In my 2017 resolutions, I listed “visiting my own region a bit more” as one of my top priorities. I was adamant to do this as I realised much of the beauty of my country was getting lost on me, as I wasted my days away without paying it enough attention.
My hometown, as some of you might know, is Genova, a nice coastal city in the region of Liguria, Italy. Liguria is famous for its sea and its cliffs, its unique towns overlooking the Mediterranean sea and its traditional food, such as pesto and focaccia (yes, we made them happen). Whenever I tell people where I am from, I always describe it as a beautiful place, definitely worth visiting. One of the underrated cities of Italy that not every tourist knows, but which are actually a little gem in the west coast of the country. From the food to the landscapes, I rave about my own land and advise everyone to visit, because we have plenty of stunning spots to tick off the map.
As I say these things though, I can’t help thinking how little I actually move around it myself, mainly staying in Genova every time I go back, hanging out with my friends and not doing much else. People wish they were born in Italy and here I am, lucky enough to come from this land and yet not appreciating it enough to go out and see it for myself. Leaving it to the tourists to explore, as I sit around at home ignoring it all.
STEP 1: CINQUE TERRE
When you google “Italy”, one of the first pictures which usually pops up was shot in my own region, and is called Cinque Terre. This is a conglomerate of small towns built directly onto the sea, whose view is simply stunning and attracts millions of tourists each year. Although fairly close to Genova, I only visited this spot a couple of times, and that was with my parents when I was really young. Hence, I don’t remember much of the trips and the memories I do have are pretty faded by now. Because of my appreciation for hiking and wanting to complete my 2017 resolutions, I decided it was time to create some fresh memories and visit the place again, hiking it up between one town and another as I admired the sea and nature of the land.
The chance to do this presented itself in the form of a friendly visit, as I welcomed my Rotterdam flatmate in my hometown once again. Because he had already been to Genova, I felt it was time to venture out and show him some new places in the region, and took up the opportunity to finally go back to the Cinque Terre myself and try to remember what the fuss is all about. We took a train on a bright Friday morning from Genova, which supposedly took us directly to the Cinque Terre without any changes, and sat in wait. Until we missed our stop.
The original plan was to get off in Manarola and visit the place, hiking back towards the towns on the west side so as to visit more than one. Because of my timing skills though, I decided to go to the train toilet right as we got to Manarola, hence us missing our stop. Thankfully, the next one was in Riomaggiore, the last of the Cinque Terre towns and therefore still a good starting point for our trip. What I wasn’t aware of – because realistically I didn’t do much research on the Cinque Terre. YOLO – is that the hike from Riomaggiore to Manarola is actually pretty much the most mainstream thing you can do, which meant the trail was full of tourists sweating it up between one town and another. Although our intentions weren’t to do the most popular trail you could do, I guess that means we got to see one of the most beautiful ones, which I’m happy about.
We then proceeded to spend the rest of the afternoon there, as I faked being a tourist and only spoke in English to everyone (I love being a tourist, even when I’m not). I realised how ridiculously expensive these places are made to be, in order to suck out every penny from the unlucky foreigners travelling through, which was sad as we were both starving.
STEP 2: LA SPEZIA
After a few hours googling new things to do and see, we decided to set off towards La Spezia, a city which I have hard a lot about but I had never actually visited myself. This city is about an hour and a half away from Genova and to be honest it’s got a really cool name. La Spezia literally means “the spice”, which I find really edgy and nice sounding. Turns out it looks pretty similar to Genova, if a bit less uphill and smaller.
After walking around the city centre for a bit, we ended up at the harbour, which slightly reminded me of the Genova one – if a bit less crowded and calmer. It was relaxing to just walk by the water and look at all the fishermen boats, surrounded by their unique smell in the warmth of the setting sun. Magical in a way that only a sea city can be!
After that, we set on a hunt for our airbnb of the night (shout out to Marzia, our host – the room was super nice and central, we definitely got lucky!). This was followed by the second pizza of the trip, destined to be followed by another two or three in the following days, because I like pizza and I like the word “follow”. Unfortunately, I am getting old and my body was too exhausted by the day to resist through the night, which means I fell asleep straight away much to the dismay of my friend who wanted to go out. Hashtag retired life.
STEP 3: PORTOVENERE
On our second day, we decided to visit Portovenere, another coastal town just outside of La Spezia, easily reachable in about half an hour with a local bus. The bus is only €2.50 and it takes you directly into Portovenere, which is a pretty good deal to me, after which you can relax and admire once again the nice coastline.
Portovenere in itself is pretty small: a bunch of colourful houses overlooking the bay, castle ruins and a few alleyways full of small souvenir shops and restaurants to aid the hungry souls. It sits opposite of a little island which protects it from the sea, blocking out the waves and creating a small, peaceful paradise for this small town.
If you walk up the castle through the small archways, you can get to the other side of the coast, where the views are breathtaking. Waves crashing against the cliffs in the bluest shade of blue, releasing the freshest sea salt smell you can ever get. The only downsides of this place is the high number of tourists (and the wind), which might make it less relaxing to see. Nonetheless, definitely something worth seeing!
The rest of the trip was pretty chilled. We found ourselves spending hours just sitting on the rocks or by the pier and staring out into the blue, taking it all in and relaxing against the view, which is the best way to spend a day if you ask me.
STEP 4: VIAREGGIO
That night, we had two options: going back to Genova or trying something new, as we didn’t want to spend an extra night in La Spezia. We decided to look up on my couchsurfing profile any available host within 50 miles, pretty open to any option as long as we could manage to see something new. We ended up finding a nice guy able to host us – in Tuscany – which meant we had to run for the bus back to La Spezia and then the train to get there at a decent time of night.
As we got there quite late, we didn’t have time to properly see Viareggio at night, but our host was kind enough to lend us one of his bikes and take us to the beach promenade to get something to eat. You’d think this is fine, right? Think again. The bike we were given was a two-people kind of bike, where both pedal at the same time to make the thing moving. Which again is okay. If it wasn’t that the thing was so high I could barely stretch my legs to pedal all the way, resulting in probably one of the most frightening bike rides of my life. Whoever says being short is a blessing should re-evaluate their views. At the same time, it was a nice experience and we got to see a lot more in a lot less time, which was convenient.
Fun fact: as soon as we got to the beach promenade, I realised I had actually been to Viareggio before. And completely erased it from my memory till that moment. That made our stay a bit less exciting – how depressing is it to think you’re seeing a new place only to find out you’re not?? – but still fun nonetheless.
The next morning, we took a stroll by the beach once again, past a small market and headed towards the National Reserve within Viareggio. This is the only photo I got of the trip and it’s pretty lame, but here you go. Unfortunately, we only got to see a bit of the park before having to head back to the train station, as we weren’t sure how long it would take us to walk back there by foot.
Back at the station, we finally boarded our train back home (well, my home) – Genova. Overall, it was a really cool trip, if really short, as I got the chance to see more of my own region and witness its beautiful landscapes. I was happy as I ticked off one more thing off my 2017 resolutions list, and am definitely planning on doing more small trips around the area when I am back for the summer.
I am sorry if this turned out to be a really long post, but I hope you enjoyed the photos and reading about it, and that I perhaps managed to convince some of you to visit one of these places. They really are worth it.
With that said, I wish you all a lovely day and happy travels to all the wandering souls out there.
Until the next post,