Thursday, November 17, 2011

Mare Tirreno to Mare Ligure

Life goes on after floods in Cinque Terre 
We decided to revisit Cinque Terre before the fantastic weather we've been having changed. The plan was to see the flood damage left from the recent deluge there. Suffice to say, we should have been watching Italian TV to learn that the towns of Monterosso and Vernazza were off-limits to tourists and outsiders. Even a woman at our hotel in Levanto said that Monterosso was open via road or train. We quickly found the road blocked by polizia and the train agent told us we could not get off the train there either. The latter proved correct when we spotted the polizia at the train station making sure people had a reason for exiting in Monterosso. I suppose if we were more brazen we might have found a connection but we simply obeyed and enjoyed revisiting the towns that were undamaged and still open. If you haven't been following our Cinque Terre posts, these 5 towns are a very famous tourist attraction on the Italian Riveria south of Genova and just north of La Spezia. They are connected by hiking trails, a rail line and some very tight windy roads. To donate to a fund for helping Monterosso and Vernazzo residents re-build click on CINQUE TERRE AID.
Doug's only blurry pic taken of the flood damage in Monterosso--from the train!
Maybe we could have found a shovel and blended in...

The region of Liguria and the town of Levanto are heavily influenced by foreign tourists including many Americans.  While there, we came upon an international surfing contest that floundered a little given the glass-like surface of the Ligurian Sea. 

The Levanto Surfing contest site--note the impressive surf

We were here six years ago but now we were seeing it through the eyes of Italian residents. An advantage for the whole Cinque Terre zone is that they have managed to adapt to modern tourism while hanging on to their treasured cultural heritage. What we notice when we go “north” is the obvious influence of money. Clean tidy towns, handsome well kept buildings and people speaking Italian with only the rare dialect discussion–-a real treat for us. Those businesses connected with tourism have morphed into a 6-month season vs. the 6 week season we experience in Calabria. This is because they have learned to cater to foreigners who take vacations in months other than just August! Restaurants were opening for dinner at 7:00 which was also a treat!
Doug noticed though that the people on the streets of Liguria, Toscana and Lazio were not as open or eager to converse. For a while on the trip he doggedly greeted folks in our Calabrian fashion with a good morning or good afternoon and only one old guy of maybe a dozen responded at all. Are northerners more cold as the southerners claim? Are they sick of tourists?
Anyhow, it was a lovely day for a walk on the beach!
This somewhat impulsive trip was bound to be a long one going much of the length of Italy, but we really didn’t know. Turns out to be 870 km and 10 hours from home to Levanto, Liguria via mostly the autostrada. In our old days in the American west, this would have been easy. But throw in traffic, Italian/European autostrade driving, and a car with poor suspension and it was a long day.
Since the two towns were closed in Cinque Terre, we elected to leave there a day early and sight-see on the way home down the coast of Toscana and Lazio. We actually spent two days, 8 hours each, making our way south on highways, small roads, various towns and cities--a 1845 km total trip distance. The backroads of Italy offer some interesting landscapes you cannot see from an autostrada

Have to mention that we’ve driven in a lot of Italy this year and the worst roads are right here in Calabria so far.  The SS 18 has awful expansion joints on bridges and the A3 autostrade is the roughest motorway we’ve experienced in the republic. AND the roughest spots of the A3 have been built in the last 6 months to 2 years!  

Any ANAS engineers out there with an explanation?

Italian Stone Pine - Pinus Pinea

 There was an unexpected highlight during our coastal tour. We had planned to stay the night in Anzio, the famous landing site during WWII. It was getting dark and we knew we didn't want to search for a hotel in the dark. As the shadows lengthened, we came upon a frankly seedy section of beach located right after the toney Lido di Ostia. What a contrast! We had just gone through hordes of Romans enjoying the beach and drove through (very slowly) hoping for hotels on the edge of town. No luck there so we drove on to find this deserted place frozen in time (1960's). The only hotel was the Albatros, right on the beach with let's just say frayed accomodations. However--the family that owns it is funny and friendly and just the kind of people who should be running a hotel. It will be a good if funky memory.
We made it to Anzio the next morning--an exceedingly lovely day. We easily found the Anzio museum and the famous beach. There was a picture of the American landing at a memorial near the beach. Check out the comparison of the old photo with Doug's new photo of the beach. Look for the two domes in the upper left of the historic photo. Very interesting--interesting history too.  Apparently the landing went smoothly but the general dug in rather than push on and gave the Germans time to cause quite a loss of life. The goal of the landing was to push on to Rome but the first guys didn't--better stop there, we aren't war historians:
Historic WWII photo of the Landing on the beach at Anzio--note the round domes in the upper left of the photo
The beach at Anzio today--some of the same buildings 
This trip answered one question for us. As we watch the drama about the Italian and European economies unfold, we wondered how Italy could really be the 7th or 8th largest economy in the world as the news has stated. Living in Calabria one would wonder! Well, when we drove into Florence the other day, Doug flashed back to travel in the American midwest. The drive from Florence to Lucca and Pisa was non-stop factories and thriving industry. For some reason we never saw all that from the train in 2005. Yes, the north has a strong industrial base and we have yet to see the “real industrial zone” of Milano!


  1. Hi Folks;

    nice trip! Did you manage to stop at Puccini's historical house for a visit? At Torre del Lago, near Lucca. There is also an open air theater facing lake Massaciucoli, where they stage live opera. Especially interesting during the summer, for the Puccini festival (July-August). See

    I guess you've got a point about Calabria. I'm afraid it is the most neglected of our regions. Let's hope it'll get there. Maybe we can play our part too.



  2. Hi Giancarlo,
    Good to hear from you. Despite the warts here, I'm always glad to come home to Calabria. Di

  3. Guess it's good thing the towns were blocked. I just imagined how I would feel if people came to look at my misery (like destroyed home). Not good.

    I read, that the north of Italy even feels kind of a resentment against the south, because they have to support it financially all the time...

    Love the pic of the pine road! It's great!

  4. Very Intresting information.It is very nice to know about the modern tourism centre of Italy because I am great fan of Italian toursim.
    Thanks for great information.

  5. Quite a trip, it is so very sad what has happened in the Cinque Terre. By coincidence I am reading about the region in my current Italy in Books Challenge read this month.

  6. Michelle,
    That's an interesting view of things. I suppose there is a fine line between bearing witness and rubber-necking. We were interested in finding the natural resource cause-effects or trying to.
    You are wecome Farmhouses.
    We were sad about it too. I shall have to check out Italy in Books this month.

  7. Saluti da Diodato Campagna

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. This is the place I am looking for. Perfect town to settle down and start a family. The sea is close and big towns far - Perfect!

    Amelia Wilson - Flood Insurance in Westport MA



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