CINQUE TERRE

From the “Castellana Hotel & Restaurant” you may enjoy a nice trip out of town to the Cinque Terre: in just 14 minutes by car you are at the Sarzana FS railway station where trains leave for the first of the Cinque Terre, Riomaggiore. From here you can visit all the other villages. The Cinque Terre are the hamlets of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso. A Unesco Heritage Site and a Marine Protected Area since 1997, they are known all over the world thanks to the effective advertising by the American travel journal writer Rick Steves. The Cinque Terre are above all renowned for their wines, among which the prized "Sciacchetrà".

The first village you meet, coming from La Spezia, is Riomaggiore, home to the Cinque Terre National Park. I would recommend visiting the Church of “San Giovanni Battista”, with the triptych of the master “Benedetto Antelami” inside, and booking a guided tour of the Castle, located in the upper part of the hamlet, and one of the historic village itself. Manarola includes a small harbor, enclosed between two rocky spurs, and a beautiful panoramic terrace you arrive to through a lovely promenade starting from the Marina. The cemetery above the terrace, the Church of “San Lorenzo”, the beach beyond the mooring of the boats, the inland hamlets of “Groppo” and “Volastra” are definitely worth a visit. I also recommend booking a guided tour of the vineyards with tasting in the cellar.Corniglia is located on a high promontory above the sea: unlike the other villages of the 5 Terre, it still maintains its peasant traditions. You can reach its historic center through a long staircase or by shuttle buses that leave regularly from Corniglia FS train station. An ancient residence of the “Fieschi” family, Corniglia houses the Church of “San Pietro”, the square "Largo Taragio" with the Oratory of “Santa Caterina” and the Monument to the Fallen, and the beautiful Marina too. Finally, here you’ll enjoy fantastic sunsets, such as those from the viewpoint on the terrace of “Santa Maria” and from the Tower.

Vernazza enjoys a lovely natural harbor. It’s simply beautiful to walk the “blue path” leading to this village from Monterosso: upon your arrival, the view of Vernazza from above surprises you and bewitches you every time. Next to the Marina there is the beautiful Church of “Santa Maria d’Antiochia” with its small square overlooking the sea and its beach: on the opposite side stands the cylindrical Tower of the Doria Castle, which is now a museum. Below the Castle you will find the “Belforte” building, an imposing bastion built over the rocks.

The last of the “Cinque Terre”, Monterosso, offers wide sandy beaches and a promenade that joins the modern part of the “Fegina” area, with its Giant statue, to the ancient part coinciding with the historic center of the village. I advise you to walk along the path parallel to the tunnel so that you can reach “Torre Aurora” directly and from there go up to the “Convento dei Cappuccini” and its beautiful cemetery. In the "old" part of Monterosso, absolute musts are: the Church of “San Giovanni Battista”, the “Oratorio dei Bianchi”, the “Oratorio dei Neri” and the Church of “San Francesco”.

Finally, a beautiful way to visit the “5 Terre” is by boat: from “Molo Italia”, located along the “Passeggiata Morin” of La Spezia, ferries leave regularly to 5 Terre from April to October. As for the paths connecting the five villages, it’s advisable to request updated information on their usability at the info points of the Park Authority itself located at both the FS railway station of La Spezia and those of each village or directly at the FS railway stations’ ticket offices of the 5 Terre.

GULF OF POETS

Fresh, the mount of Lerici trembled with blue oils
in front of a boat among the lights of La Spezia
while winter caressed dawn
with hands gentle with breeze, bitter with sunshine;
and, upon landing, Shelley's boat, as in a picture
where the green is lost in the blue,
stabbed the air of Porto Venere;
then morning came and everything was white.
But you, Italy, are the dawn of spring winters
in the Gulf of La Spezia.

Pier Paolo Pasolini

PORTOVENERE

The Hotel & Restaurant “La Castellana” is just 49 min. by car from the village of Porto Venere. The Promontory of Porto Venere, located on the westernmost side of the Gulf of La Spezia, also includes the Islands of Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto. A Unesco Heritage Site since 1997, this ancient village deserves to be visited more than once: the best way to reach it is by sea from the Pier of Lerici or from that of La Spezia.

In Porto Venere I recommend visiting the historic center, accessible through the main door, with its internal "caruggio" located between ancient houses: before reaching the end of the street, take the steep stairs to the right and go up until you reach two small fortresses, former mills, the "English" style cemetery and the panoramic terrace at the foot of the magnificent Doria Castle. From the top of the Castle, a massive military fortress of 1161 commissioned by the Republic of Genoa, you’ll enjoy a beautiful 360 ° view.

Going further down to the Square, before starting the staircase leading to “San Pietro”, I suggest you visit the "Byron’s Cave", full of rocks from which to dive and ravines to visit. The Church of “San Pietro”, founded in the thirteenth century, houses a suggestive terrace where you can enjoy magnificent sunsets. Back in "Piazza Spallanzani", you can now descend to the seafront, along “Via Calata Doria”: facing the sea, lined up next to each other, the colorful tower-houses create a beautiful setting. The walk continues until you reach the “Arenella” and “Olivo” beaches and the "Le Terrazze" bathhouse too.

The stretch of sea called "Le Bocche" in front of “San Pietro” separates the Promontory of Porto Venere from the Palmaria Island. Panoramic tours of the three Islands of Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto leave regularly from the Pier in Portovenere.

