Day 6, June 16, Thursday
We arrived in Lerici about 5pm. Our first reaction was – WOW! It was a bit startling at first as there were a lot of people, particularly on the beaches – quite a change from the more quiet days in Piedmont.
However, as we stayed there we really grew to love this charming town. We stayed at Hotel Florida (rms. 33 & 34). The rooms were small and pretty vanilla, but we faced the ocean, which is right across the street, and we had a stunning view of the ocean and the town of Lerici, which is beautiful with it’s many colored buildings and it’s castle.
There was a very nice lobby and a nice breakfast room with a typical Italian hotel breakfast of meats, cheeses, cereals, yogurt and fruit. The staff was very helpful and I must say while the rooms were decorated very plainly they were always kept spotless, and the beds were fairly comfortable. It was about a 5-10 min. walk along the beach sidewalk to the main piazza. A very nice walk that we did several times before and after dinner. The hotel gave us a free parking pass to park right near there. We did not use the car to go to dinner in Lerici, only when we toured during the day – aside from Cinque Terre and Portovenere.
Our first night we had dinner at Entragia (Salita Canata, 2), enjoyed a nice dinner and watched a World Cup game with the locals.
Day 7, June 17, Friday
Our first full day in Lerici we were scheduled to do a boat tour with Megan McCaffrey-Guerrera of Bella Vita Italia (http://bellavitaitalia.com/). She is an American who at the time we were there was engaged to an Italian (they are now married!!) and describes herself as “Your Personal Concierge for Italy.” She lives in Lerici but does private tours throughout much of Italy. She met us at the hotel and we walked to the port to catch our boat to Le Cinque Terre. The boat took us along the coastline of La Spezia and Portovenere before we arrived at Le Cinque Terre. We got off first at Riomaggiore. It is a tiny little town with one street going up the middle. It is quite old and unfortunately it is difficult for property owners to do any improvements to their property. However, it was quite charming. A few restaurants have hot dogs and hamburgers on their chalkboard menus – a bad sign for how many tourists can come through.
From Riomaggiore we walked over to Manorolo. It was unfortunate that there was so much graffiti on the walkways and tunnels. Manorolo is slightly larger than Riomaggiore and we walked around the town a bit. We walked down to the small port and took the boat to Vernazza.
This town is much larger than the other two with a large piazza and a small beach. We had a wonderful lunch at Belforte overlooking the beach one way and the ocean the other. Delicious, fresh seafood and we had a wonderful visit with Megan.
From Vernazza we took the boat back to Portovenere. This was an extremely charming town with tall skinny buildings painted in various pastel colors. First we walked to the church and looked out at Byron’s Bay. Then we walked back through the center of town and enjoyed some gelato. We really liked Portovenere, it has a nice beach and was not quite as crowded as Le Cinque Terre.
We really enjoyed seeing the Cinque Terre by boat and it was awesome having Megan as our guide as she had many interesting things to tell us and knew exactly when we needed to head down and pick up the next boat. Sometimes it is nice not to have to think for a day!! When we returned to our hotel Michael and I went across the street to relax on the beach while the others rested inside.
For dinner we ate at Golfe de Poeti right on the main piazza in Lerici. All the restaurants we ate at were recommended by Megan and this one was fantastic. It’s location and size makes one think it is just a tourist trap, but the food was excellent, particularly the fried calamari.There was a strange art show going on in the piazza. We walked around a bit, then headed back to the hotel for bed.
Day 8, June 17, Saturday
We decided to spend one more day touring before we relaxed on the beach. We drove over to Sarzana, a town just 10 minutes inland from Lerici. It was another very charming town, and turned out to be one of our favorites from the trip. It had a large piazza with several great streets coming out from it.
I found a new pair of shoes to replace the ones that broke (luckily I had brought three pairs of shoes!) At 12:30 the shops started closing so we stopped and had lunch at Café Constituzionale, which was right on the Piazza. The waitress just spoke the menu in Italian . We had paninis, insalata caprese and mozzerella di buffalo with bresola. Everything was excellent – some of the best caprese on the trip. Before we left we stopped at a gelateria we noticed on our way into town, Biagi. It is a bright white and modern gelateria. Retrospectively, we all agreed this was the best gelato we had while we were in Italy.
Now we drove to Carrara. I had read Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone twice and had always wanted to visit Carrara. We did not really know where we were going when we got to the town, but just kept following the signs to Cave di marmo which kept heading us up the mountain. We stopped to take some pictures then continued up.
Lucky us, we ended up on a flat area with a small museum, a shop and a working cave that was giving tours that day as it was a Saturday. They took us down into the cave in a mini van. They had a guide in English and one in Italian. The groups were small, maybe 6-8 people. It was very interesting to go down there and the tour was quite good. We bought a few things made right there from their marble and then headed back to Lerici. We got back just in time to freshen up and change – our shoes were covered in marble dust!!
We met Megan McCaffrey at 5:00pm to go to her house for our private cooking lesson with her mother-in-law, Rosella. Her house was in a borgo above Lerici. She had an incredible view.
The apartment was small but had a neat outdoor kitchen, where we had our lesson, and a great outdoor dining area. We learned some of the idiosyncrasies of living in a place built in 1691 – no hot water in the kitchen, you must unplug the washing machine in order to turn on a small kitchen appliance….
We also met Luigi, Megan’s fiancée (now husband), who was also a very gracious host. We thoroughly enjoyed our evening. We made focaccia, spada, gnocchi, pesto, pesce, pepperonata and yogurt mousse for dessert. Rosella loved the kids and was particularly overjoyed to see Michael eat so much and the fact that he was wearing his Italy (Totti) jersey and hat was a big hit! Michael & Luigi went upstairs to watch the Italy vs. US World Cup game. We stayed on the terrace and listened to all the neighbors in the borgo react to the game. It ended up a tie 1-1.
Day 9, June 18, Sunday
The next day was Lauren’s 14th birthday as well as Father’s Day. We had decided to relax on the beach and had reserved chairs and umbrellas at Eco de Mare, a private beach between Lerici and Tellaro. It was located in a stunningly beautiful cove that many sailboats stopped at during the day. It was extremely quiet and serene. There is a restaurant just a few steps off the beach that served lunch. Just a reminder if you choose to go there, they do not take credit cards so bring cash. We had a wonderful and very relaxing day. When we returned to our hotel, we were reminded of why we spent the extra money for the private beach– the beaches in Lerici were still very crowded and noisy.
For dinner Megan had recommend a fabulous seafood restaurant called Pin Bon (in Pitelli up above Lerici, Via Canarbino, 7). We went there to celebrate Lauren’s birthday and Father’s Day. We had a spectacular seafood appetizer with anchovies, octopus and all kinds of seafood, then an excellent sepia risotto with calamari and to finish it off, an extremely large platter of scampi and shrimp. A wonderful place for a special evening.
This was our last evening in Lerici as the next day we were leaving for Tuscany. We really enjoyed our stay in Lerici. It is a lovely seaside village with easy access by boat to Cinque Terre and Portovenere plus easy access to the Autostrada if you want to head someplace else such as Carrara. Other daytrips possible from there are Portofino and Lunigiana which is filled with Etruscan ruins. Despite the fact that when we first arrived we were taken aback by the difference from Piedmont, we really fell in love with Lerici, and wished we had an extra day to continue exploring there. We look forward to going back.
Next up Castellina in Chianti and Tuscany.
Read about it here: