small, restaurant near Barberino Val d”Elsa. Excellent meals, lunch or dinner. Highly recommend especially if you are driving in the area for a day’s exploration. Well worth the stop for a lovely lunch in this area of Tuscany.

The food is incredible and there are few places out in the country that offer the tranquil shade of a terrace with memorable views. Enjoy a flavorful meal at this lovely restaurant.

IF YOU GO:

Osteria L’Antica Quercia

Via di Sant’Appiano, 33

Barberino Val d’Elsa, Italy

Tel: 055 8075281

www.osteriaanticaquercia.it/

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