TELLARO

Tellaro is one of the seven most beautiful villages in Italy. From “La Castellana Hotel” you can reach this hamlet through a splendid panoramic road which, starting from Lerici, goes through the "Maralunga" locality first and then through "Fiascherino". What is there to visit in Tellaro? Certainly, its beautiful historic center, which can be accessed from the Square of the “Church of Santa Maria” "Stella Maris". Through steep "caruggi" descending towards the sea, suddenly the gaze is captured by the Oratory of “Santa Maria in Selàa”: from its terrace you’ll admire the infinity of the sea. Walking along “Via Antonio Gramsci” you’ll reach the “Marina of Tellaro” where a fantastic scenario will open up to you: the Church of “San Giorgio”, lying on the rock, seems to emerge from the sea, looking out over the Islands of the Gulf of Poets! All around, while lying on the rocks of the Marina, you’ll enjoy the sun, the sea breeze and the splashes of water on windy days: a unique, unmissable feeling. It’s advisable to visit Tellaro on December 24, on the traditional Underwater Christmas Day at the Marina, or on the weekend of the first week of August during the "Octopus Festival".

LERICI

A poem by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti reads: "Lerici obediently this one frees himself from the woods and gracefully forces the Castle of Lerici to veer like a ship into the sky with its yellow-red procession of houses afloat".

Lerici is a magnificent pearl of the Gulf of Poets, an evergreen destination for renowned writers and poets. This village comes alive in the summer, especially in “Piazza Garibaldi” right in front of the Marina, which is the meeting point par excellence of many young people. What is there to do in Lerici? It’s great to visit the narrow "caruggi" that cross the houses and the Jewish quarter too, as well as to indulge in the characteristic souvenir and craft shops. I also recommend booking a guided tour of its historic center and visiting the Tower of “San Rocco”, the Church of “San Francesco”, the Oratory of “San Bernardino” and “Palazzo Doria”.

Moreover, I suggest going up, directly from the Lerici Pier, to the “San Giorgio Castle”, which is the symbol of this ancient village: inside the Castle you’ll find the chapel dedicated to “Saint Anastasia” and temporary art exhibitions. I also invite you to retrace, in these very places, the itinerary of the poets of the "Grand Tour", to follow the scenic routes connecting the villages with one other, perhaps on the tracks of the Templars or even on the discovery of the coastline by sea, admiring the “Caletta’s Bay” and the silent one belonging to the secluded “Maralunga” locality.

At the end of this path, the finish line of the Castle of San Terenzo awaits you, above a rocky spur called "La Bastia", and the Church of “Santa Maria Assunta” calls you inside.

THE MARBLE QUARRIES AND THE VERSILIA AREA

“La Castellana Hotel” is about a 48-minute drive from the Carrara Marble Quarries and 42 min. by car from the localities of the "Versilia" area. The majestic Apuan Alps host an almost "lunar" scenario that is unique in the world, the quarries of white marble, the favorite material by Michelangelo and Canova.

The Carrara Marble Civic Museum houses works of rare beauty: archaeological finds retrieved in the quarry, tools for extraction and processing from Roman times to the present day. I recommend the cave route with the “Torano” Basin, the “Marsiglia Fantiscritti” Basin and the “Colonnata” Basin.

The "Versilia" locality includes the towns of Viareggio, Lido di Camaiore, Pietrasanta and Forte dei Marmi. Viareggio, crowned by the splendid Apuan Alps, is renowned for its seaside promenade, its bathing establishments and Art Nouveau villas, the long sandy beaches, including the free beach of the "Lecciona" and the large pine forests. Must-sees: the Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art, the Maritime Museum and the Carnival Museum in the Citadel complex. Viareggio is a sunny and festive city as evidenced by the famous Carnival, during which fantastic colorful floats parade.

Lido di Camaiore, located between Viareggio and Marina di Pietrasanta, offers a beautiful sandy coastline full of equipped beaches ideal for families with children. I invite you to hire a bicycle and take the cycle path that goes from Viareggio to Forte dei Marmi: an unmissable stop is the amusement park "Pitagora New", in the middle of a pine forest. While riding your bicycle, I recommend going through the elegant “Viale Europa” with its sea promenade and the "Bellavista Vittoria" Pier where you may enjoy a delicious aperitif at sunset with a view of the fabulous Apuan Alps.

Pietrasanta or the "little Athens" of the “Versilia” locality, an important center for the processing of marble and bronze, is a real art town: the numerous artisan shops, a historic center full of monuments, a myriad of galleries, the “Museum dei Bozzetti”, the temporary exhibitions on the “Piazza del Duomo” of “San Martino” and inside the Church and Cloister of “Sant'Agostino” and the fixed ones at the hands of artists, among which “Botero”, and the International Park of Contemporary Sculpture. Other important architectural monuments: the Baroque Bell Tower of the “Church of S. Agostino”, the Civic Tower, the Municipal Library dedicated to “Giosuè Carducci”, the Municipal Theater and the Fountain with the adjacent “Colonnina” and the “Canapone" monument.

Forte dei Marmi is a prestigious seaside resort full of high-quality handicraft and leather shops, luxury hotels and boutiques of renowned brands. It houses the "Mercato del Forte" with designer clothing stalls and interesting and unique handicrafts. In order to enjoy the beauty of this city, full of tree-lined avenues and magnificent villas, I recommend visiting it on foot or by bicycle. Absolute musts: the historic center with “Piazza Garibaldi”, the Fort with the Museum of Satire and Caricature, the sea promenade and, in the evening, the “Pontile del Forte”, the setting for incredible sunsets.