In a land with an overwhelming 7,500 km-long shoreline, it comes as no surprise that memories linked to the sea resonate strongly when reminiscing over a holiday in Italy. We jealously hold on to sensations and the mind wanders in search of that bluer-than-blue, infinite expanse of water, a mesmerising sequence of gulfs and coves, natural docking places and colourful hamlets perched high on a headland: this beauty is timeless.
And then it’s long, sandy beaches, days spent searching for hidden treasures and the amazement of coming face to face with natural wonders: cliffs shaped by the wind and caves that show the touch of a deity. Some say that “happiness is a simple idea when in front of the sea”: our will to discover – isn’t this a land of adventurers and explorers? – will show us magical places.
Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. Five seaside villages but one mind-blowing beauty, where the force of nature matches well with man’s intervention. Walking on breath-taking paths along rugged shores to admire emerald waters. Vineyards, stretches of citrus fruits – the famous Monterosso lemons amaze with their scents – and olive trees, in a succession of picture-postcard sceneries. The Cinque Terre can seduce even less attentive tourists, invariably capturing their hearts. You may choose the Alta Via delle Cinque Terre path, which extends over 38 km from Porto Venere to Levanto, or the Sentiero Azzurro, that once connected all five villages and can now only be undertaken in very charming parts. A Cinque Terre wine route is under consideration and it will start in Monterosso: getting lost amid the scents and colours of the vineyards will be a pleasure.
Going in search of various spellbinding beaches in the shadow of evocative capes, the marvellous pastel-coloured houses in the background: this is a never-ending charm within a fabulous national park. Reaching the Cinque Terre by boat is perhaps the best way to take in all its beauty, setting off from Bocca di Magra and arriving at Vernazza: visiting the 11th century Castello Doria and the Trecento Saint Margaret’s church fells like a fairytale. Pretty much like the one you will tell after having visited these splendours. Let’s not forget the Ligurian delights, from pesto focaccia to the delicate olive oil and superb wines. Joy is within reach.
Reaching Porto Venere feels like a dream. A surprising amphitheatre where the Palazzata welcomes us, a row of coloured houses that looks out onto the marina in a theatrical manner, once part of the fortified walls. The evocative Saint Peter’s church, on a promontory sheer from the sea, combines gothic and Romanesque elements in its structure and offers unique vistas along with superb sensations. Walk down the steps to reach Byron’s cave, for this is the Gulf of the Poets: the stretch between Portovenere and Lerici was in fact loved by countless English Romantic poets, who loved spending time here. Rumour has it that Lord Byron loved swimming from here to Lerici to meet his friend Shelley: today an open water competition goes along 7,5 km, the Coppa Byron, and the mind wanders in search of eminent figures. In the Palio del Golfo, a rowing competition taking place in the waters facing La Spezia, 13 boats representing the fishing village compete in an excitingly fast race. Portovenere also sports its own archipelago: Palmaria is the biggest and hosts an astonishing 36 caves, with the islands of Tino and Tinetto to keep it company. All this with a UNESCO-heritage area: to all intents and purposes, this is the “Sixth land” and it lies within the superb Ligurian beauty.
A famous place ever since the 60s, Forte dei Marmi exudes old-time charm for moments of delight and fabulous evasion. People come here to stroll along chic boutiques and luxury workshops, taste an appetizing street food, armed with a great desire to have fun, observing the pretty Apuane Alps from a distance. The sea and the mountains meet in Forte dei Marmi and offer countless emotions. Walking on the pier is fabulous: the one and only pier in Versilia, it has been copied in neighbouring locations. Here you will find fishermen, locals exchanging a few cheerful words and tourists in search of a souvenir photo. Initially built to carry marbles on to ships between 1876 and 1877, a project by Giovanni Costantini later improved it and made it more functional.
Destroyed in WWII, the 275 meter-long pier we see today is a faithful reconstruction. From here you can go to the Fort, built in 1788, and then visit the famous weekly markets. What about the exceptional Festa di Sant’Ermete, taking place at the end of august? Complete with a historical cortege, a bonfire and firework display, you should not miss this event. Attend the Festival of Satire for many laughs and then dance into the night at the Capannina, allegedly the oldest disco in the world. Is it true? Go and find out.
Culture is in the air at Forte dei Marmi, once the meeting place of numerous intellectuals, from Thomas Mann to Aldous Huxley, Gabriele D’Annunzio and Eugenio Montale. You can still sense the world of these eminent writers and great minds, as is the case with the Carlo Carrà and the light at Forte dei Marmi itinerary: thirty copies of paintings by the famous Futurist artist embellish various places in the city. What about the famous villas? Discover them thanks to a lovely cycle path and head to the Roma Imperiale quarter: stupendous houses surrounded by greenery, the rationalism of Villa Antonietta or Villa Mann-Borghese, looking like a transatlantic, or Villa Bertelli for concerts and various events.
If you want to head south, the Island of Elba will exceed your expectations. The third Italian island by extension, it is part of the Tuscan Archipelago National Park. Turquoise waters and dream-like coves abound here, as well as exciting mountain bike trails and a fascinating hiking tour (GTE – Grande Traverata Elbana): it’s sensational vistas galore. A short distance from Piombino, this is the adventure you were looking for.
Relax in the shadow of centuries-old trees and listen to the sweet chirping of birds in love, admire bluer-than-blue skies and reminisce over the fabulous days that have just passed: Il Bottaccio is your temple, a refuge where calm and serenity abound, surrounded by the greenery of a delightful garden, enjoying a gourmet dinner while the pretty pool sets the backdrop. A short distance from Forte dei Marmi and the Cinque Terre, a thousand adventures originate from here, in search of the sea and its shimmering light. Aboard a yacht or strolling on a pier, we will show you dreamlike places. For dreams do come true here.